Posts tagged family

Easter hamping and a remedy for all that chocolate

The tent. Smaller than we remembered.

The tent. Smaller than we remembered.

Did you go camping over Easter? You’d be un-Australian not to. Perhaps right now you’re wrangling a damp tent back into a bag that seems impossibly small and cursing the mess that has somehow magically manifested in four short days. Hopefully some drizzle is ensuring you’ll have all your stuff airing in the garage for the next month or so until you can be bothered to finally pack it away.

Due to work commitments we cheated and did a bit of hamping – home camping. Considering we hadn’t had the tent out since before Miss F was born, we figured it was probably safer – see which bits of our outdoors kit are still useable and which need upgrading. The kids didn’t care about the cheap-arse location; they loved every minute of it.

Turns out that a four-man tent only fits a newly-in-love couple or two small children, so Mr VS & I retreated to our own bed. The kids happily slept two nights out in the yard, alone. Post-firepit marshmallow cooking sessions, they were possibly both in sugar-comas. Luckily the Easter bunny still found them out there in the wild.

It was interesting that the pack up was relatively simple and it took us only one try to get the tent folded into the right size for the cover. My memory of previous expeditions is that it was always a fairly fraught, tense experience as we bickered over how to do it. I suppose nine years of marriage, parenting and umpteen pieces of flat-pack furniture construction have made Mr VS and me into a pretty slick team.

After copious amounts of chocolate, we were all ready for something healthy last night. So I whipped us this really yummy tomato and lentil soup. Nice and hearty, it’s great with buttered sourdough. I won’t mind if you decide to crumble over a bit of crispy bacon or mix through some leftover sliced sausages.

A few lentils to push that chocolate through!

A few lentils to push that chocolate through!

Brown lentil & tomato soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp curry powder
3/4 cup dried brown lentils (rinsed, drained & picked over)
800g can crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, peeled, finely diced
2 potatoes, peeled, finely cubed (or 1 potato and 1 parsnip is also delicious)
4 cups vegetable stock (stock cubes are fine)
Parsley & thyme, finely chopped (about 1 tbsp total)
1 cup frozen peas

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the oil and when hot, saute the onion, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes until starting to soften. Add in the garlic and curry powder and stir for another minute until everything smells fantastic.

Tip in the lentils and mix well then add the tomatoes, carrots and potatoes. Combine really well, tip over the stock, add in the herbs and season with pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes more until the lentils are cooked through (they’ll retain their shape but will be nice and yielding to chew on – no hard bits).

Pour in the peas, and simmer for another 5 minutes before serving with bread.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids. (Add in a few chopped bits of sausage and you’ll be able to pad it out to 3 kids)

Comments (16) »

Being held captive by my children and my cat

The other day I was gripped by procrastination so profound that no amount of cookbook-page-flipping or sitting-in-the-sun could satisfy it. Turning to the obvious procrastination aid (the computer), I found myself editing & deleting cataloging through obscene amounts of photos of meatballs, salads, pasta etc etc. Who knew it could take so many attempts before I get a shot that I’m happy with.

More alarming was that amongst the myriad food shots were an astonishingly large amount of photos of my cat. Asleep.

I never wanted a cat. I objected strongly to acquiring the critter and only did under intense emotional duress from the rest of my family. I’ve cursed him as I’ve cleaned up his poo off my kilim rug, I’ve tried not to cry as I’ve watched him bat a mouse around until it died and I’ve been scratched until bleeding by his sharp claws. Little bastard. So I was more than a bit surprised to see photographic proof that I’ve somehow evolved into a crazy cat lady.

It occurred to me that the internet just doesn’t have enough photos of cats so I thought I’d share.

On chairs, in a hat, stretched out...

On chairs, in a hat, under a blankie, stretched out…

Weird, isn’t it. This is just a sample of the photos I had. But there’s something about the little sleeping creature that makes me all tender. Just like when the kids would finally collapse, exhausted after a day of screeching and wailing and I’d sneak into their rooms and just stare at their little perfect faces and MARVEL at how amazing my life was. How LUCKY I was to care for such angels. All the pains of the day would be instantly forgotten.

Then they’d wake up 3 hours later (about 20 minutes after I’d drifted off) and I’d be back to wanting to kill them.

Stockholm syndrome, I think. Falling in love with your captors.

Sifting through the photos though, I was pleased to see that my food photography skills are coming along. I don’t always get it right, but I do like these ones…

vegie smugglers fruit pikelets

There’s no simpler joy than a perfect pikelet.

vegie smugglers yakitori skewers

Food on sticks is always a winner.

vegie smugglers vivid marble cake

The grooviest cake in town!

vegie smugglers beef triangles with vegetables and puff pastry


Comments (6) »

The day I slammed a spider WITH MY BARE HANDS



I love those moments where the presence of your children makes you a bigger, braver adult. Like when we got into the car the other morning (already late for school), and Mr M&P started shrieking LIKE A GIRL and bouncing around the car whacking his head, his sister and also kicking me in the shoulder.

