Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wheels and worries

Yesterday we did something we'd been planning on for some time now, we went to the local bicycle shop and bought bikes for the whole family. Both Dave and Caitlin had small bikes when they were younger but neither of them ever rode much and they never really got the hang of doing without the training wheels and Tom has only ever had trikes and his scooter. Adam and I had been thinking that going for bike rides as a family would be a great way to get all of us active and this seemed like a good time to start. We were able to bring the kids' bikes home yesterday but mine had to be ordered in so we'll pick up it and Adam's sometime after New Year.

While we were in the shop David was getting very angry with us because he REALLY didn't want to have to learn to ride a bike - he was quite happy with his scooter thankyouverymuch - and when we got home, and Adam persuaded him to have a go, he spiraled straight into a full blown anxiety attack, tears and all. He didn't feel safe and there was no way he was ever going to ride. So we went through the exercises we'd learned at the anxiety clinic and wrote down a plan for getting him on the bike - a baby steps or "stepladder" approach with rewards for each achievement starting with practicing on Tom's slightly smaller, training wheel equipped bike and with the ultimate goal of having him ride his own bike unassisted to be rewarded with a new Nintendo DS game.

Meanwhile Caitlin took herself outside and in mere minutes was peddling around the cul-de-sac looking very pleased with herself indeed. David was feeling much calmer having had his fears taken seriously, and with the prospect of rewards for making progress with his riding coupled with the affront of having his younger sister upstaging him, out he went for another go. He managed a couple of brief wobbly pedals on his own bike and then decided that the cul-de-sac was too small to ride in.

This morning we loaded up the car and headed off to Bicentennial Park with my mum. Caitlin was off round the bike path like a shot, David was more hesitant but with Grandma accompanying him on her own bike he was able to make it around the circuit. And then he went again...and again...and again!

It's so nice to see the work we did at the clinic pay off in such a satisfying way, in the past David's fears would have resulted in a LOT more conflict and distress before arriving at the same result, this way was orders of magnitude better. It seems simply going through the process of planning the stepladder was enough, in the end we didn't do any of the early steps, he chose himself to go straight for the main goal. If only all his issues were so easy to resolve.

He was so pleased with himself and announced that he likes bike riding even better than his scooter. And now I owe him a DS game.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Roast pumpkin and couscous salad - party sized

I served this at our Christmas party and then made it again today to take to a friend's Boxing Day party, it seemed to be well received so I thought I'd share it here.

I took this photo using what was left over after the party, there was lots more to begin with!

1kg butternut pumpkin
garlic powder
mild paprika
olive oil
3 cups couscous
3 cups chicken stock (I make mine from Massel cubes and make it less than full strength - 1 cube for the 3 cups instead of 1 cube for 2 cups)
2 red onions diced
1 red capsicum diced
150g snow peas sliced

1. Cut the pumpkin into bite sized pieces and spread on a tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with garlic, paprika and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake at 220°C until tender. Allow to cool.

2. Add boiling stock to couscous in a large bowl and stand for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile briefly stir fry onions, capsicum and snow peas in a little olive oil, they should still be slightly crunchy.

4. Fluff couscous with a fork then toss with the vegetables. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Fruit mince pies and a glass of milk sit on the coffee table. Carrots, apples and a big bowl of water await the reindeer on the front deck. The yard is alight with strands of mostly working fairy lights. The lounge room is filled with the smells of Christmas, cranberry and vanilla candles, gingerbread and mangoes. Presents nestle under the tree. The kids have been threatened with dire consequences if they wake each other or us before sunrise.

Santa will be along shortly.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night :D

Sunday, December 23, 2007

We've been busy

Saturday's project was the gingerbread house, I baked the gingerbread on Friday night, then assembled it and let the kids loose on it in the morning. They were very thorough...

My mum had come over to spend some time with us and she got quite caught up in the creative process too, I think those rows of smarties along the edge of the roof are down to her :)

After doing some cooking for the next day's picnic we headed into the city to meet up with Jenni (ChingTing) and Kat (Ninox), SOz members who were up from Canberra. We went to the IMAX theater and saw Sea Monsters 3D, we'd never done IMAX before and the kids loved it, Tom in particular, he's been trying to persuade us to go back and see the dinosaur one since the moment we came out of the theatre. We then had dinner in Chinatown at the Golden Century Seafood Restaurant, food was very nice if a little overpriced, and by the end of the meal the kids were well and truly past it but on the whole it was a good night.

Today was a picnic brunch at Balmoral - Christmas get together for my side of the family - which went really well, the weather was lovely, the kids had a great time, we ate yummy food and we came home with a Wollemi Pine (present from my brother's family).

Our favourite spot, the tree-cave.

Caitlin collecting water for construction purposes and Tom in seventh heaven - he was in the water for most of the day, he had to be coerced into coming out long enough to eat at about 1pm and he hadn't even had any breakfast.

When we haven't been doing family or Christmassy stuff we've been hitting the beading and leather working - who needs sleep? Crafting is a much more worthwhile use of time :P

Earrings for the therapists at the anxiety clinic

Necklace and earring set

Adam made two of these bags for our youngest nieces for Christmas, they were a big hit.

