Thursday, January 28, 2010

Andy Warhol of the Kindy?

Mama: so what did you do at kindy today?
Big Bro: I did some drawing!
Mama: And what did you draw?
Big Bro: I drawed a can!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Frankston Sand Sculpting

The boys recently acquired a sandpit, so for a bit of inspiration we headed down to Frankston to see the Sand Sculptures.

The exhibit had the theme "Great Moments in History". Big Bro was pleased to see that his favourite politician was featured.

Some sculptures were still under construction, like this impressive "Great Buildings of the World".

And yes, this is sand, and only sand, that is making the bridge between the Petronas Towers and the round hole in the one at the far left (I am guessing it is the original design of the Shanghai World Financial Center). In all honesty, however, as we discovered when doing a bit of sculpting ourselves, the "sand" isn't the regular beach variety but more like coarse clay and very sticky. Which explains how the exhibit can run until April!!

As well as the sand sculpting tent, there was a sand-craft tent where for $5-10 children could use coloured sand to stick to adhesive patches on pictures, or layer the colours in a jar to make an ornament.

We all had fun at the exhibition, and to top the morning off we hit the beach for a bit of paddling (Little Bro's first interactive beach experience: he was fascinated by the waves!), watched a few boats passing under the bridge over the inlet, and had a tasty lunch on the beachside deck at Sofia.

Thumbs up to Frankston Beach for a great morning out!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Cardboard Box Kitchen

Quite a few months ago, Big Bro was very into playing cooking games and I decided to make him a kitchen. Something in me objected to the "easy" option, to go out and buy a toy stove- the nice wooden ones are pretty expensive while the cheaper plastic ones are.... very cheap and plastic looking. It's not that I'm anti-cheap-and-plastic-toys: we have plenty. It was just that, for some reason, I had the conviction that I could make something that would suffice.

As I'm not at all skilled in woodworking, I decided to make a cardboard box kitchen. This coincided with Little Bro moving up to a new car seat, so we had a big box to hand plus plenty of smaller boxes. I carved out a shell and used packing tape to stick it together. It was an oven and drawer and a side cupboard with a benchtop/sink and an overhead shelf with a microwave. The window in the oven and the microwave door were made from the clear plastic of baby bedding sets (like a shirt box) taped between layers of cardboard glued together.

After the first coat of paint, things were taking shape.

This was a few months ago, and I got stuck on the fittings- handles, taps and splashbacks. So things stalled. Finally this week something inspired me to finish!

The splashback was going to be the contact (adhesive plastic) ruled in tiny red squares, which looks a bit like tiles, but I couldn't find any, nor the marbled contact that used to be sold for lining drawers. Finally I found the blue and white spots at Officeworks- intended for use as a cardboard folder.

All the knobs are plastic bottle tops screwed in place so they turn. The handles are Bunning's cheapest (about $1 each), screwed through the cardboard. I had been going to make recycled ones to fit the theme, but I couldn't figure out anything that would be strong enough to work, and safe for the boys if they pulled the kitchen to pieces.

The tap and handle are just bits of watering system plastic, threaded through holes in the splashback and secured at the back, so the tap turns. The sink is just a plastic bowl glued in place (which is a little translucent, so the oven underneath gets a red glow!)

To fit out the kitchen I had been going to make more appliances to go with the microwave, but at the tail end of an Aldi toy sale there were kitchen sets with stainless steel kettles, toasters and metal saucepans going for under $10 so I grabbed them. Which was fortunate as the toaster is Big Bro's favourite bit: it has a spring on a timer, so the toast really pops out-with about the force of a Scud Missile blasting off! Little Bro thinks it's a great shape sorter- toasted icecream, anyone?

And of course a toy kitchen needs some toy food, again courtesy of Aldi ("all five food groups represented"!)- which just proves that I don't have a problem with plastic toys.....

It's not perfectly or beautifully made, and I am mentally prepared for the boys to break it- in which case it will hit the recycle bin (though it was tough enough to withstand all 15kg of Big Bro climbing on the bench tonight!), but if it gives the boys a bit of fun in the meantime, then I'll be more than happy with my efforts.

But let it be known that after this experience- the many choices, the time waiting for paint to dry, the niggle of knowing I had a project waiting for me to finish- I will never renovate a real kitchen!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Toddle Waddle!

