Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Penelope Violet...

The new addition.  The substitute baby.  We are all in love with her.

Sunday, 19 May 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."

I am joining this group very late but as they say, better late than....

Louis: Feet that have just turned 3 with the newest member of our family, Miss Penelope Violet
Minnie: I can see her adult face under her crazy hat - a beautiful face 


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

grow: our garden

Living in the city means there are lots of great things right on our doorstop.  We live close enough to easily walk to the "down town" but we are in a lovely area on a quite street with a wonderful park just around the corner.  As I have mentioned before, school is around the corner and day care is only up the road a bit so it really is perfect.  The only downside is that our garden space is small.  But this hasn't stopped us when it comes to growing our own food.

Pots: We have a range of tubs in the garden that are a combination of traditional plant pots, hand made timber planters and IKEA storage tubs, simply with drain holes drilled in the bottom.  The red IKEA tubs are much cheaper than traditional planters and although they may fail after a few seasons of sunlight, they are also recyclable.

Soil:  I try and buy good quality organic potting mix and manure to feed the soil.  Good soil it the key to growing good food!  CERES in Brunswick is a great place for potting mix (and plants)

Plants:  Over the summer we grew cherry tomatoes, large tomatoes, strawberries (tiny and sweet), cucumbers, rocket, basil (and a wide range of other herbs), peas, dwarf beans, swish chard, and beetroots.  We did not use any sprays or powders or chemicals of any sort and we had great success with hardly any loss to insects.  Now, heading into winter, we have in carrots (purple and 'bunny balls'), broccolini, mini cabbages, more Swiss chard (its has not stopped growing), kale and kohlrabi plus the herb garden.

With only a tiny space and a lot of love, we are producing some delicious vegetables, herbs and fruit.  And the benefit for the children?  I am sure you all know how wonderful the experience it is for them.  There is nothing quite like walking out the front door and picking your dinner.

 Do you grown plants or herbs?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Cook: Chicken Schnitzel Or 'Around the World with Crumbed Chicken...'

For those of you that eat meat I am sure you are already familiar with the wonders of a delicious free range chicken breast crumbed and pan fried.  Any of you with children will know that great adage - 'crumb it and they will come (to the table and eat it.')   Some thing wonderful happens when a plain old bit of chicken is floured, egg dipped, crumbed and fried.  I am sure there are chemical equations that describe this particular process and all its glory.

I don't need to tell you how to crumb 2 chicken breasts but if I do, the fast and dirty version is as follows;

- Remove the tenderloins (these become the mini schnitzels for the children) and then slice the breast through into 2 thin breasts.  Bash then if you like to flatten them a little.
- Dust in seasoned flour (flour with salt and pepper).
- Shake off excess and the dip in egg (2-3 eggs whisked with a little milk).  Let the excess drip off.  - Then to the crumbs.  If you want to be fancy use Panko bread crumbs - the Japanese crumbs are delicious.  However the average 3 year old will not really care so you can happily use crumbs you make at home by whizzing the crusts and stale bread you find on top of the fridge...
- Dip the floured eggy chicken into the crumbs and make sure you cover it all.  For a super crumby outside, repeat the egg wash and crumbing again.  You don't have to.  2 breasts done this way will get you 4 thin breast sized schnitzels and the 2 mini tenderloin schnitzels.
- Cook - add oil  (I like rice bran as an all purpose cooking oil) to heavy based (non-stick if you have it) pan and cook over medium until brow and crunchy on the outside. 5 minutes or so on each side (depending on hob and pan so you will be much better at knowing when they are cooked).

These are out top 5 ways that we enjoy a chicken schnitzel.*

1. German Style - cook your schnitzel as above and serve with sauerkraut (the Edgell's can variety is very good and is in the canned good section at your local store), potatoes (either creamy mash or a German potato salad), a dill gherkin and some mustard perhaps?  Stella will not eat the sauerkraut but Louis will.  I serve Stella's with a corn cob- one of the only veggies that she will willingly eat. 

