Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chicken and pumpkin risotto

I have cooked risotto once before but if I remember rightly I didn't have half the things I needed and between that, trying to keep it kid-friendly and trying to short cut the standing around stirring thing it just ended up being a total flop, no-one wanted to eat it.

When I was doing the menu plan for this week I thought "stuff the kids, I'm cooking this for me" and, because doing anything as simple as following instructions in a book is just boring, my first successful risotto is in fact my own recipe.

Chicken and pumpkin risotto

500g butternut pumpkin, diced
olive oil spray
sea salt
1.5L chicken stock
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g butter
500g chicken breast fillet, diced
1 white onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
2 cups firmly packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Spread the diced pumpkin on a baking tray lined with baking paper, spray with oil and sprinkle lightly with rosemary and salt. Bake at 220°C until tender.

  2. Heat the stock and wine in a saucepan and keep it at a low simmer.

  3. Heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick pan, add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Remove the chicken from the pan.

  4. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft and golden. Stir in the rice until well coated.

  5. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly over a medium heat, each time waiting until all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. It should take about 20 minutes to do this. Taste test the rice, if it's still a little on the firm side add hot water in small amounts and continue stirring until the rice is cooked through.

  6. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the baby spinach, lemon juice and Parmesan and cook for a few minutes more. Add the cooked pumpkin and fold through gently. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
I'm quite pleased with how this turned out, 'twas yum! My dad was at my place for dinner, but Adam was away, so there were 5 of us eating. David and Caitlin were not impressed, Tom asked for seconds. There's quite a bit left still, I reckon this recipe would serve 6 adults pretty easily.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on the Hillsong thing

Further info on the Hillsong run "personal development course" - another article in the SMH, Hillsong accused of closet zealotry.

What on earth possessed anyone to think that letting a religious group run a class for the kids who have explicitly opted out of any religious studies was a good idea?
"The teacher's federation representative for Cheltenham Girls High, Doug Williamson, said non-scripture students at the school were being invited to join the Shine program, where they were exposed to religious content."
At least in that case the parents were apparently informed that Hillsong was running the course and had to sign permission slips for their kids to attend (not that that makes it ok). It would seem that's not always the case.
"A parent from another Sydney school said students at her child's school were automatically enrolled in the Shine program if they chose not to attend scripture."
This, however, makes me proud both to be a Greens voter and a P&C member (I'm the P&C president at my kids' school).

"The NSW Greens yesterday called for Shine to be suspended while allegations that it put an unhealthy and inappropriate emphasis on physical appearance were investigated. It joined the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens in expressing concern that the program could damage the self-esteem of the at-risk girls it purported to help."

I do hope they'll be addressing the issue of the inappropriate religious connections as well as the physical appearance stuff.

Dr Horrible is back!

And look what I can do :D

This is the complete 43 minute show (with a little advertising thrown in), you can also watch the 3 acts separately from the main Dr Horrible Hulu page.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things I want to try cooking.

What we have here is a bunch of stuff that I've been wanting to try my hand at for, in most cases, a very long time. Perhaps if I list them here I might even make some of them eventually.

Soft pretzels - because OMG YUM!

Mozzarella Fresca - I think this would be such an awesome thing to do with the kids, beats going to a cheese factory to learn about cheese making.

Beef jerky - there are lots of recipes around, many of them seem to be characterised by a certain vagueness with instructions such as "add some or all of the following in your preferred proportions", I figure I'll make it up as I go if I ever get around to it.

Salt water taffy - this one is all about nostalgia. When my family was living in Boulder, Colorado for 6 months in 1985 we went to a fair at a small town in the mountains above Boulder and bought, among other things, salt water taffy. This constitutes one of a very small number of pleasant memories of that time of my sulky teenaged existence (I HATED being away from home, something to do with being 14 and leaving behind my first ever boyfriend who I'd been going out with for 3 months. My poor parents.) Anyway, I don't think I've ever seen salt water taffy here in Sydney, if anyone knows where I can get some it'll save me a whole lot of trouble!

