Posts tagged family

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?

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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!


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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.


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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.

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Joseph and Mary join the party

Last Christmas, I took a break from Santa craft and produced a lovely little loo-roll baby Jesus.

Away in a (paper) manger...

Away in a (paper) manger…

This year I’m adding to the scene, with Mary and Joseph joining in, along with their trusty donkey transport.

Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!

Add to your scene with Mary and Joseph!

Download the PDF here to create your own loo-roll nativity scene. Weird? Maybe a bit. I’ve admitted before that I’m not religious, so perhaps this project isn’t as reverential as some of you might wish for, but I do like to remind my kids that Christmas is about more than Santa, and this is a nice, fun way to do that.


Do you like this project? Then you might like to check out my Craft for non-crafty Parents e-book. There’s a bunch of quick and easy (and often silly) little projects that will keep the kids busy over the Christmas holiday.

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Fat bum? Empty wallet? Try these cheap school holiday ideas.

DISCLAIMER: This is a Levis curve ID ad, NOT my ‘ass’.

Bracing for the chaos of school holidays, I scheduled in a bit of ‘me’ time this week. I planned a long overdue hair appointment and time afterwards for a masochistic quest for a new pair of jeans and a vaguely flattering cozzie.

With the kids dropped off, I made it to the shops just in time to dash to the loo and discover that my period had started. Profusely. Obviously, it was a bad sign. But we all know how precious and hard-won a few hours to ourselves is – NOTHING was going to stop me.

Three hours and $250 later I left the hairdresser feeling drab. Stuck in that female twilight land between young and cool and old and forgotten I looked like a nice sensible newsreader. But I persevered. It was my ‘me’ day, after all.

Searching for swimmers was no more gratifying. I’m too stretch-marked for bikinis, but about 25 years too young for one of those scary pre-shaped nanna cozzies.

Feeling my nerves fraying, I gave up on that and headed for jeans. With only an hour until pick up, I grabbed several pairs and headed for a change-room where I analysed my arse up close for the first time since I last bought jeans. It wasn’t pretty. I tried to remember if the rule is that small back pockets make your arse look fat, or if it’s big pockets will make your arse look fat and then realized that actually my arse just looked fat because it IS fat. Despairing, I chucked my own old favourite jeans back on, only to discover that they indeed ALSO MAKE MY ARSE LOOK FAT. Sigh.

I bought a scarf. Abandoning all hope I headed to the car only to discover that I’d slipped over into hour 5 and now needed to pay $25 to get my crappy old car released from this hellish torture centre known as Chatswood Chase.

On the bright side, after a terrible day of focusing on myself, I’m now more than happy to shift over to simpler places and focus on the kids for a couple of weeks. I’ve done some planning and researched a few free, fun ‘Spring’ activities to keep us busy. Which is lucky, considering in my unsatisfying vanity quest, I’ve spent all our money.

Miss F will be delighted to combine her two favourite things (pressing flowers & rock collecting) in this project to make a decoupage paperweight. Once that’s gotten boring, she can move onto making coasters for Nanna (sorry Nanna, we won’t mind if they disappear after a couple of visits).

More on the flower theme, girls of all ages will enjoy whipping up these Martha Stewart tissue pom poms.

Boys might want to skip the florals and head straight for bugs, with these cool critter craft ideas. And here’s a weird little spider to make. You need an empty soft-drink can for the last one, which you’ll have after you’ve introduced your kids to the joy of a spider you can drink. Not healthy, but hugely fun, place a small scoop of ice-cream in a really big tall glass, then pour over enough soft drink (lemonade is the least offensive, but traditionally you should use creaming soda) to get a good fizz going. Serve with a big long spoon. Your kids will not believe their luck. Ice cream AND soft drink all in one dish.

While they’re on a treat theme, why not astonish them with your awesomeness by helping them make honeycomb. Practically sunshine in your mouth, you make it by boiling up sugar and golden syrup, then popping in some bicarb. There’s a nice easy recipe for it here.

With sunshine in your mouth and sugar in your veins, it’s time for a holiday YouTube disco (with a sunshine theme of course). Go retro with Katrina & the Waves – Walking on Sunshine, Stevie Wonder – You are the sunshine of my life, The Animals – House of the rising sun, Len – Steal my sunshine or Dario G – Sunchyme (remember that video clip with all the people being animals? The kids will love it).

And if they’ve still got energy to burn, then head to the park for some running about. There are some great activities to choose from here. (I particularly like the ‘giant, wizard, elf’ game, which is a whole body version of ‘scissors, paper, rock’ that ends with chasings).

And with all that to keep you busy, you won’t have to go anywhere near a shopping centre. Praise the lord.