2. Tonkatsu Style -this is one of own favourites and super simple.  All you need to get hold of is Tonkatsu sauce from a Japanese supermarket/Asian grocer.  Its a spicy fruity BBQ sauce.  Once you have cooked the schnitzel, you simply serve will some rice, some very, very finely shredded raw cabbage (use normal old cabbage, shred and then place in iced water - keeps it really crispy).  Drain your cabbage and serve.  The sauce is the key.  If you can't get it, any spicy BBQ type sauce will be good.

3. Parmigiana - this is the simple no frills version.  Next time you make a thick tomato based pasta sauce, keep some and freeze it to use here.  Once you have cooked your schnitzels (as above) place them on a baking try.  Turn on your grill. Warm the defrosted pasta sauce a little and spoon same sauce on each schnitzel, sprinkle on some grated cheese and (tasty or mozzarella) place under the pre-heated grill.  Remember to watch it as this is the bit when I forget and go off to remove a small Lego part from a child's body...  When the cheese is melted, you are done!  Serve with chips and salad or just salad (but we all really want chips too so please, have the chips).

4. Curry Style - Japanese curry sauce served over a pork schnitzel becomes a Katsu Karre and becomes even more delicious.  I use chicken schnitzel here as well.  Bill Granger does a Japanese Pork Curry that is perfect - just don't use meat when you make the curry - just veggies.  There are lots of simple Keens Curry based vegetable curries that you could make to use (just Google it)! 

5. Kiev - Deconstructed Style - everyone loves a Kiev, no?  But everyone knows that the garlic butter melts out and ends up all over the oven try.  This is a solution you will love.  In a small pot add about 125g butter, 2 garlic gloves (finely chopped or grated), a small handful of parsley, finely chopped and a small handful of chives, finely chopped.  Warm over low heat until butter is melted.  The add a bit of lemon zest to zest things up!  Serve your schnitzel (which you cooked as above) with mash and some green beans and drizzle the garlicky herb butter 'sauce' over the schnitzel. You will love it.  Thanks to Gourmet Traveller for this amazing idea.

*Pork is more traditional for the Tonkatsu Style and veal would be more authentic for the German Style.  However, chicken is much easier to chew when you are 2 or 82 so I am happy to use chicken!  We buy Lilydale free-Range or RSPCA approved.  I know that they are more expensive but eating meat that had a happy life is important to us.  
**Image is a photo from  Australian Gourmet Traveller. June 2010

Monday, 22 April 2013

Organisation (the one where I seem a whole lot more organised than I am...)

In order to try and balance our crazy busy working weeks, we have had to become organised on a whole new level.  At times our house runs like a well oiled machine, other times its struggling to start but for the most part, we are pretty good at this!  The still time in the evenings has become the time to fold washing, sort washing, do washing, hang out washing... When I used to read, I now vacuum.  No time for loafing about - all those tiny Lego bits need to be picked up for the 10000th time this week! I am sure you all know what its like.

And time for just the two together as adults of us is minimal - sometimes we do the dishes together!  And sometimes he takes out the cat poop at the same time I am out dealing with the dog poo - romantic times here.

But you know, you have to keep organised and in control of the mess or it will take over.  And no one is happy in a messy house.  So here are a few things that have helped me and  may help you a little in managing your busy weeks.

1. Plans meals and menus for the week
Every weekend I sit in front of the my entire shelf of cook book and plan the menu for the week.  It's part of my Saturday morning ritual - one of the children brings the paper in, Steve makes the coffees and I check out what Neil Perry is cooking that week.  This often becomes our Saturday night dinner too (thanks Neil - the taco's were fantastic).  Then I flip through my cook books finding things to cook.  I have to take into consideration that Stella is a fussy eater, which, I might add is the most stressful part of the whole process.

I try and include one pasta dish, one rice dish, one soup/stew, one meat free dish and one baked beans dinner (everyone needs a bakes beans dinner and its often our Tuesday night fare).  As we get in at around 6:00pm our week night meals needs to be fast and simple.  No time for fancy plated up drool worthy dishes.  If they are not fed by 6:30pm the children will be (more ) feral.

Weekends are when I get the chance to spend more time in the kitchen cooking up a feast, which I love doing.  On Sunday nights I also cook Mondays dinner, like a lasagne, that I can easily re-heat when we get in on Monday night.  Wednesday is my day 'off' so cook a more involved meal and I also cook an extra dinner to have on Thursday night. There will be another post soon on the recipes and the way I balance the cooking for the week.