Fudge - Do I need a reason for this one? I have a recipe book with LOTS of divine sounding flavours, I have a candy thermometer, I need to buy a decent heavy based saucepan though.

The only question is, which one to try first?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Menu plan 28 July 08

The past week went pretty much according to plan. This week Adam is off to New Zealand for a couple of days and I always find having him away leaves me much less motivated to cook so it might be a little more challenging this week.

Veal casserole, noodles and green beans
Apple crumble and custard
Spaghetti bolognese and salad
Fruit & yoghurt
Chicken and pumpkin risotto
Fruit & yoghurt
Butter chicken curry, rice and steamed veg
Fruit & yoghurt
Bouillabaisse with bread
Ice cream & fruit
BBQ - steak, sausages, jacket potatoes and salad
Grilled fruit kebabs with chocolate sauce
Homemade pizza
Fresh fruit

Getting to know you

Eve tagged me for this one.

What were you doing ten years ago?

I was pregnant with Caitlin. I was at home with 15 month old David and aside from going horse riding with friends every 2nd week (yep, I rode till about 6 months with my first 2 pregnancies, we'd given up by the time Tom came along), I didn't have much contact with anyone outside family. I'd become quite friendly with my next door neighbour, who was pregnant with twins and due about a month after me, which was nice. Adam had just started working at a new job (I know this only because he just had his 10 year anniversary with the company). Hmmm, you know, I can't really think of anything terribly interesting to say about me minus 10 years...moving right along!

Five things on my to do list
  1. Laundry - always
  2. Clean out the fridges - there's things growing in there (and yes, we have 2)
  3. Put anti-flea stuff on the cats
  4. Cull and tidy the kids' bookshelf in the loungeroom - Tom's reading has just taken off lately and I want to make sure he can find all the really cool stuff.
  5. Organise a P&C executive meeting in the next week or so. All I have to do is look at a calendar and send out an email, I should have done it 2 weeks ago.
What snacks do you like

Beef jerky. All time best snack ever. There's plenty of other things I like snacking on but this comes at the top of the list by a country mile. Sadly the local Woolworths doesn't stock the one I like any more. Perhaps I'll have to learn to make my own.

What would you do if you were a billionaire

Pay someone to declutter my house.
Move out and rent a place near-by while we extend and renovate.
Get involved in funding microfinance programs. Not that you have to wait to be a billionaire in order to do that. (Note to self: do some research and donate some money to one of these types of programs.)

Three bad habits
  1. Staying up too late at night and then being tired the next day
  2. Procrastinating (because I'm too tired :P)
  3. Swearing too much (you'd never know it from my writing, but you can tell from my kids' vocabulary - oops)
Five places you have lived
  1. Westleigh, Sydney, Australia
  2. Paris, France
  3. Boulder, Colorado
  4. North Ryde, Sydney, Australia
  5. Marsfield, Sydney, Australia
Yep, I had to break it down into suburbs in order to make it to five. Also, anything that's not Sydney was to do with my Dad's travel for post doc and sabbatical placements, my entire adult life I've lived in northern Sydney.

Five jobs I've had
  1. Babysitter and remover of frogs from the pool for the next door neighbour.
  2. Checkout chick at Franklins back in the days when you turned up at the local supermarket and asked if they had any jobs going, filled in a form and got given a job, no resume, no interview.
  3. Sales assistant at a books and stationery shop answering the question "Where are the newspapers?" with "We are not a newsagency" at least a dozen times a day.
  4. Worked for my father-in-law in his pawnbroking business at Parramatta, spent all my money at Infinitas.
  5. Maker of phone calls and writer of emails at a magazine publishing company - after doing 4 half-days in 2 weeks, they haven't asked me back, but I'm assured it's not that I did anything wrong, they just don't have a desk or computer free for me to use. (Yeah, that was this job.)
How did you name your blog

I was prompted to start my blog by seeing blogs of other people who were using them to track their progress on Weight Watchers but I intended right from the start for it to have a much broader focus, in fact I figured I'd be writing about pretty much anything that took my fancy. I have an unfortunate fondness for alliteration and the first title that came to mind was Mim's Meanderings, but my good friend ZB was already using meanderings, besides, Mim's Muddle seemed kind of apt.