Toddle Waddle is the latest literary fad for 1 year olds in our house.

I first noticed that it was pulled off the shelf and flicked through at a more-than-random frequency. Then, when I removed the dust jacket and carelessly left it on top of the bookshelf in full view of our story chair, frantic pointing at the bookshelf ensued. Story time is now not complete without "Tada-dadadadaDADADADA". The latter crescendo is only necessary if a silly parent is trying to offer a book other that Toddle Waddle.

The story (or "story") is a great one for Little Bro- a baby and a cheerful duck (Da! Qua-qua!) toddle-waddle off for a walk, accompanied by a variety of other noisy travellers, beating an escalating rhythm to the beach. Little Bro awards bonus points are earnt for the inclusion of a choo-choo, plus two pages amenable to hand actions- "Stop!" and "Bye-bye". For me, it's a cute- I love the toddler's smily face and baby gait- and succinct read, and I'll be happy to toddle waddle for as long as Little Bro requests it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?

Do you like green eggs and ham? Would you? Could you? Try them! Try them and you may, I say.

I picked up this idea from Nigella Express but when it came time to cook, I didn't consult the recipe so I wound up with a green omlette rather than green pancakes. They were definitely not as beatiful as Nigella's- in all honesty, I didn't include a picture for aesthetic reasons!

Green Eggs and Ham- my way
Boil a handful of baby spinach in about half a cup of milk, and when thoroughly wilted, add another half cup of cold milk and purée.

Add several tablespoons of basil pesto and four eggs; mix thoroughly. (Make sure the spinach-milk mix isn't too hot when you add the eggs or you'll cook them then and there!) Heat olive oil in a frypan over medium heat (add some butter if desired) . Pour in enough egg mix to cover in a thin layer and cook.

When bubbles start to come through the omlette, top with chopped ham, grated cheese and optional grated zucchini or cooked peas. Fold the omlette in half or thirds (like a business letter) and serve when the cheese is melted.

The verdict from Big Bro (paraphrased):
I do so like them, Sam-I-Am. And I keep asking Mama to make more!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blink and you'll miss it

Our first nectarine harvest, from our two-and-a-half year old tree, has been and gone! I love stone fruit, so I was thrilled that this year we managed to get edible fruit. The first year none of the five or so flowers set fruit while the second year I suspect fungus was to blame for every fruit being mummified.

This year, we had about 15 fruit that looked good. The first couple of ripe ones were nibbled by an unknown creature (possum? Fruit bat? Birds? Please, not a rat...), but after the tree was encased in netting, we managed to get about eight edibles before the last few succumbed to mould after some hot and damp weather.

Stone fruit self-sufficient we are not, but it does feel good to have a toe in the door of the orchard business!

And next year I might even manage to take in-focus photos!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen: Frosty Fruits

It's been HOT here! I've been thinking of good cooling food for the boys.

Like watermelon slushy: freeze chunks of watermelon, puree and serve.

Or frozen bananas (insert an icecream stick for ease of handling) and grapes (the grapes are definitely not for Little Bro: choking hazard). Neither sounds that interesting, but freezing makes the banana creamy while the grapes have a refreshingly icy crunch.

Meanwhile, in the "every cloud has a silver lining" category, I have discovered that our evaporative cooling unit drains into our rainwater tanks. So with the hot weather, one tank is "miraculously" nearly full! I hate to think how much tap water goes into running the cooling... but at least it gets recycled.

With all the heat and sufficient water, the garden is actually looking good- the vegies are thriving! Though the test comes tomorrow, when 43C is forecast- fingers and toes are crossed that I haven't spoken too soon!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Zucchini Season

Two months ago, this was my cucurbit bed, which I described as having "micro-zucchinis".

With plenty of warmth and water, this is it now: micro has become macro!

We've started harvesting from the three plants from the Digger's tri-colour mix which, as good fortune would have it, are three different colours.

Harvesting zucchinis means converting zucchinis into edible form, and this has taken a bit of culinary convincing for Big Bro who thought he didn't like zucchinis. For the first meal I sliced the zucchini finely and sauteed in butter, then topped it with grated cheese, and christened it Cheesini (or Zucheesy). I felt a bit of a fraud to be disguising the zucchini so much, but Big Bro was convinced, and asked for seconds! My plan is to gradually scale back the additives until perhaps he will happily eat a naked steamed morsel. We shall see.

