Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Many cooks in the kitchen

I've been engaging the boys in the kitchen a little this holiday - part of our master plan to empower them with the knowledge of a wooden spoon from a spatula by the time they leave home. They made chicken jambalaya for tea one night, which turned out really well.  I need much more patience and time to make it fun for them though - you can't really teach a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old to be efficient in the kitchen and multitask when they haven't got the basics down yet.  It has to be a sloooow process - agony for someone who likes to be in and out the kitchen as quickly as possible!
The second lesson occurred one morning when Caleb spied four bananas and thought to make them into banana bread.  He was quite prepared to tackle the entire project by himself but I don't think one can unleash a person into the kitchen on a solo mission when they can't yet successfully and neatly crack an egg!  I offered to help; he grudgingly accepted.  Then Aaron got involved too, so we had a great baking lesson (I thought it was comprehensive; Caleb described it as a nightmare experience).  The outcome was a really super banana loaf (three, actually), a tidy kitchen afterwards, and Caleb learned that if you complain about washing up the baking dishes, then you get to wash the tea dishes too!
"We have brains, we have brains..."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meanwhile, for the non-sewers...

The boys have been largely confined to the great indoors as we've had a lot of rain, drizzle, cloud and gloom outdoors.  They've watched a DVD or two, listened to audio books, read a lot, played Lego, built a puzzle (not their idea), and have been to the shops with me.  In the brief periods of nearly-sunshine or at least non-rain, they've played a bit of basketball and hung out with the other younger kids on our street.  We have new neighbours with four children!  
Mmm, tomato soup for lunch, again - I made a pot on Saturday to take to Liz, and another pot on Sunday for lunch, which has seen us through for two more lunches!  Great photo by Aaron.
Nick has been able to work from home the last two days as he has the necessary books and resources here to do his prep.  It's been great having him around for some adult company and plenty of cups of tea.  I would surely have dehydrated by now if he were at the office!

"Nice elf skirt, Mom"...

An obvious delight of holidays is all the extra time one has - I've been saving my craft projects for these two weeks, and have been looking forward to getting tucked into some sewing!  My tie collection hasn't grown very rapidly, but I had enough for my first project, being a skirt.  Unfortunately I mismeasured the length I'd need, using the tips as the length instead of the side where it's shorter, so the whole thing was shorter than I would have liked; the length also had an impact on the shape of the skirt, making it more straight up and down.  But on the whole I'm satisfied.
For those interested in the 'know-how', I stitched the ties together using a narrow zig-zag stitch on the inside, although a straight stitch very close to the edge might have been better.  I sewed the strips together in batches of six, then sewed the sections together - making it easier than constantly handling the entire weight and bulk.
To finish it, I inserted a zip which comes to the edge of the vertical ties, and the top ties have a single button closure (the blue button is decorative). 
Next big tie project will be a dress, I think - but I need to clean out the op shops of their stock first ;)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Not a day for nobbling

Today was such a miserable day, weather-wise, that the only thing to do (aside from reorganizing a wardrobe and shifting summer clothing to alternate cupboards) was go on a family outing to the Warehouse (where everyone...?). It definitely wasn't the weather for working on chicken coops and yards either, as Liz and Graham evidenced by also popping up at the Warehouse. Great to discuss the weekend's plans in person - decided on a soup and Balderdash evening at their place, and quickly got Viv and Marc in on the deal. I made a tomato soup in the afternoon and Liz did pumpkin; Viv brought bread and a yummy blackboy peach pudding. Balderdash was great but after one round of dashers, we got distracted with YouTubing and ended up not finishing the game, leaving Marc hanging in the lead. Fab evening with a cosy fire and so much laughter (particularly watching Mister Epic Mann) that my jaw hurt :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Long term effects

Phew, we survived! 12 weeks of school is a long term - we knew it would be when we planned the dates last year, but having the Easter break helped us push on for the last three weeks.  We like to do something as a staff to celebrate our sanity, so we had the "Three Cs" in the staffroom after all the kids had left - cake, chocolate and cheese.  Happy April holidays, everyone!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A dozen years since