I'm averse to tagging (it's all too fraught and there's descision making involved) so once again, if you haven't done it before and you've nothing better to do, post away!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hillsong helping girls "discover their value and created uniqueness"

This makes me feel physically ill:

From the SMH - Hillsong hits schools with beauty gospel

You know what? Even if you take away any religious connotations the mere fact that there is a course being taught IN SCHOOLS, purportedly to boost teenagers' self-esteem, which includes teaching
"a range of skills including how to put on make-up, do their hair and nails, and walk with books balanced on their heads"
makes me furiously angry.

Friday, July 25, 2008

And here was me thinking I'd never want to own an iPhone

From an article at EW - Dr Horrible: An oral history

Fillion That is my friend PJ Haarsma. I called him up and I said ''Can you make me a thing? That looks like a thing?'' Twenty minutes later he says, ''Check out this website. You can call it up on your iPhone and you have a Dr. Horrible van remote.'' At Comic-Con, I'm going to release the Website that has the Dr. Horrible van remote.

It's a lovely article full of fun stuff from Joss, Felicia, Nathan, Neil, Jed and Maurissa, go read the lot.

ETA: Dr Horrible van remote site (linked by highandrandom on Whedonesque)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Done with dieting

I'm not doing the Weight Watchers thing any more, haven't been for quite some time now. I was getting nowhere, making myself miserable and ending up binge eating on a fairly regular basis. Since I stopped dieting (and make no mistake about it, Weight Watchers is a diet) my weight has stayed stable, my binging has drastically reduced (I still have the occasional episode if I'm feeling really down) and I'm feeling pretty much OK about myself.

I had blood tests done a few weeks ago and all the numbers came back good except my cholesterol. Which isn't particularly surprising given that my fairly slim mother and average sized sister also have high cholesterol. What really pleased me was that my iron levels were good. I've been pretty anaemic for a long time because of my B12 deficiency problems (pernicious anaemia to be precise) so apparently eating what my body asks for rather than "what I should be eating" is a good thing in that department. The cholesterol issue though, well, when it was measured about a year ago it was significantly lower. And I know why. That was back when I'd been diligently avoiding saturated fats for a fairly long stretch of time. So clearly there is something I can and should do about that.

Here's what I figure I need to do:
  1. No takeaway food! - Meal planning is the answer to this one, when I have a plan the groceries get bought and the cooking gets done even when I'm not at my best. There's something about not having to make a decision that makes all the difference. I've been posting my dinner plans here occasionally and I'll do that each week plus I'll make sure I keep the pantry and fridge stocked with a good selection of breakfast and lunch options so I'm not tempted to drop in at Maccas instead of coming home and making something.

  2. Make sure I'm getting my 2 fruit and 5 veg a day - This happens best when I track my eating, I won't be counting points, agonising over whether something is core plan or not, or worrying about portion sizes, I'll just be writing it all down at the end of each day as a reminder to myself to fuel my body properly.

  3. Avoid saturated fats like the plague - this is mostly addressed by the no takeaway point, apart from that, the main thing is I need to give up butter again (stop pretending I'm buying it for baking and then using it on my toast :P), pretty much everything else I buy is ok already.

  4. And finally, lots of walking - Clara should be pleased about this :)

For now I don't really care whether or not I end up losing weight, I just want to see that cholesterol reading heading down again. I like the way I feel when I've been eating well and exercising regularly but I don't like the stress and pressure I feel when I'm constantly calculating points and having to assess every bite I put in my mouth, I just can't keep that up for too long and when I cave I binge. And that really sucks. Not going there any more. Just not. Luckily, eating well and exercising don't depend on doing the other!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive - more or less

I woke up this morning at about 3:00am with an absolutely torturous sinus headache, took some sudafed and proceeded to toss and turn for nearly an hour listening to Adam snore. So when the alarm went off a few hours later I was still somewhat worse for wear.