This one is a drinking horn holder which goes on your belt, there's another one still in production.

Tomorrow I'm making yet more fruit mince pies, which will bring my total for this year to 144. Buggered if I know where they're going, I'm certainly not eating them! (Well, not many of them any way) David very gratifyingly tells everyone that mum's pies are the best...hmmmm, maybe I should be keeping an eye on him....

Now for that sleep!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Weigh-in week 18

Much to my astonishment I stayed the same this week, I was sure the indulgences of Saturday night would show up on the scales but all the frantic cleaning, cooking and general running around getting ready for the party must have compensated nicely for the beer, mango daiquiris and margaritas ;-)

Tonight was our last session at the anxiety clinic with Dave, I've been very pleased with what we've learned and achieved in the last 10 weeks, there's still a long way to go but I do feel better equipped to deal with things now and more importantly Dave seems to have a good understanding of the tools he can use to work through stuff himself and to accept that there's some point in continuing to do the exercises we've been doing. We've agreed to work on his writing over the holidays beginning with a daily blog post so I'll probably be blogging daily too - won't that be fun for everyone!

Tomorrow is party day at the kids' school and I'm immensely grateful that the teachers seem to have decided that the kindy kids will be just fine joining in on the sausage sizzle with the rest of the school and I therefore don't have to spend my day producing food or setting up and decorating for their party the way I did for Dave and Cait when they were in kindy. I think I'll spend some time wrapping presents instead. Or possibly sleeping, I'm still in deficit from the weekend :P

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Left-overs? What left-overs?!

I'd been telling people all week that I was expecting around 50 people to come to our Christmas party last night and that half of them would be kids. I'm pretty sure that those figures were right back at the beginning of the week. But then I kept telling other people "Hey, we're having a party! You should come along!" And they all did. I'd catered based on my original numbers so it's a bloody good thing that I and all my fellow Browncoats are chronic over- caterers because according to my calculations this morning we in fact had 75 people come to the party (46 adults and 29 kids). I'm pretty sure no-one went hungry or thirsty but it may have been a bit of a close call.

Anyway, the food was good, the drink flowed freely (it'll do that when you tip your almost full 500mL stein over on the table - and it was my first drink of the night! - at least there was nothing else on the table at that stage), and the company was brilliant :) The kids were remarkably well behaved, they all seemed to enjoy Santa coming to visit - Adam is getting quite good in the role I must say - and they pretty much looked after themselves for most of the evening. Even the weather behaved for us, one lovely sunny day sandwiched in between grey and rainy days - god knows what I'd have done with 75 people if we hadn't been able to use the outdoor space!

And yes, I'm totally planning on doing it all again next year :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fruit mince pies mmmmm....

Fruit Mince Pies
(makes up to 36 depending on how thin you roll the pastry)
3 cups plain flour
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
225g butter, diced
3 - 4 tablespoons iced water
icing sugar for dusting

2 x 410g jar of Robertson's traditional fruit mince (you need about 1 3/4 jars)

1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Brush 3 12-cup shallow patty tins lightly with melted butter.

2. Place flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Process until the mixture is fine and crumbly. Add almost all the water and process until the mixture comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, press together until smooth. Roll out 1/2 the pastry (about 1/4 at a time is managable, I place baking paper over the top so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin) and cut with a round biscuit cutter. Fit the circles into prepared tins.

3. Fill pastry cases with fruit mince - don't overfill.

4. Roll out remaining pastry, cut with the same cutter and place circles on tops of pies, press edges to seal, prick with a fork to let steam escape. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Leave in tins for 5 minutes and then carefully lift out with a knife and allow to cool on wire racks. Dust tops lightly with icing sugar.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tinsel take-over & weigh-in week 17

I'm down 0.2kg this week for a total of 8.1kg. If I maintain over Christmas I'll be satisfied but I'm still going to try and lose at least 1kg over the next 2 weeks.

I found the tinsel and lights for the tree but the Advent calendar is still AWOL. The kids are quite pleased with their decorating endeavours and I am refraining from re-doing the job - not least because I simply can't be bothered :P OMG the TINSEL!!!!

Alright, I confess, I may tweak a couple of things....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Singing at the dinner table

Adam and I were serenaded tonight by the kids with a spontaneous chorus of the Futurama version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

He knows when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're on the can.
He'll hunt you down and blast your ass from here to Pakistan.
You better not breathe, you better not move.
You're better off dead, I'm telling you dude,
Santa Claus is gunning you down.

I'm so proud :D

(Adam suggested they sing it at next year's school talent quest.)

Sydney WW catch-up

I spent the afternoon in the good company of fellow members of the Weight Watchers message boards. We braved hot and humid weather to gather at Bungalow 8 on Kings St Wharf for food and fun. Many thanks to Kerry for organising the event.