Happy happy birthday to Caleb who turns 12 today!  Technically we should only celebrate around 1 am tomorrow morning, given the timezone change and his actual birth being at 15h08, but we're lenient on this one and allow 18th April to be close enough :) Given that it was a regular school day today the celebrations were pretty low-key, starting with presents at 6 am...
 (Aaron decided that the wrapping paper from the basketball made a great helmet for Caleb)
 Examining Caleb's watch...
 After school we drove to the pet shop and bought an "all you need starter kit" to house two fish.
And then it was pizza for tea, Caleb's basketball game, and a social swing dance evening.  May the Lord bless and keep you, Caleb, as you grow in the knowledge of His grace and in stature!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Happy birthday Swingkatz!

Nick and I have been taking regular swing dance lessons for about nine months now, by mutual agreement and enjoyment.  This weekend was a big dance event for the Timaru swing dance club, "Swingkatz", who are celebrating their fifth birthday - to celebrate, tutors were brought in from Wellington to teach 11 different classes from 'stealing' to 'musicality and performance' and everything between.  The Friday night social dance featured two live bands and a vintage theme - super exciting for Liz and me who love the dress-up aspect of the swing scene; Nick and Graham displayed some rare performance qualities in allowing themselves to be outfitted (we actually hired the vest and cap for Nick!), and they did look great.  So, after some running around to accommodate our busy schedules (youth group for Caleb, orchestra for me, and then dropping the boys off at the Rawlins for a sleep-over), we met up with Liz and Graham, Andreas, Chrissy and Jeremiah and Diana who had all enjoyed a dinner at Speights, to enjoy some quiet time together before the dance at 8.30. 
From 8.30 on we were on our feet with just a few short breaks to rest our feet, until midnight.  It was fabulous!  We practiced the latest moves we acquired in last week's final tandem-charleston class as well as polishing and enjoying the steps we've learned over the past months, and picked up a few new bruises on our feet and shins too.  Today's first class was at 10 am which was nearly too early, as we ran late getting ourselves ready for the day and collecting the boys, who had had a super night out and were just busy enjoying quad bikes with Peter and William.  We were quite keen to see what the aerials foundations were all about, and weren't disappointed.  Over the two hours we started with some torturous warm-ups (see pic below) before learning about body core and stacking by being suspended upside down over our partners...that was just to get us ready for attempting some jumps though, and once we had gotten the basics down individually we were reunited with our partners where our single jumps got a huge boost.  It was really great and we could achieve some simple but impressive aerials just in that short time. 
Nick and I had only intended to do that one class, but I got organized into the next class after lunch with was a solo charleston class - full-on workout, with no time to stop and rest.  It was essentially an hour-long aerobics class, but so much more enjoyable!  We came away feeling very satisfied with what we had learned.  And then...if we weren't tired enough after the late night before, and not sleeping well, and my alarm going off at 6 am, and two classes...we signed up for the next class, on swing-outs and sharpening the moves.  I don't think it was quite what we had expected, but I'm sure it will have a good impact if we utilize all the fine tuning on the individual steps and stages.  That class finished around 3.15, just in time for us to dash home, collect the boys' togs, fetch one of Aaron's friends, and take the two of them to the swimming pool.  During the lunch break we had dropped Caleb off with friends to help them with a car-washing fundraiser.  He said the first five cars were fun; the next 25 got a bit tedious!  He was going to meet up with us at the pool but their plans changed and we fetched him around 5.30.  Hired two DVDs and bought fish and chips for tea - I was so tired though I couldn't even stay awake during the first movie!  We were so glad we hadn't registered for tonight's social dance, and were glad to be in pyjamas and sleep mode by 8.30 :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