A few days ago I changed tack and made pikelets with grated zucchini, onion, mushroom, parsely, silver beet and leftover Christmas ham. Another victory!

So now I'm on the hunt for other delicious zucchini recipes: how do you like yours?

Friday, January 8, 2010

I thought I'd heard it all...

Well, not really, but of all the strategies Big Bro has tried to delay
bedtime, tonight's was certainly novel:
"Mama, let's go fishing before we go to bed."
Ummmmm....... No.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Food for thought

I received an email today from my favourite newspaper, The New York Times, with this list:

Top 10 Viewed Features of 2009

I was impressed that three of the top four features from the past year- and four of the top ten- related to food (and item number 3 was related to cutlery!). It's comforting to know that with so much else to think about- technology, terrorism, the Obamas, the uglier side of life- "we" (as in, a lot of people) are all still interested in what we eat.

I always like The New York Times and, unsurprisingly, these articles were especially good reads. My favourite was number 4, the story of Cake Wrecks, cake decorating gone wrong. I was going to pick out a few examples to link to here, but there are just too many to list. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spaghetti Western

Those of you who regularly complete cryptic crosswords (I would love
to join your ranks one day!) may have already synthesized this post's
title to its original:

Pasta Bonanza.

Having made the pesto, I suggested to Big Bro that we choose which
pasta we'd like to use it with. As I pulled out the various packets I
realised that I have been stockpiling pasta in a big way.

I have amassed 9.5kg of dried pasta, and that's excluding Asian
noodles and the "fresh"-type pasta in the freezer (where it is no
longer technically fresh?) Little Bro could theoretically eat his own
body weight in my pasta stocks. That's one huge carbohydrate fix!

Kids in the Kitchen: Pesto time!

The basil was starting to get a bit lanky so I knew it was time to make pesto. My previous effort, at the end of last summer, had been overly creative and ended up dominated by the peppery tastes of walnut and garlic, so this version we went with a traditional basil-garlic-pine nut-parmesan-oil recipe. It turned out that the cup of basil leaves we picked was less than most recipes called for, so we topped up the greens with mint and our omnipresent parsley.

The end result received the thumbs up from the boys. B observed that pesto appears to be one of the few forms of green leafy edibles that Big Bro will happily consume!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Traditions

Most families have traditions surrounding holidays and significant events, and ours is no exception. B's extended family celebrate particular events at the same house every year, with each family (usually, but not always, the Aunty) having their specialities that they bring for the buffet meal: a massive pot of spiced rice, pork curry, chicken curries, spicy eggplant, a creamy potato curry, pineapple chutney and burning sambals (and at Christmas a fabulous home-made mustard to accompany ham).Lunch on New Year's Day is one of these annual features, always at the same Aunty's house. Lunch is followed by "parlour game" type entertainment, which in recent years has included New Year's Resolutions: each person secretly writes down their resolutions, which are stored

in a small wooden box for the year, to be retrieved, read out and reviewed the following New Year's Day.

Some resolutions are serious: the child who wants to improve her handwriting, the cousin with a new strength goal in the gym. There are many which give everyone a good giggle (though without knowing the family members the humour doesn't translate). Some are lovely: this
year there was a husband and wife who, unbeknownst to each other, each resolved last year to make time to take the other out on dates more regularly. It's a fun way to think about the year past and how we have progressed.

Last year, figuring a two year old can't resolve to do anything for 3 seconds let alone 365 days, I let Big Bro "write" his own resolution.

This year when it came out of the time capsule I was struck by how much both boys had grown since then. Suddenly in my mind, the past few years could be distilled down to Big Bro's features at the New Year's Day lunches: chatty and busy this year, a bit shyer and talking in several-word phrases last year, not quite walking and barely talking the year before, and swaddled in a striped muslin, crying and sleeping the year before.

As eager as I am to see the boys growing, a part of me thinks they're growing up way too fast. The next thing I know, they'll be the ones responsible for maintaining the family traditions. Which is, of course, the way it's meant to work.

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