A bit of this and that...with added frangipani.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken and Bacon Risotto

The bright airy kitchen at our new house has inspired me to spend a little more than the usual 20 minutes it usually takes for me to whip up a meal. Yesterday, I decided to make risotto, which can be time consuming, but oh so worth it.

MasterFive has decided that this meal is his first favourite of the meals I cook, and that's saying a lot, because it has edged out Pissghetti Bolognese.

I use the recipe for Bacon and Mushroom Risotto on the back of the Riviana Arborio Rice packet as a base and chop and change as I see fit, depending on what I have in the fridge and pantry. We omit the mushrooms entirely because a certain small person still hasn't learned to enjoy them (we are trying them periodically, but a whole dish with mushrooms as a main ingredient was a bit much to ask of him).


Ingredients:
  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 30g butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 rashers of bacon, rindless
  • 500g boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas or 1 chopped zucchini or 1 bunch chopped fresh asparagus (whatever vegetable that can be cooked in a short amount of time).
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Parmesan cheese and parsley to serve
  • Ground black pepper
Method:
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, and cook the chicken until browned. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining olive oil plus the butter in the pan, add the onion, garlic and bacon and cook for three minutes.
  3. Stir in the arborio rice and cook until the rice grains start to colour slightly. Be sure to stir frequently.
  4. Add the wine and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Add the stock, but only one cup at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until each cup of liquid is absorbed before adding another.
  6. Immediately after the last cup of stock has been added, stir in your vegetable, and continue stirring until the stock has been absorbed.
  7. Add chicken back into the pan and stir to combine. Heat for 2 or 3 minutes.
  8. Serve with Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have any this time, so I added in dried parsley during the cooking) and freshly ground black pepper.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. I don't make it often because of the time factor, so it is a real treat around this house.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moving Update

It's time for a quick update. As you might be aware, we've been in the throes of moving house for the last couple of weeks. We officially moved into the new house on Friday.

We've had our fair share of challenges during this move:

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  • There was a mystery leak at the new house, causing the water meter to tick over at an alarming rate. The owner got a plumber in and it was fixed quick-like.
  • When we removed our dishwasher from the old place, the handyman neglected to let us know that there was a bit of the pipe that needed blocking up with a rubber stopper, and so the first time I did the dishes, there was a swimming pool of dirty dishwater in our kitchen.
  • When we used the dishwasher for the first time at the new house, another swimming pool of dirty dishwasher water was formed until we realised that the hose was damaged in the move. Nothing a little duct tape couldn't fix.
  • We got cleaners, carpet cleaners, movers and a handyman to do all the tough jobs, and of course every single one of those cost us more than what was quoted, so this family will be eating two-minute noodles for the next few weeks (and not just because Mum is a lazy cook)
Anyway, we are nearing the end of this project and Will and I are going to celebrate by sitting back on our patio with a nice glass of wine and listening to our old cassette tapes. What? Didn't I tell you? The owner of this house offered us an unwanted stereo that could play cassette tapes. Yes, we are stuck in a time warp, but we are over the moon that we never got around to throwing out the old tapes we had. See? Lesson to be learned: Always put off what you can do today until a couple of years down the track and fate will step in and give you what you need.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Few Stolen Hours at the Cinema: 'The Help'

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On Friday, I snuck away to the cinema. The constant togetherness that results when the flu strikes down three members of my family got to me, and I just needed a mental health day.

When choosing a movie to watch during my stolen hours, I wanted something that I would never see with my husband. It had to be geared towards friendships between women, women overcoming adversity and with maybe a few laughs thrown in.

I chose to see The Help. Here is the movie trailer to give you an idea what it was all about.


So how did it measure up using my criteria for choosing this movie?

Something My Husband Would Never Watch


All the main characters are women? There is the word "friendship" in the trailer? There is an absence of medieval swordsmanship, sick-inducing humour or saliva-dripping aliens wanting to bite your face off? Tick, tick and tick, Will wouldn't touch this one with a barge pole. I'm sure Will would tell you that he has more sophisticated tastes in movies, but it's like when he would choose a movie or a book for me, he would just look for something that he would never choose in a million years for himself. Well, it's the same in reverse. We are like chalk and cheese in that respect.

Friendships Between Women

Although in the trailer, they mention an unexpected friendship, I just really didn't see any truly deep connections between any of the characters. I didn't get that welling up of feelings about friendship that I might have had when seeing Steel Magnolias, Beaches or perhaps Fried Green Tomatoes.