New dummy

Two interesting things happened this week. The first was that I joined Timaru's Youth Orchestra in the string section - totally out of my depth but not embarrassingly so.  Of course I'm not a youth, despite still thinking of myself as a 25-year-old, but I'm not the oldest person there either.  We're practicing for a "mid-Winter Christmas" concert at the end of June, so the pieces are Christmassy and fun (and difficult, for me).  All good - it will be a stretching and growing time.  The second thing was that I realized that a sewing mannequin would be a most useful addition to my sewing kit and ability to produce clothing that fits.  I Trade-Me'd and found this model at a good price, closing later on the same day.  Had a bit of competition right in the last two minutes but either they weren't really all that interested, or got distracted at the end, so the bid closed without too much ado.  I received it by special-order courier on Wednesday morning, and am now looking forward to the school holidays when I'll have a bit of time to use it!
Caleb had a basketball game this evening but as his usual coach, being his teacher, was going to be unavailable, Petru and I had to step in with the coaching and management of the team.  What a laugh, since neither of us knows a whole heap about basketball, despite last year's coach's attempts to educate me.  There are nine boys in the team but only five are on the court at any time, so there is much subbing off and on to be done.  One has to be careful that the boys get a good amount of play time, but one also has to keep the strong (or tall) players on the court so as not to give away a win.  It was a stressful 35 minutes for us, but actually turned out to be a fantastically well-played game with some amazing plays from some of the boys.  When the final whistle blew we were four points down, but then had three free penalty throws.  The first one went in...the second one went in...and the third one...didn't.  Excellent throws though from the captain who took us from a lose to a draw.  Yeeha!! 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Tagine or not ta gine

On Easter Tuesday the boys and I went shopping; Briscoes was having a sale (nothing unusual there), and I invested in an stovetop-to-oven pot and a new cookbook, "Easy Tagine" - tagine can refer to either the pot in which the dish is made, or the dish itself. Tuesday night we had Tagine of Lamb and Vegetables with Mint; Wednesday was Beef Tagine with Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Ginger and Ras-el-Hanout, and tonight was Chicken Tagine with Pears and Cinnamon, served with couscous. I've had to buy new spices and even fresh herbs, since buying a few leaves for nearly $4 each time is not going to suit the budget. The boys are getting less and less fond of my tagine book, but admittedly the meals went on a slow downhill slide during the week. Caleb's comment after tonight's meal was, 'there doesn't seem to be much to it'. The pears cooked away, so it was really just chicken on couscous with some yummy flavours, but flavours don't fill a stomach. Will have to start modifying the recipes to include more substance! The combinations of ingredients are fabulous though.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world - the threads are actually stigmas from crocus flowers, and each thread is hand collected.  The tiny box above cost just over $10.
Mint and Italian Parsley are now installed on my windowsill. I wonder how long before this current food novelty wears off and the plants wither and die - I have black fingers when it comes to gardening :(

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Leeving home

Last month I mentioned that I photographed Joan and John Leevers' beautiful home, which is on the market - here are a few pickings. It's still available if anyone is looking!  It's gorgeous and tidy and bright, and with not a speck of dust or unruly item anywhere to be seen, an absolute pleasure to photograph!
Just loved these two pots sitting innocently on the aging bench, Mr and Mrs Leevers :)

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


With the extra day off school today, I had time to do all sorts of stuff. I washed windows, washed the kitchen floor, got through some ironing, cleaned the house, finished a piece of sewing, and cooked a superb meal for tea. I found this frumpy old dress in an op shop a few days ago - ankle length, long sleeved, and shapeless.  I didn't even try it on, but for $1 I knew I could resuscitate the gorgeous fabric.  I've also been on a tie hunt - (I'm still looking...men...ahem...) so had this one ready and waiting (I daresay it tied in rather well).  I know, that's knot funny.  Anyway, here is my new "upcycled" top!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Cooped up

With Tuesday being a holiday for all schools and some businesses, we were keen to have a night out and some fun!  Took ourselves to Graham and Liz, along with Tom, for toasties and balderdash. We were hoping for the usual table-tennis, but it turned far too cold and windy so we stayed indoors for the most part.  Graham and Liz have made excellent progress on their chicken coop and we were shown around - the oohs and aaahs were genuine, but through a gritted jaw to prevent shivering they probably didn't sound as impressive!