Adam got the kids up, dressed, fed and off to school and I rang the doctor, made an appointment for 3:45pm and went back to dozing.

Sometime mid-morning I realised I could breathe...and my sinuses were beginning to clear...and I was hungry.

Hmm, what should I ask the universe for today?

I got up, showered and dressed, and then had to sit down and recover from the shakes - a couple of days in bed and the aftermath of fever and I can't even make it up and down the stairs in the house without turning into a quivering mess.

Anyway, I decided not to waste the day, made myself some lunch, hopped in the car and went to Infinitas, I've only been trying to get there for about a month. Came away with Alastair Reynolds' The Prefect, Greg Egan's Incandescence, Elizabeth Moon's Victory Conditions, Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife: Passage, Terry Pratchett's The Discworld Graphic Novels - The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic, Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Turtle Moves and Secrets of the Wee Free Men and Discworld by Carrie Pyykkonen and Linda Washington and last but not least a tentative job offer.

I'll be going in next week to see if it'll work out or not for them and for me, the guy who owns the shop is a high-school friend of my brother-in-law so it's all pretty informal and "let's just see how it goes". Also, if someone else comes along who can be as flexible as I can with regards to doing more or less hours as needed and doesn't have to bugger off to pick up kids from school then the deal will probably be off. But in the meanwhile, working in a Sci-fi/Fantasy bookshop, well, it's only my dream retail job isn't it?

Adam seems not so very excited about this though, I suspect that rather than anticipating an extra income, he foresees being required to build new bookshelves.

(The doctor gave me antibiotics for the sinus thing so with any luck I'll be back to normal by the weekend.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Woe is me

I'd like to put in a complaint to the universe. I keep getting sick and I've had enough! I feel like I haven't had more than a few days in a row well in 6 weeks or more. I'm not sure if I've had several different bugs or if it's just the same one recurring on me, I suspect the latter. I know my Grandma and my mum's twin sister have both had a pretty nasty one that hung on for about two months. I've spent the entire school holidays with something that ranged from full-on aches and fevers to a mild headache and persistent cough and then back to fevers and nausea. Adam carried pretty much the full load of housework and kid-wrangling despite not being entirely well himself.

I'm in bed this afternoon with the dog, Adam came home early from work to look after the kids because after I dragged myself out of bed at lunchtime and went to do the grocery shopping I ended up sitting in the car shivering. I did manage to drive my mum and her sister to the station, pick up the kids and cook the beef goulash for dinner before I retreated but I still feel like that's not enough and I'm all useless and stuff. It's so bloody frustrating.

And speaking of the dog, she lured me outside before I went shopping today and tried to get me to chase her around the yard, I just couldn't come at running and even a brief bout of tug-of-war left me gasping for breath. I haven't been able to take her for decent walks on a regular basis for weeks, poor puppy.

So yeah, enough already hey? I want the headache gone, the tummy behaving, my sinuses clear and no more keeping myself awake at night coughing.

And while you're at it universe, how about fixing my procrastination problem and my kids' refusal to accept responsibility for their own mess.

Not too much to ask surely?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Menu plan 21 July 08

Well, school holidays, traveling and getting sick (and I'm still not well damn it!) have meant I haven't cooked properly in waaay too long. It's got to the point where I'm positively craving ordinary food :P We did have a pretty awesome lunch on Saturday though, I bought fresh bread rolls, tiger prawns, oysters and some salads and we sat on the front deck in the sun with a bottle of bubbly. 'Twas nice :)

Here's the plan for the week ahead:

Oven baked crumbed chicken, corn on the cob, carrots and broccoli
Fruit & yoghurt
Beef goulash, noodles & steamed veg
Fruit & yoghurt
Hamburgers & oven wedges
Fruit & yoghurt
Mango chicken curry, rice and steamed greens
Fruit & yoghurt
Oven baked fish and chips with steamed veg
Ice cream & fruit
Going out to dinner with Ariane, Crash, Toni and Andrew at the Lowenbrau
Soup & bread
Fruit & yoghurt

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Get a pic! Do a blog!

This guy here? Doesn't look even the littlest bit evil.

