Saturday, May 26, 2012

life without an oven or... the perils that come with rental living

Earlier this year, like in March, our old Westinghouse oven decided to blow it's element.  To cut a really long, and possibly boring story short, we are finally now just waiting for the part to come in.  Or so we are told...

When your oven is on the blink, at first you get all flustered, because you realise that you can't bake bread or have lasagne, or whip up a batch of muffins when friends pop in for coffee.  Then after a little while you forget all about the oven.  It becomes a useless box sitting on the wall.  Not even the clock on ours works, so it really is useless.

But then you start craving things... like roast lamb, with roast veggies.  Baked desserts.  Roasted pumpkin soup.  A little cake.  Even the smell of bread baking drives you a little crazy!


So in place of the oven this week, I have donned my creativity hat, and present you a Roasted Lamb and squashed potatoes dinner, with an Apple, Rhubarb and Pomegranate Crumble.

Roasted Lamb Leg, Weber style
Don't let the charcoaled appearance fool you.  Underneath that crusty exterior is deliciously juicy, tender lamb.  This was a pre-marinated leg from the supermarket, which we put into the Weber at around 2pm and let it cook for about 3 hours.

I used the Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Meals for the squashed potatoes.  Pretty much you boil the potatoes and then squash them in a hot pan with olive oil, garlic and rosemary!  Very Special Spuds indeed.  No photos this time, mainly because it was simply too delicious.  But if you have Jamies book, go to page 104 for his recipe and make some!

Now on to dessert.

Here's my Apple, Rhubarb and Pomegranate Crumble recipe.  This dessert is dairy and egg free.  If you don't have intolerances, you can use real butter (mmmm, real butter).  For gluten free, you will need to substitute the flour for your favourite gluten free alternative.  Maybe some almond meal would work?

For the Fruit:
Chop a bunch of rhubarb stalks, about 2 cms long.  Add these to a hot pan with half a cup of water and two heaped tablespoons of rapadura sugar.  Meanwhile chop about 6 small apples, skins left on and add these to the rhubarb.  Reduce the heat and allow to slowly simmer and soften.  While this is simmering away, seed the pomegranate.  You have to be careful not to lose too much juice.  I blitzed the seeds in my super kitchen machine, but you can do the same with a regular food processor.  You just want to break the pips down to extract as much juice as you can.  Push it through a strainer over the simmering fruit.  For extra flavouring I added a splash of vanilla essence and a few peppermint leaves.  You could add cinnamon, mint, a friend added fresh basil to her stewed rhubarb too, so it's really up to your imagination.  Stir the mixture together and taste for sweetness.  You want to be able to taste the rhubarb, but because the pomegranate is also a bit tart you may want to add more sugar.  Simmer on low until the fruit is really soft and broken down to your liking.  You can see from the pic below that it has reduce by a fair bit, but my apples are still in chunks.  I like it that way so I took it off the heat at this point.

For the crumble:
Add 60 grams of butter to a pan over medium heat and allow to melt.  In a bowl, stir together 1 cup of oats, 1/2 cup rapadura, 1/4 cup flour, and 1/2 cup crushed plain biscuits.  I used Digestives as they are egg/dairy free.  Add this mixture to the melted butter and toast in the pan for 5-10 minutes.  You will need to stir this to prevent it from burning.  The oats should start to go nice and golden.

Use it straight on top of your warmed stewed fruit, top with your favourite creamy stuff, in our case it was goat's yoghurt, and enjoy!

So there you have it.  You can live without an oven.  Although considering that even our forefathers had either an oven, or some kind of oven type equipement, perhaps we weren't meant to live without one.  I think there will definitely be a celebratory bake off when the oven gets fixed!  If it ever does!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

unchartered waters for the homeschooling mum!

Approximately 3pm Tuesday afternoon.

After a frantic search for the primary school itself, then another 15 minute search for a car park that wasn't three streets away from the school, I find myself wandering aimlessly around the school grounds.

Administration building ahead...

Ah yes, there lies my salvation (?)

A guided tour to what I think is the right spot to wait for my nephews.

A handful of mothers sitting around the courtyard, each one on their phones, checking facebook no doubt as they sit and wait for their little blessings to come out from their classes.

A couple of young boys dawdle along behind their scurrying mother, kicking up the fallen leaves in the gutter.  She seems distracted, and yet determined... a feeling I can definitely relate to.

A few minutes later the old familiar sound of the school bell transports me to my childhood as it breaks through the eerie silence.

