Monday, June 30, 2014

2014: June Portraits

"Portraits of my girls in 2014"

Grace: Where I find her most mornings and most afternoons... drawing or colouring in at the kitchen bench. She is desperate for a little table for her bedroom where she can work away on creative projects.  I've been hunting on Gumtree for a sweet writing desk but secretly, I quite like her being here near me when I'm occupied in the kitchen...

Sophie: "You wanna take a picture of my straw Mummy?" she asked me as I snapped away with my camera in our favourite cafe one morning.

Joining in with Jodi

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Giving Garden

My grandfather was a hardworking, resourceful man.  A very keen gardener, I think it is this hobby that brought him the most joy (aside from spending time with his grandchildren). The front of his house was filled with thriving rose bushes, geraniums and daisies.  His lawn was perfectly manicured and resembled a bowling green -the perfect place for my sister and I to play bocce with him as little girls.  However, it was the backyard of his home that was most impressive… his vegetable garden.

This plot took up his entire backyard (not including the large chicken coop and his shed) and was almost like a mini-market garden of sorts smack bang in the middle of the Fremantle suburb where he lived.  Rich soil, built up with manure shovelled across from his chook pen grew anything and everything.  Masses of various produce… chiccory, butter beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, basil and many other vegetables were carefully tended to and flourished.  I can still recall the bundle of twigs he had fashioned into a ‘swatter’ of sorts for cabbage moths.  It sat leaning against his shed ready to be grabbed as needed.    Meals cooked by my Nonna all incorporated fresh ingredients of some variety. When it came to vegetables, home grown was the only way.

Those who visited left with cartons of glorious free-range eggs and bags of whatever was currently in abundance in his patch.  A bunch of beautiful de-thorned roses was often brought home too after a visit and would brighten the corner of my Mum’s kitchen over the coming week as each bloom slowly unfolded.

Fast forward all these years and I find myself thinking often of my Grandpa’s impressive vegetable patch and garden as I potter about in our own.  As well as growing organic produce for my own little family and seeing the enjoyment Grace and Sophie get out of helping tend to our little plot, it is the giving and sharing aspect of a garden that I strive for.  I dream of being able to wave visitors off with a container of cherry tomatoes, a handful of passion fruit or a bag of lettuce leaves.  At the moment, having only just replanted our vegetable patch out this winter, offerings are few and far between... a bag of lemons, some Double Delight blossoms (the last before they are pruned) or a bunch of parsley seem to be all I can share at the moment.

One day though, I hope our garden will be able to give so much more to so many more and that just like my Grandpa, I will be able to gain the same sense of pleasure from sharing a little bit of our garden with loved ones and neighbours...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kipfler Potatoes With Roasted Garlic & Tarragon

I had never tried kipfler potatoes until a few years ago when I stumbled upon this recipe by Donna Hay in the weekend newspaper.  A little harder to come by, they are well worth tracking down for this side dish where they are paired with the sweetness of roasted garlic and the aniseed-like flavour of tarragon.

I made them the other night to go with our evening meal so thought I would pop the recipe up on my blog for anyone wanting to try a dish with simple ingredients that combine together to deliver maximum taste...

Roasted Garlic & Tarragon Potatoes

800g kipfler potatoes, halved
1 head garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup tarragon leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C.  Place the potato and garlic on a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 40 minutes or until golden.  Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and place in a bowl.  Add the mustard, vinegar and remaining olive oil and mix until well combined. Place the potatoes, tarragon and garlic dressing in a bowl and toss before serving.

(Serves 4)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Settling Into Full Time School

The first term of full time school for Grace has come and gone and we are already nearing the end of the second...  sixteen weeks of settling into a new environment and routine for us all. Before any more time passes, I thought I should record my thoughts and experiences here of how we've found the 'settling in process'...

Term one for Grace began on a teary note.  She was very nervous about all the changes associated with starting at a new school, as well as the first time experience of a five day school week scenario. Leaving her in tears each day and walking with Sophie back to our car was horrible.  To be honest, at the beginning of the year, I felt lost... not without things to do or ways to fill my days, but battling to find my feet and to wear the ‘school Mum’ hat.

As the term progressed though, we adjusted to our new norm. Getting ourselves ready quickly in the morning and constantly watching the clock became things I stopped trying to fight. I learnt to accept that slow mornings lingering at home were no longer possible on weekdays.  Whether I liked it or not, the school routine was now a huge part of our lives, waking Sophie each afternoon from her nap for pick-up time was inevitable and getting out of bed when my alarm rang in the morning was essential for a smooth start to our days.

For Grace, we kept out-of-school-life as simple and free from obligations as we could. Apart from the odd call in to the local grocery store for a needed item, we came straight home after school. Tummies were filled with afternoon tea and free play was enjoyed until dinner time.  On the one or two occasions we did have to be somewhere after school, Grace fell asleep in the car on the way there within minutes. Bedtimes were also made slightly earlier, allowing plenty of leisurely time snuggled up together for a story and a chat.

For myself, being on top of things in terms of school days and dates was important.  The state of organization in our home was seriously lacking, but I ensured my calendar was well-used and kept me on track with all things pre-primary related. Socially, (not being naturally extroverted), I made an effort to chat to the other mothers around me at school drop-off and pick-up times and in the process made friends with a lovely fellow Mum and have gotten to know a few others. I volunteered for canteen duty and helped out in Grace's classroom. Paul joined the class on an excursion.  Sophie and I started going along to the assembly each fortnight. We became part of the school community.

Now, well into second term, as hard as it still is to get out of bed when my alarm rings each morning, the whole full time school caper is beginning to feel more 'normal'.  Grace is happy and loving every aspect of school life and Sophie and I have adjusted to our new pattern of days together.  One day, I know I will look back on these primary school years with fondness.  I will miss the paintings decorating our fridge, the school bag and shoes dumped by the front door and the afternoons spent searching the house for an interesting object' to bring for news. Knowing this, I have done my best to embrace this new phase so far as best as I can... for all of us.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Grace's 5th Birthday Party

I can still remember the excitement I had as a little girl surrounding my birthday parties each year. Choosing a cake for my Nanna to make from the Women's Weekly cookbook.  Coming up with party games with my Mum.  Helping to put together goodie bags.  It is perhaps due to all these fond memories that I get so much enjoyment now out of planning birthday celebrations for my own girls.

During my blogging free month in May, Grace turned five and we celebrated with a Saturday afternoon birthday party, her first party with school friends which turned out to be a lovely gathering with good old-fashioned party food, games and fortunately, plenty of beautiful sunshine.

As the guests arrived and gifts were unwrapped, the girls began working on a butterfly craft activity which they loved... sequins, sparkles, glitter glue and textas were all used to embellish butterfly cut-outs which they later took home. Party games involved a butterfly treasure hunt, musical statues, an egg and spoon style race (with bean bags on heads) and the traditional pass the parcel. In between, there was plenty of time for playing chasey around our backyard and for fun on Grace and Sophie's new swing set.  

I love that birthdays are another opportunity to create memories and form our own little traditions as a family. Hopefully one day, Grace and Sophie will look back on their parties with the same fondness that I have when I think back to my own childhood birthday celebrations...

Over the past few weeks, Grace has been making thank you notes for friends and family, something I feel is sadly a bit uncommon these days.
To me, it is a great opportunity to demonstrate gratitude to little ones, plus it provides a meaningful creative activity for art-loving Grace.