For more school holiday ideas, visit here (with the psychedelic marble cake) or more ‘on the cheap’ ideas here.

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Pink things and magical cures for man-flu

Within millimetres of the winter finish line, sickness has reared its ugly head again at VSHQ.

Mr M&P and I are defiantly chipper, but Miss F has succumbed (I tell her it’s the result of refusing to wear shoes or a jumper on all those cold days) and the workaholic Mr VS has spent the last two days in bed with a fever.

In typical Aries style, he doesn’t just sweat and feel bad like normal folk but likes to combine fevers with hallucinations. Yesterday he swore that I was releasing hundreds of doves in the house to save him. Which is funny since I wasn’t even there, I was off freelancing all day. But bless, good to know I’m in his thoughts even in his darkest moments.

Discussing my situation at school this morning, a kindy mum and I talked through the merits of various medications before deciding that the best course of treatment would be for her to lend me a pink wig to wear on his next waking. I could bustle about like normal and just make the world that bit more confusing for him.

Not that I’m not supportive when my menfolk are feeling poorly, but you know, they do go on. Trying to get in on the action, Mr M&P decided to have a crack at getting the day off school too. His story was that he had a really sore hand, which would make writing his ‘recount’ too difficult. He didn’t get far with that one.

In tribute to a grown women owning a pink wig, lets take a moment to revisit my favourite pink recipes which should appeal to girls of all ages.

vegie smugglers beetroot meatloaf

Pink meatloaf for fairy-loving pre-vegetarians.

Brighten up a dull lunchbox with this pink hit

beetroot tzatziki dip recipe

Beetroot tzatziki with canned beetroot.

Off to tend my patients…

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Stronger, faster, higher, sillier

Are you catching much of the Olympics? We’re watching it constantly and I’m not sure if the kids have developed a new-found love of sport or are more excited about unrestricted access to the telly.

I enjoy the whole spectacle of it. I don’t really follow sport much at any other time, but I do like to use the games as a benchmark of where I am in life. I remember during Beijing in 2008, looking at my baby and my preschooler and thinking “WOW, by London, you guys will be BIG”, and here we are already. And big (and backchatting) they are.

Amazing how you can sit and watch nearly any sport or activity in the world if it’s being performed by the world’s best. The skill and dedication is awe-inspiring. But really, I wish the coverage would just leave it at that and not spoil it by interviewing the athletes. Not that they’re not fascinating, but you know… sometimes I don’t think we need overthink it too much. Like asking a swimmer about their race strategy. I’m guessing that they’re going to go as fast as they can for as long as they can, until the race is over and hopefully they’ve gone faster than everybody else. Usually there’s some excruciating chat full of clichés about going ‘harder, faster, performing on the night ‘or acknowledging the other competitors who also had intricate race plans that included going fast, all the way until the race was over.

For the next couple of weeks you might want to plan some make ahead dinners, so that you can drop everything to dash to the TV in time to catch that really crucial handball final, or to see the replay of the white water rafting capsize (which you can knowledgably comment on). Maybe try out this salmon mornay recipe. You can make it up at any stage during the day, refrigerate it then pop it in the oven whenever you’re ready.

Truly – salmon mornay. With a bit of paprika – delicious.

Salmon mornay

1 carrot, peeled, grated or diced finely (whatever suits your family)
1 zucchini, grated
1 ½ cups cauliflower (diced as finely as you need for your kids to not notice it)
125g can corn kernels, drained
415g can red salmon (red is much nicer than pink in this dish)
¾ cup frozen peas
Chopped chives (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
40g butter
2 ½ tbsp plain flour
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 cup milk, warmed (I just chuck mine in the microwave on medium/high for a minute or so)
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
½ cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Dig out 4 oven proof bowls or gratin dishes (one large dish will also work but doesn’t look as pretty).

If your carrot is in chunks, pop it in a bowl, add a splash of water, cover and microwave until 90% tender. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the cauliflower.

Add in the rest of the vegies and the salmon – breaking up into chunks and squishing the bones (keep them in though, for the calcium hit). Season with pepper, squeeze over the juice and mix well.

Place the butter in a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat. When starting to bubble add in the flour and paprika and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook this mix until the smell changes from acrid to biscuity and delicious (1-2 minutes). Gradually drizzle in the warm milk, stirring briskly and constantly. At first the mixture will thicken up then it will smooth out into a sauce that coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese until melted. Pour this sauce over the vegies and combine really well. Divide out into your oven dishes.

Combine the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the top of each and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with salad and crusty bread.


NOTE – allow plenty of cooling time before letting the kids tuck in.


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Remembering to press pause

A while back I woke up with a headache, slightly hungover and it was January 1.