A trickle of hopeful students emerge... and then an avalanche...

A pair of tiny little prep girls, bff's for certain, give their final hugs before heading their separate ways.

A couple of boys are using this time to use up some of that pent up energy boys can be renowned for, and they are running circles around anyone and anything they can... round and round and round they go, I'm surprised they are still standing after a good few minutes of constant activity.

Anxiety begins to creep in as I think how easy it would be to lose my little charges in this sea of little people, and I haven't even spied them yet.

A familiar voice calls my name, and suddenly I am surrounded by three handsome little faces, all so happy to see me, and all filled with information they are just bursting to share.

A primary school courtyard.

A new environment for this homeschooling mother.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"I hate persuasive writing" ~ a homeschooling conundrum

I've spent the majority of the day getting LittleBee interested in writing.  This is a task that I really feel like I am out of my depths.  It all started with a little NAPLAN style exercise, so I can see if she is inline with what is expected of her at this level, considering all Year 3 students went through the NAPLAN testing last week.  She breezed through two math "tests" but when it came to writing, she froze.  Solid.

Then pouted.

She begrudgingly read through the activity, we discussed and nutted out her arguments together and then she started writing.

And then she started crying when I told her that the things she had written had not persuaded me at all, she'd left out all her arguments, and to be fair, she might need to redo the exercise!

Oh boy!  Tears, hugs and lots of reassurance that she CAN indeed do it...

But... "I hate persuasive writing.  It's stupid"

The trouble is that she is ridiculously good at Math, and we have her doing a year level above where she is to make sure she is challenged with the work.  LittleBee also simply devours her reading times every day and is reading and comprehending stories beyond her age.  These are her strengths, and she loves to play to them indeed.

But thankfully with the help Google I was able to locate a persuasive text sample, and after lunch we started on this download from

While she read, and studied, pouted a bit more, and got through the questions... I was able to sit close by and spend some time sewing (yay for me!)  But the lights came on for her, one by one, illuminating in her mind what it was that she needed to be learning today.  That was a remarkable moment!

An hour later it was all over with.  Did I succeed in getting LittleBee to like writing today?  Ah, that would be a loud NO!  BUT, I did succeed in getting her to understand persuasive text a little better, so hopefully as we look at it further she might start to get a little more excited about the opportunity to make her opinions known.

What I also learned is that we need to focus more on writing, but how to do that without LittleBee screaming for the hills will be the real challenge.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

mother's day blessings and realities

  • making myself a hot cup of tea, and enjoying it in a quiet house before anyone else was even awake.
  • having my littlest princess run into my arms and give me a huge hug
  • making myself some eggs on toast, my favourite breakfast.
  • a hand made card from my special girls
  • helping the kids at church make special little gifts of chocolate and tea to share with the lovely mummies this morning.
  • shopping with my LittleBee for my Mother's Day present
  • a hot bowl of soup at one of our favourite cafe's in town
  • coming home to find the baby sleeping and that means that I'm able to spend time just doing whatever I like, even if it is just for a few minutes.

The realities... the Dadda and girls have been unwell this week.  They are on the mend now, but it's taking it's toll.  We have had a busy week too which leaves us all a little exhausted at the end of it all.  Mother's Day festivities are very low key this year as a result.  But nonetheless the blessings are there, and I am so thankful for each of them.

Sometimes though it seems like the painful realities far outweigh the blessings.  

Mother's Day is about spending time with your Mother, a pleasure I have not been able to experience for nearly 17 years now.  Mother's Day after losing your own mother is inevitably difficult.  The memory of my Mum and the special times we have shared in the past make my heart a little warmer as I think about her today.  Today especially I am remembering the times where she graciously endured breakfast in bed consisting of cold burnt toast, and cold tea, and appreciating each rose shaped soap or potpourri bag.  Surely she must know now that her children rise and call her blessed on this day and every other day.

Mother's Day after losing your own child can be plain excruciating.  I have two beautiful blessings to share this day with, and I am forever thankful for their presence in my life.  But on a day when we are to remember being a Mother and all that this wonderful job holds for us, it is heartbreaking to know that there is another little one that I would love to have scribble his name on a handmade card for me.  To have him stealing my chocolates or choosing smelling hand cream for me.

A friend I have met through the loss of our children shared a beautiful picture on facebook today, and this is my Mother's Day thought for today.  To my precious friends who have suffered the loss of their sweet babies and long to hold them each and every day... this is for you

Happy Mother's Day
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