I'm sorry, I think Dobber was miscast, he gave a completely unconvincing performance and we didn't even get to hear the infamous whinny...KIDDING! Dobber was brilliant, there should have been more of him. I'm so in love with Bad Horse, wonder if he needs any more henchmen?

*refrains from getting too spoilerific till I'm sure everyone's had a chance to see Act 3*

It's two "r"s.

ETA: Right, that's long enough to wait.

ARRRRRRGH! She got Jossed! And I totally didn't see it coming. Which means I am a very slow learner. I was watching with Caitlin, she cried. When Adam came along a bit later and watched it, he laughed, heartless bastard :P

We went out to dinner tonight and all through the meal the kids were humming snippets of the songs and quoting back and forth at each other (OK, I might have joined in a bit on that too).

Love the groupies. Love the way Penny is horrified by Captain Hammer equating the homeless with a dog, not to mention the "We totally had sex" line. Damn, it's all brilliant :)

We do the weird stuff!

I bring you pain.

I think this is what pain feels like!

Oh. No.

Why did you kill her? (Why Joss, Why?!!!!)

Dr Horrible is here.

I won't feel a thing.

*sniff* Poor Billy.

I want to be an achiever... Bad Horse.

The thoroughbred of sin?

I meant Gandhi.

He saw the operation
You tried to pull today
But your humiliation
Means he still votes neigh

And now assassination
Is just the only way
There will be blood
It might be yours

So go kill someone
Signed Bad Horse.

The suspense is killing me, we'd better get to meet this Bad Horse character!

It sure was nice to meet you...Doctor.

I don't go to the gym.

These? Are not the hammer.

...the hammer is my penis.

(Just because I could *glee!*)

Friday, July 18, 2008


So, I'm walking up the drive to a friend's house carrying a bag with sushi for lunch in one hand and Tom's bag containing a small statue of a lizard in the other (don't ask). My ankle twists. I lurch sideways, trying to regain my footing. Discover that the ground is not where it is supposed to be and go crashing down.

My subconscious does a rapid calculation of the relative value of intact bones v. edible lunch + unbroken lizard statue and both bags go flying. Not quite quickly enough though as one hand was still more fist-shaped than otherwise and I end up punching the paving with my right hand while falling very heavily on the outside edge of my left leg.


and whimper

and OW again.

Freaked the kids out no end, they all hovered around me "MUM! Are you OK?!". They gathered up the bags (miraculously both lunch and lizard escaped unscathed) and tried to help me up. I actually had to just sit there for a few minutes till I'd stopped shaking and convinced myself I hadn't broken anything.

As we continued on up the drive Tom commented "It's good you're not going to be in hospital for weeks and weeks, 'cause if you were it would be really hard for Dad to look after us!"

(Yeah, I'm ok, just a bit bruised and limping slightly. Oh, and my hand looks like I've been in a fist fight.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Evil League of Evil is watching!

If you haven't already done so, get clicking over to Dr and watch Act 1. Then come back here and share your favourite bit. Really I just want to put the whole thing up but transcribing the lot would take a little too long so you get the Bad Horse song:

Bad Horse! Bad Horse!
Bad Horse! Bad Horse!

He rides across the nation
The thoroughbred of sin
He got the application
That you just sent in
It needs evaluation
So let the games begin
A heinous crime, a show of force
A murder would be nice, of course

Bad Horse! Bad Horse!
Bad Horse! He’s bad!

The Evil League of Evil
Is watching, so beware
The grade that you receive
Will be your last we swear
So make the Bad Horse gleeful
Or he’ll make you his mare

You’re saddled up, there’s no recourse
It’s hi ho, Silver! signed Bad Horse.

And this:

Captain Hammer, corporate tool

"It's curtains for you Dr Horrible, lacy, gently wafting curtains."

Ah Joss, how I do love thee!

ETA: Act 2 is also up. We were watching with the kids clustered around the laptop...when Captain Hammer said -

"These are not the hammer.
"The hammer is my penis."