Then I blinked, cried as Mr M&P started school and then sneezed and it was April. After a shower and another hangover it was June and two report cards later the year is half way done and I’ve still not hung up my 2012 calendar.

It’s frightening to watch life accelerating away.

Yesterday, we pulled the reigns on the year and packed up the family for a day of adventure. Off early, we were breakfasting by the water by 9.30 and then on a ferry over to Scotland Island for a bush walk. We were back home by 2, energized and happy to have spent some fun time outdoors, together, creating a memory.

There was a waterway, bacon, eggs, coffee and a happy family.

Without meaning to we’ve been too busy and just let the year slip by. Yesterday was a good reminder about how important it is to force life to stop from time to time, to find some quality family moments. It’s true, the kids grow up too fast and it won’t be long until they don’t want to be with us at all, let alone walking along, holding our hands, being so incredibly gorgeous.

So back we go to term 3. Back to routine (sigh) and lunchboxes (sigh sigh). This lunchbox pasta salad recipe is from my Complete Lunchbox Planner – it has a little dose of vitamin C to help you through the rest of winter and it’s also a nice way to break out of the sandwich rut.

Something different for the lunchbox

Citrus pasta salad

375g pasta spirals
½ punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered
200g mild feta, diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
2-3 tbsp pinenuts, toasted
½ tsp zest of each a lemon & orange
400g tuna in springwater, drained

6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp minced garlic

Cook the pasta according to packet directions.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Toss cooked pasta with other ingredients and the dressing.

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Speaking in tongues (how to nag in several languages)

A top Aussie winter. Noice.

A good winter day in Australia isn’t too bad, is it? Even I concede that a sunny day of 18 degrees isn’t worth a rumble of dissatisfaction. And there’s been a stretch of them lately. Just beautiful cool clear days that magically lift me off the couch, away from carbs and float me off into the neighbourhood walking about and realising just how unfit I am.

It appears I’m not alone. The other day there were people out EVERYWHERE. Walking. With dogs. With friends. Laughing even. The joy of vitamin D! And of course people were flocking to their gardens – raking, weeding, smiling and just ‘being’ with nature.

The spell was broken though, by the cranky sounds of a mum screeching at her children. Let’s just say I’m familiar with the tone. As I got closer I realised that the words were in French and I couldn’t understand any of it. It was unmistakable though – the (well dressed) kids were giving the (well dressed) mum the shits.

Perhaps it was the general blissful tone of the day, but it did occur to me how much better pestering and nagging the kids sounded in another language. Lifting the everyday nasty into a realm of sophistication.

So with that in mind I’ve compiled a little phrase book with all sorts of useful sentences that you can whip out when your own English phrases are getting a bit well worn.

(French) Ne vous asseyez pas sur votre sœur.
(English) Don’t sit on your sister.

(Italian) Tirare su i pantaloni.
(English) Pull your pants up.

(Dutch) Leg de slak
(English) Put down the snail.

(Afrikaans) Raak nie.
(English) Don’t touch it!

(Russian) То, что вода или Ви?
(English) Is that water or wee?

With the discipline done, feed the kids this dish for dinner. It’s a ‘casserole’, which is much fancier than a ‘stew’, and technically it is different. A stew is cooked on the stovetop, a casserole in the oven. My kids like the flavor of this one, but not the texture of the butter beans, so when I serve theirs, I hack away with scissors until it’s all a jumble, then tidily plop a few dumplings on top. They eat it. Suckers.

Yum in any language.

Best ever dumpling-topped, beef casserole

Olive oil
600g chuck steak, cubed
Plain flour
1 onion, diced
1 leek, tough green bits removed, diced
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled, diced
3 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine (the better the wine, the better the casserole!)
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 cup peas
1 can butter beans, rinsed, drained

1 cup self-raising flour
60g butter, chopped into little cubes
2 tbsp parsley (I like the flavour of curly parsley in this)
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
3-4 tbsp milk to bind

Use a large stove to oven dish (with a lid) for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat the dish over medium/high heat. Toss the meat in flour & shake off excess. Add the oil and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Lower to heat to medium, add more oil if necessary and saute the onion , leek, carrot and celery. Stir frequently for several minutes until the vegies start to soften. Add the parsnip for a minute or two more, then return the meat, add in the stock, wine and Worcester sauce.

Give it a good stir, removing any stuck bits to the bottom. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1 hour.

While that’s cooking, make the dumplings: In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour (no need to sift). Mix in the parsley, cheese and egg. Add enough milk to bind it all into a sticky dough. Wear gloves or use spoons to roll or shape the mixture into about 18 bite-sized balls and set aside.

After an hour, remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid. Stir in the peas and beans. Season to taste. Pop the dumplings over the top and return, uncovered to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the dumplings are golden and cooked through.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids.

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