Here we all are, except for me - someone has to be behind the camera ;-)

Jan, Janice, Lou, Anne, Kerry, Nicole, Carmen and Michelle.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas earrings

Not bad for my first ever play around with Fimo. Caitlin has already appropriated the third pair of candy cane ones.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The stuff of Christmas

The Advent calendar - my made-by-me, chocolate-free, re-usable felt wall hanging advent calendar, is no-where to be found. Seriously, I have no idea what I did with it.

The tree - first haul it up from down in the garage, next find the box of decorations...realise the tinsel and lights are not in the box which you were SURE had everything in it...tell the kids they can't decorate the tree till you find the lights...2 days later give up and let them decorate the tree anyway...if the lights and tinsel turn up we'll worry about it then.

Christmas cards - gave up on these a few years back because we were seeing everyone we'd be sending cards to for some form of Christmas celebration anyway and the perceived redundancy was a great excuse to avoid writing them. This year I'm noticing that we're getting cards from people we won't be meeting up with. Time to put this one back on the list. Bother.

The Christmas party - every year I promise myself that I'll get the invites done early and every year I find myself inviting people in a completely random fashion that invariably leaves several people copping a very short notice "OMG! So sorry! Of course we're having a party this year and of course you're invited!" (Tom and Barb, I put the invite in your letter box this afternoon!). The next week will be dominated by me stressing out over getting everything ready, I sat down with my diary this afternoon and tried to work out what I need to do and when I can do it, I suspect I'm at least one day short :P

The outdoor lights - these go up ready to be turned on on the 1st of December. Unless that clashes with daughter's dance concert, hubby's travels and torrential rain whenever it seems like you have a few spare hours. As long as they're up by the 15th I'll be happy, we'll find the time somehow (see Christmas party preparations above).

The scent of Christmas - mangoes, I bought my first case of mangoes today, that smell along with the vanilla and cranberry candles makes the house smell like Christmas to me. Mmmm mangoes..... :)

Christmas stories - The Night Before Christmas takes pride of place on the bedtime story list, I'm working on putting together a collection of other books too (need to scour the bookshelves, I KNOW we have plenty I just can't instantly lay hands on them) and may well steal Chris's idea. For myself, I re-read Connie Willis's Miracle and Other Christmas Stories and intend, yet again, to track down all the movies and books on her Twelve terrific things to read and Twelve to watch lists, maybe if I stared to do this in January I'd have a better chance of having them on hand come December. Hmm, that may well be a plan there....

The gingerbread house - why, oh why did I allow this to become a tradition? The kids don't even like gingerbread very much, but I DO! So very dangerous to have around, it smells so good but if you eat too much you feel so sick. But the decorating? An unadulterated pleasure :D It's like the cake decorating, very satisfying to create something that looks so good and the kids can pretty much do it themselves now. I've scheduled this for the 22nd, I'll cook the gingerbread the day before.

Fruit mince pies - I make LOTS of these in two shifts, the first lot is for the Christmas party, the next batch goes as gifts for the kids teachers and for Christmas day supplies. I'm a fruit mince pie snob, shop bought just doesn't do the trick (not that I make my own fruit mince or anything, I just like my pastry best).

The Christmas Day negotiations - who we're seeing, where, when, are we exchanging presents? This part I don't enjoy, why does it have to be so damned COMPLICATED?!!! Anyhoo, it all seems to have sorted itself out ok for this year, we're seeing most of my side of the family at a picnic on the 23rd and then hosting Christmas lunch at our place for any of Adam's family who care to show up. Then we'll go to my mum's place in the evening to see my Grandma and aunt and uncle. And I'm giving presents to people whether they like it or not!

So, there you have it, the stuff of Christmas. Well, some of it anyway.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Weigh-in week 16

I lost 0.1kg over the last two weeks, which I am insanely happy about. Last week I sort of stepped on the scales and then bounced off again before I could really read what they said, but not before glimpsing the wrong digit in the tens spot - YIKES! - which would have been a gain of nearly 3 kg. So, I must have lost that again in the last week and um, yeah, pleased I am :D Total is now 7.9kg gone, I want that 10kg loss back before Christmas.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Definitely easier this year.

Caitlin received her five year trophy for dance tonight (which she's been hanging out for for three years) and it's sitting in pride of place on top of the entertainment unit, the equivalent in this house of sending it straight to the pool room. She danced well, I can see such a change from last year, much more precise and focused, and she coped very professionally when she slipped and fell in the evening performance doing ballet - just hopped up and kept going barely missing a beat. I seem to be having a "be proud of Caitlin" week, can't be helped, she deserves it :D Tap and Jazz both went off without a hitch at both the matinee and evening performances and ballet was without incident at the matinee too. I was in the audience for the evening one and helping backstage as usual for the matinee.

Five years of dance and five years of helping out backstage and this year, for the first time, I am NOT a quivering wreck at the end of the day. There are new mums coming in to help out with the younger kids and seeing as they are the ones that need the most help and supervision I found I was able to sit back a bit and enjoy the increasing independence of the older kids. It also helped immensely that this year we had a hairdresser backstage to help with all the changes of hairstyle, we mums did the easy ones and palmed the harder ones off on her ;-)

Here's my girl in her three different costumes - NB three completely different hairstyles as well, it's always good to have a challenge!