*cue raucous laughter and forget about sheltering kids from inappropriate content!*

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

High praise

Our very wonderful Vet on Wheels (or more precisely, his wife) brought the cats and dog back from their holiday out at the vet's place tonight. Clara apparently has been an impeccable guest, she was described as "the most beautiful dog I have ever met".

Well, yes. I knew that :)

Now for some photos

We arrived in Brisbane on Friday evening to be greeted by Adam's long lost twin brother...or maybe it was Joe, fellow Browncoat, organiser of shindigs and generally evil guy. When Joe was heading home on Sunday evening there was a brief "this jacket feels strangely wrong" incident :)


I don't have many photos from Saturday at Abbey, but Adam did take a fair few of us playing around at the archery range which was being run by the Companye of Northumbria. Here we have Caitlin in her very non-authentic outfit, it's a miracle that skirt stayed up all day, good thing she had her viking belt to wear with it.

Archer Caitlin

And here's me trying not to be outshone by my own kids. (Thank you weather for not making the wearing of a woollen dress a completely insane idea.)

Archer Mim

Tom was so fascinated by the lady doing back strap weaving that she eventually gave in and let him have a go - child labour, it's historically accurate! We almost bought him a kit so we could put him to work at home.

Tom the weaver

Later in the day, after we'd bought a couple of bows for the kids, David decided to try his hand at the range.

Archer David

On Sunday we managed to arrive early enough to get ourselves seats in the grandstand to watch the official opening and grand parade. The jousters were first in line followed by representatives of all the re-enactment groups participating in the festival.


The New Varangian Guard

New Varagian Guard



Prima Spada

Prima Spada School of Fence

There are more Abbey Festival photos on my Flickr account too if that wasn't enough pageantry for you.

Sunday evening saw us having dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant and then heading back to the apartments to sit around weaving tall tales about the fearsome and mysterious Sea Venison. Much silliness :D

On Monday we went shopping for woollen fabric and were able to buy 2 rolls of blanket type stuff. It's all very exciting if you happen to be a dark ages re-enactor living in Sydney because there is NO ONE in Sydney selling pure wool fabric at non-ruinous prices. The place we got it from is actually an equestrian supplies place - it's horse blanket material!

We then headed south stopping for lunch at Cabarita Beach where we took a few moments to get some sand between the toes and collect a shell or twenty.

Kids on the beach

We stayed the night at Aqualuna resort in Coffs Harbour and had dinner at a very nice pizza place in town which I now can't remember the name of and my googlefu isn't helping because the one possible result (Amalfi Italian Pizzeria Restaurant) isn't leading me to any reviews, maps or pics to confirm one way or another. Anyway, it was awesomely yum, and not too pricey.

At the breakfast buffet the next morning I was rather taken by the sugar packets, my favourite is the "With your luck, it's probably salt" one.

Demotivational sugar

Tuesday morning was spent at the Big Banana, we did the plantation tour and watched the AV presentations, took the obligatory "big thing" photo and had a surprisingly edible lunch at the cafe before piling into the car for the trip back to Sydney.

Obligatory Big Banana photo

Then we were home. And now there is laundry. And grocery shopping. And cleaning. Damn, holidays are hard work!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Queensland dispatches

I'm posting from Brisbane, we've just spent two days at Abbey Medieval Festival. We're happy, tired and broke. And the kids are trying to kill each other. Fun times.

Somehow or other, despite Dave, Tom and I all having the horrible lurgi all week we managed to get all the post-Winterfest laundry done (all right, Adam did the laundry) and get ourselves packed up and ready to head off to Queensland on Friday morning. We were on the road at 6:30am, Adam did the driving, I was no use drugged up on Codral and snoozing most of the way. A very welcome respite was offered by Browncoat oziangel who invited us to stop at her place for lunch, I just hope we didn't end up sharing the lurgi with them too. We made it to Brisbane at about 8:00pm, had a BBQ dinner with the Browncoats at the holiday apartments and collapsed into bed pathetically early.