2. Have a wall planner
It doesn't have to be fancy and I say the simpler the better. After trying desperately hard to remember when piano lessons where, due dates for school notices and when appointment were (and eventually failing at it) I got hold of this wall planner from Kikki K.  Its plain - no cute puppies or Scottish castles.  Its just an A2 pad with 30 tear off pages, one month to a page.  I just write in the month (with my Kikki K stamps of course) and add the dates and off I go. As Stella can read, its useful for her to keep a check on when her events are on. (This is not an advertisement but the Monthly Planner here from Kikki K is on sale at the moment). 

3. Buy in bulk
There are stores, a large American one in particular, where you can buy things in huge bulk quantities.  I admit that the store and its " in your face crazed frantic consumerism" makes me feel ill but I concede that when you are on a budget there are savings to be had.  Much of the criticism surrounding a store like this is that its American owned however for the most we only buy Australian products there.  We usually buy flour, toilet roll, cat litter, canned tomatoes and cleaning products.  We sometimes buy their Australian free range chicken and organic pork.  Other good places for bulk buys are local Continental supermarkets (for canned tomatoes) and the German supermarket (you know what I mean).  Buying some things in bulk is about savings but also about having plenty on hand.

What tips do you have for being organised? I would love to hear them.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


I cannot believe how much time has passed since I was last here, posting about a costume I made.  Looking back, I am amazed that I actually had time to make that fox costume, let alone blog about it.  In the past 12 months things have changed rather dramatically in our house; it's be turned upside down and inside out.

Almost 12 months ago I returned to work 4 days a week. To paid work, outside the house, with other adults, in a big tall building with computers and responsibilities. The decision to go back to work was difficult to say the least. What would happen our family - who would care for the little people, how would they be cared for, who would collect them, who would clean the house, walk the dog, do the shopping, buy the wine and generally keep things a float?

I believe that for most women returning to paid work outside the home the decision is not an easy one.  For some women its about their career and striving for greatness in their chosen field and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  For many women its about achieving greater economic security and about contributing to the costs of running a home and a family.  And for some women, they have no choice - without work they would not be able to feed their families.

I guess our decision was an economic one mixed with my desire to be back and a part of the working world that I did miss.  I had been in the very privileged position of being able to stay out of the paid workforce for over 6 years.  During that time I was able to add to the family income a tiny bit through grandy and baa but after losing Alice and then having Louis, this little business was put on hold. 

Living on one wage for 6 years was at times difficult but we managed to pay a mortgage and live pretty nicely at the Blue House near the beach.  But a move to inner city Melbourne meant that our dollars did not stretch as far anymore. I am not entering into that ridiculous debate about working mothers vs stay at home mothers - for the most part I think that debate is whipped up by people who love to see women feel they have to defend their positions.  I have done both.  Both are hard. There is resultant mother guilt in both. I think we should support each other - so enough on that.  

So I went back.  To the same organisation that I used to work for.  Going back was a huge adjustment to say the least. Like I mentioned here it is a balance that involves precision timing and forward planning. It was a big adjustment for the family.  And for me.  I went back to an entry level position after leaving a senior position.  And I can admit that some days my ego takes a beating.  I smile and get on with my job but spend a lot of time thinking about how I could run this show...

In a perfect world we would have an extended family in our street looking after our children. But its not the case so Stella spends a great deal of time in before and after school care and day care for Louis.  There are good bits and bad bits but thankfully, mostly good bits about the care we have for the children.  They genuinely enjoy it and that makes it all so much easier.  The fact that we live 200mtrs from school and 900mts from my tram stop at the day care front door is a huge bonus.

Like a lot of aspects of a adults life, the return to work has been good and bad all at the same time.  Of course there are contradictions and inconsistencies like feelings of guilt about cooking popcorn for dinner and then days filled with great relief that I don't have to be there to battle to day time sleep circus.

When it comes to parenting and life in general, I believe that you have to do what you have to do to make it work. 

*Every day I work I take a photo of my watch at the time I am heading home.  You can follow me on Instragram 'grandyandbaa'