More shrieks and squeals. “SPIDER!” was all I could manage to decipher.

Louder. “SPIDER!” With finger pointing. Miss F joined in.

Shrieking, (in unison), “SPIDER!”

Now with both of them bouncing around and a general PANIC setting in, I looked at the medium-sized brown spider and knew that IT WAS UP TO ME TO DO SOMETHING.

I hate those moments. I much prefer to leave myself at the mercy of others, but I’ve found over the years of being a parent that quite often, the buck actually does stop with me.

Worried that the general pandemonium would scare the damn thing off and cause him to scurry somewhere hidden (rendering the car unusable), it occurred to me that not only did I have to do something, but I needed to do something FAST.

Marching around I flung open Mr M&P’s door, leant in and looked for a whacker. For once they hadn’t left a single shoe in the car. So with no weapon to be found, I realised that I was going to have to whack the poor little fella with my hand. Taking a breath and claiming calm I smashed him. Twice.

The shrieks continued, “Ewwwwwwwww!” But the tone had changed. The panic was mixed with a grudging admiration for the awesomeness of their mum.

And I was quite proud of myself. Never, ever would I have done that if the kids weren’t there.

And it occurred to me that quite often they make me into a better person.

And you? What’s a recent feat of awesome that you’ve done on behalf of your kids?

Comments (15) »

My kid’s brains have been sucked out by advertisers leaving only kid-bots

Who says advertising to kids doesn't work?

Who says advertising to kids doesn’t work?

I’m thinking of changing my little boy’s name from Mr Meat&Potatoes to TAD. Not Ted, TAD. The. Advertiser’s. Dream.

He came to me the other day and stood slightly closer than usual which implies that he has SOMETHING IMPORTANT to tell me. I looked into his very serious eyes.

“Did you know mummy, that the happiest place on earth just got happier?”
Silence fell between us. Him looking up with wide eyes and a slight slow nod and me, perplexed, trying to place the phrasing, knowing that I’ve heard it before.
“And what place would that be, matey?”
Dramatic pause. Then a whispered reply as we leaned in so close that our heads were nearly touching.
More slow nods.

Those who follow VS on Facebook, will have seen TAD’s drawing of the cricket, complete with the Vodaphone logo. This was funny, and after posting it on Vodaphone’s wall, it won him tickets to the test match and a signed Michael Clarke shirt.

Now I’m wondering if I can get him going on a large scale artwork with the full Disneyland map with a lovely QANTAS plane flying us there. And maybe a little Tiffany’s store down in the corner with a portrait of me, deliriously happy outside. Perhaps I could shop that around social media to the benefit of me my family.

TAD only wears labels.

TAD only wears labels.

Seriously though, I’m quite shocked by how much he absorbs from corporate messages that I totally tune out. Perhaps it’s because he usually watches ad-free ABC channels, so when he does see a thrilling 15-second snippet he pays attention? Perhaps in my vigilant anti-commercial stance I’ve done him a disservice and set him up to be the most gullible consumer of all time?

There’s good advice here from Raising Children about how to counteract it all.

Do you have an ad strategy? How gullible trusting are your children?

Comments (9) »

Mystic mum predicts the future

I predict this wise-looking guy will NEVER ACCURATELY time anything.

I predict this wise-looking guy will NEVER ACCURATELY time anything.

Unlike my entirely credible astrologer sister, my basis for claiming psychic status is more a result of consistent proof, that when it comes to my family, I WILL ALWAYS KNOW how things are going to turn out BEFORE they happen.

Like when, on New Year’s Eve, I let my kids stay up until 2am. I predicted that the next day they would both have silly accidents, end up crying and need to be carried to bed by 7.30pm. AND I WAS RIGHT. And when, on that same night, I drank an innocent enough looking thimble full of Jagermeister, I predicted that I would start 2013 with a hangover. AND I WAS RIGHT.

Since I’m so consistently right and all-knowing, I’m thinking of changing my name from ‘mum’ to ‘oracle’. Life would then sound like this….

Child [yelling from other room] “ORACLE. WHERE ARE MY SLIP ON SHOES?”
Mum [calmly] “One is behind your bedroom door and the other under the dining table.”

Child [yelling from other room] “ORACLE. MR M&P IS USING MY YELLOW TEXTA WITHOUT ASKING.”
Mum [calmly] “Let it be so, and avoid feckless squabbles.”

Child [standing by bedside, whispering to oracle as if oracle is awake, even though oracle is asleep] “Oracle…”

And child exits room immediately without another word; such is the wisdom and grumpiness foresight of oracle.

It goes along with my ability to see my child pick their nose and eat it BEHIND ME. My knowledge that I’ll need a packet of wipes in my bag if we’re going to eat choc tops at the cinema, and that each and every time I reveal that THIS IS THE NIGHT FOR A HAIRWASH, my kids will cry and scream as though I am releasing a plague of locusts upon them.