Saturday we were off to Abbey en masse. Spent the day wandering around enjoying all the displays, buying cool and useful stuff and bumping into Browncoats every so often. Adam, David and I were in our Huscarls kit, Caitlin was wearing an outrageous velvety skirt and crop top costume and Tom was in civvies. I'll post photos sometime in the next week hopefully (I'm not sure there are many with us in them). Dinner was at the German Club - pork knuckle FTW!

Today we had planned to head back to Abbey just for the morning and then join the Browncoats for mini-golf in the afternoon but there was still so much to see and do at the festival that we ended up staying there all day. We have ambitions to be there as participants next year with our own little living history display encampment. It'd be great if there were other Huscarls able to come too but I think we'll try and do it even if it's just us.

We're having a bit of a break at the apartments before meeting up with the others for dinner. The kids are watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and are apparently engaged in some sort of who can be the most irritating competition, Adam is lying on the bed beside me snoring loudly and I'm having my second cup of tea and dreaming of silence. *sigh* Tea will have to do.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What we did at Winterfest

After a frantic week of shoe making, cloak hemming and costume tweaking we were more or less ready for our first whole family participation in a Huscarls camp. This was a paid gig for the group and our job was to come along, look authentic, talk to the public and have fun. I think we managed to meet all those criteria fairly well.

We arrived at about 8:00am after stopping off to pick up firewood at the servo. Helped with the last bits of setting up camp, fortified ourselves with bacon and egg rolls, mini Dutch pancakes, hot chocolates and coffee (yay! for food stalls that started up early) and waited for the fun to begin. We were set up on the far edge of the field well away from most of the heavy traffic areas so we were spared the quagmire that developed further up the field. On one side of us was Uppsala, "we fight because it's FUN!", and on the other side was Tony the falconer from Full-Flight Birds of Prey which meant we got plenty of chances to enjoy the gorgeousness of his 3 beautiful birds - a Little Falcon, a Peregrine falcon -

which I got to hold :D

Peregrine falcon ON MY WRIST!!!

- and Zorro the Wedge-Tailed Eagle.

Zorro the wedge-tailed eagle

When the birds were being flown we had ring-side seats for the performance, the public were all gathered on the other side of the area in front of our display so we could sit back and watch. A couple of times we had the birds swooping right down low between the tents and right over our heads. Very cool. The eagle wasn't flown as he's apparently a little unpredictable but the other two put on a lovely show.

Here we see Adam digging the fire pit on Saturday morning. Note the severe lack of spade, next time we'll be set though, as one group member spent most of Sunday sitting in front of his tent making a spade using replica tools.

There's some lovely filth over here....

Below is an Anglo-Saxon geteld, otherwise known as the Mouldy Mansion. The rope bed was made by Adam, Caitlin slept on it on Saturday night. The axe stuck in the firewood was left there because when an attempt was made to remove it there was a horrible cracking noise - oops, there goes the haft! Please overlook the authentic pink plastic Barbie travel case and teddy bear with knight's tabard....

Mouldy mansion

Next we have the Viking A-frame tent which was the primary focus of our display. Replica timber chests, weaponry, tools and bedding were laid out for the public to admire and play with (only under strict supervision mind!). The figure with its back to the camera, huddled up in a brown cloak and wearing a furry hat is Viking David, who was at first very reluctant to get dressed up and into character but ended up having a great time.

Viking A-frame tent

Viking Tom was in his element and took great delight in explaining to people how shield walls work in combat and how to make glass beads.

Viking Tom

The Viking princess said the best part of the weekend was getting to beat up a couple of boys from her class at school with our collection of rubber weapons. She's fierce when she gets going!

Viking princess

Soon after lunchtime on Saturday preparations for dinner began, on the menu was a dark ages style beef stew, bread and home brew. Tom was well pleased at being allowed to help by throwing all the food scraps in the fire, small boy + burning stuff = bliss.

Food prep

I actually never saw the stew until I looked at Adam's photos today, I'd gone home to look after the dog and cats before it was in the pot, and by the time I got back for dinner it was well and truly dark so I was eating food I couldn't see. I knew it was safe to dig in though because I was greeted by Tom announcing "Mum, you have to try the stew, it's AWESOME!!!"

Cooking the stew

See? It's dark. Also, kind of cold.

I took David, who was recovering from a cold, home with me to sleep leaving Adam, Tom and Caitlin to camp overnight. We promised to return bright and early the next morning with honey for the porridge.

On Sunday morning Dave was up at the crack of dawn, all kitted up and ready to go. I dragged my aching butt out of bed (standing up all day in shoes with no arch support turned out to be a bad idea) and we headed off. First stop Woolworths. In costume. I was quite disappointed that no-one asked why we were dressed up. The porridge didn't eventuate, too much like hard work when there was someone BBQing bacon and eggs just down the other end of the field. With another geteld tent, trestle table and benches added to our camp (brought by late arrivals on Saturday) I was able to set up my beadmaking kit and do a lampwork demonstration. The tripod in the foreground of this pic is made of all the really long spears which kept falling over when they were propped against the tents.

Well. That was a big hit. Ended up making beads most of the day, at least I was sitting down.

Unfortunately holding my arms up at shoulder height for hours on end had rather unfortunate consequences the next day, every damn bit of me ached on Monday.

Sadly there was no proper archery range set up for the re-enactors to play with but someone had brought along a little portable target which they set up just behind our camp late on Sunday afternoon so I did get to fire off one round with my longbow. We were firing downhill and it was quite difficult to get the range right, I only managed to get 2 out of 14 shots on the target. I really need to get myself along to the archery club sooner rather than later.

And yes, there was a trebuchet. A mini trebuchet. Cute hey?

Mini trebuchet

The dog got lonely on the weekend

When I went to bed on Sunday night Clara climbed up beside me and demanded cuddles. Her bed is in the other half of the rumpus room which has been converted into our bedroom and a gym area and is divided by bookshelves so there's no door on our bedroom as such. When I told her to go to her own bed she made it perfectly clear that she had other plans.

"I'm sleeping HERE!"

I'm sleeping HERE!

Mind you, because she is not only a great big sook but also an extremely well behaved puppy she didn't persist with this and did go obediently to her own bed...after being hugged thoroughly.

(Winterfest recap coming soon, I need the photos from Adam's laptop 'cause he deleted them from the camera.)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Need a laugh?

Head on over to Shapely Prose and read all about spaghetti language.

Spaghetti language is what you speak when you’re half-asleep and you think you’re having a real conversation but actually are spewing gibberish.

Make sure you read the comments too!

I have vivid memories of being the one doing this while reading bedtime stories to the kids. I'd be exhausted from the small-baby-in-the-house effect and reading a favourite book the words of which I knew off by heart. A page would be turned, "yep, I know this bit" I would think, my eyes would drift closed as I recited the text from memory...till "Muuum!" and I would jerk awake with the awareness that I had just spoken at least one full sentence of complete nonsense but with no memory of what I'd actually said. It's a shame the kids were a little too young to remember for me!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


This weekend we will be getting dressed up as vikings and hanging out at Winterfest with the Huscarls. I'm looking forward to having a play with my longbow and watching the very gorgeous falconry displays. Jousting, fighting displays and a working trebuchet also promise to be lots of fun. So, if you're in Sydney and at a loose end this weekend come along, it'll be awesome, I promise!

Winterfest 2008

5th and 6th July, 2008
Marsfield Park
Culloden Road, North Ryde
(opp. Golf Range adjoined to Macquarie University)
10.00am- 5.00pm Saturday & Sunday

The draft timetable (which will in all probability have changed by the weekend) gives you an idea of what's on offer:

Official Opening 10.30am

Skill-at-arms (Equestrian)11.00-11.30am

Fight & Club Displays 11.30-12.45 (allowing for 4 slots of 15-20 mins)

Full Flight 13.00-13.30 (allowance to go over time)

13.30-14.30 Kids Activities/ Costume Call Display

14.30-15.30 Fight & Club Displays (allowing for 3 slots of 15-20 mins)

15.30-16.00 Winterfest Joust

Adults: ................$15
Family: ...............$35
(Under 5’s free)