I can also predict that this week I won’t have any time to whip up anything new, so this recipe is from Vegie Smugglers 2, a fabulous book that you all should buy. I can predict, that this is the link you will need to do just that.

rice paper rolls

I predict the adults may want to add in fresh chilli.

Beef & peanut rice paper rolls

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp minced ginger
1 yellow capsicum, seeded, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, grated
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
White (or black) pepper

To serve:
10 rice paper rounds
Crushed roasted peanuts
Bean sprouts
Spring onions, cut into sticks
Cucumber, cut into sticks
Dried rice vermicelli (prepared according to packet directions, rinsed under cold water, drained)
Mint and coriander leaves, to taste (I like lots)
Sweet chilli sauce
Lime juice

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. (Cooking over a higher heat cooks off the liquid, keeping the mixture quite dry.)

Cook the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the mince, garlic and ginger. Toss through until the mince is brown, breaking up lumps as you go. Add the capsicum and carrot and stir for another couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mince is thoroughly cooked.

Prepare the rice papers according to packet directions. Start by adding a few tablespoons of the meat mixture to the paper then add whichever ingredients you like, roll up and enjoy!


Comments (8) »

Hostess with the most-ess

Hello 1970, it's great to see you.

Hello 1970, it’s great to see you.

I am the proud new owner of a punch bowl. I’ve never felt the urge to have one before, but something overcame me this year and I couldn’t rest without one.

Since moving to the suburbs, we entertain much more and have greater numbers of people around at once. Primarily the adults are drinking alcoholic stuff, but it is nice to have something else on offer, particularly for the kids, who are all old enough now to be pestering for fizzy drinks.

Like everything else, my policy on soft drink is that ‘everything is ok in moderation’. But at this time of year, with fun parties nearly every night, I’m looking for a bit of an alternative.

So I’m compromising with punch. There’s still sugar and fizz, but it’s slightly diluted and packed full of fruit. Use Christmas cookie cutters to make cute shapes from watermelon and rock melon and you’ve got something pretty appealing. Serve it in small plastic cups and the kids will tend to drink much less than a standard size softdrink can.

This is my current recipe, but I’m sure it will change. My mum favors tea-based recipes, but I like the colour of the cranberry. What about you? Have you got a favourite version? I’m keen to try a few out.

I won't tell if the adults decide to pop a bit of vodka in.

Shhhhhhh. Adults might like to pop a shot of vodka in their glass too.

Cranberry punch

2 parts cranberry juice
1 part ginger beer
1 part lemonade
1 part mineral water
Heaps of berries, rock melon, watermelon & mint (although kids tend to stress about green leaves in their drinks).

And with that, I’m off for a bit of a blogging break. Thanks so much for supporting my business and blog throughout 2012. It’s been another great year and I wish you and your family all the best for Christmas and the New Year.


Comments (6) »

What my children and twitter have in common

I’ve been trying to teach my kids the finer art of conversation.

Talking isn’t a problem for them but actually having a two-way discussion around a topic is. Most of the time, they are like a twitter feed brought to life. Short-sentence comments unrelated to anything else (eg. “my brain is itchy”). Often they don’t make any sense at all (eg. “you blew big underpants”). Private jokes and brains farts that I have neither the understanding nor patience to reply to.

Despite my public urgings for families to eat together (it’s great for kids to see adults eating healthily and provides a positive and happy opportunity for family bonding), during the week the VS household rarely manages it. We make sure we have both breakfast and dinner together on the weekends, but I suspect more regular family dinners would improve the quality of their chatter quite a lot.

Like many families, we have little choice – Mr VS is off working long hours at Temple & Webster, providing Turkish towels and cushions for the needy, so the kids and I are left to our own devices. Half the time I let them eat alone (sometimes even with the TV on), the rest of the time I eat with them and that’s when I drill them on the finer points of using cutlery and how to have a good and rewarding discussion.

It seems to be working, gradually. Last night Mr VS did make it home and as he sat down, Mr M&P piped up with “and how was your day, daddy?” It was cute.

Apparently the other kids in infant’s school are unbothered by the Tourette’s-style conversation from my children. Somehow they have made a bunch of friends and we’ve reached that time of year where they all start loading each other up with Christmas cards and candy canes. Poor teachers.

Perhaps unluckily for my kids, I still had half a batch of gingerbread dough in the freezer. So I made the biscuits (little tiny ones) and then they spent an hour decorating them. We handed them out yesterday and they were a big hit. Of course, they’re no good if your friends have allergies, but luckily we’ve only got one BFF affected and we’ve bought her a little notepad instead.

It was raining, so I had a Martha Stewart moment.

It was raining, so I had a Martha Stewart moment.

They were concentrating so hard they even stayed quiet for a bit.

They were concentrating so hard they even stayed quiet for a bit.

gingerbread biscuits

Just add a sprinkle of icing sugar and they’re good gifts for adults too.

Leave a comment »