Women Overcoming Adversity

I'm not bold. I don't like to rock the boat. I hate confrontation of any sort. I do enjoy movies about movers and shakers who fight the injustices of the world, courageous people who make a difference. On the flip side of this, however, is the fact that often these movies make me feel just a tiny bit weak in comparison. I wonder if I lived in a time of adversity, would I be too timid to step up and make my voice heard. Would I even recognise the injustice? It is all fine and good to look back in hindsight and judge, but would we make a stand if we were living through it? What's right and just is often obscured by convincing and opposing points of view. Things are never as cut and dried as they make them out to be in Hollywood.

Anyway, what I liked about this movie is that these women made their voices heard and they rocked the boat, but they did it in a sneaky way so as not to cause problems for themselves and their families. I hope that's what I would do, recognise the injustice, do something about it, but in a behind-the-scenes kind of way.

A Few Laughs Thrown In

I enjoyed a couple of chuckles, but it fell kind of flat. A lot of the humorous bits were included in the trailer, but they were funnier in the trailer than in the movie. I did enjoy some guffaws at Sissy Spacek's character, Mrs Walters. In my opinion, her character was the main injection of humour to this movie.

There's a bit of toilet humour that makes you want to toss your choc top in the bin, so consider yourself warned.

Verdict

This was a video movie, as in a movie that you definitely would rent on video, but might think twice about forking out the dosh to see in the cinema. Lucky for me I had a free pass to the cinema from last December's stay at the Rydges, so I could enjoy the movie on the big screen without a thought towards the cost.

Have you seen any movies lately? Got any recommendations for the next time I need a mental health day?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our New Home Inspires Me to Bake Sweet Treats and Paint Masterpieces

It's all starting to get exciting. After weeks of trying not to think about the move, it is finally starting to happen. On Saturday, Will borrowed a truck and we moved about half our household to the new place.

We still have heaps of things in the old place, and it just goes to show how much extra stuff we have that we don't need. It's a real incentive to get rid of some things, which of course I should have been doing in the lead-up to the move, but that would have been just too logical. Instead I will have all good intentions to do it after the move, but then life will take over and it will probably still be there years from now, but will have multiplied in number.

I have been trying to picture our family in the new home, trying to imagine whether we will be happy there. Although this house was built in 1992 and isn't characterful in the slightest, it has its positive aspects over where we live currently:
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  • The kitchen has 30+ cupboards, including two tall pantry cupboards and two sets of drawers, a large servery window and lots of bright light. Our current home has a dark kitchen, because it has a small window that looks onto the patio, which is in shade most of the day. This new kitchen inspires me to put on my apron and get creative with my culinary endeavours. Now if only I can turn inspiration into lovingly baked sweet treats and gourmet meals, my husband and children will be overjoyed.

  • I've mentioned before how large the rooms are, and there is ample storage, because each room has built-ins that include shelves and drawers and two large built-ins in the master bedroom. There are two hall closets and of course a double lock-up garage makes a great space to hoard all that stuff I neglected to dispose of before the move.

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    There are windows everywhere. Although this makes hanging pictures and placing large furniture a challenge, it does make for a bright and cheery home. It makes me want to draw and paint with all that natural light.

  • In the backyard, we have a mandarin tree, a lemon tree and a tree that blooms with one of my favourite flowers, the frangipani.

  • Within half an hour of being at the new place, while Will and I unloaded the truck, the boys met a boy on the cul-de-sac and ended up playing cricket with all the neighbourhood kids. My boys are the youngest in the area, but that didn't seem to bother anyone. 
Now, I can't wait to finish moving in and start all that gourmet cooking and painting of masterpieces. I wonder if two-minute noodle meals and doodles on the telephone notepad count?

I am easily pleased with ample storage and bright light. What would your dream house include?  

Update 10 December 11: We've been here a few months now, and I'm still loving my kitchen, although, so far, no masterpieces have been painted, but there's nothing to say they won't be, just in my own time.

Rewinding this post on And Then There Were Four's Weekend Rewind.  



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Session: Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

On Sundays, I join Thea at Do I Really Wanna Blog? in popping some music on the blog. The rules are: there are no rules!
Old or new or in between. Related or not.
But always songs you love!
Here are my picks for this week.
You can play along by linking up with Thea.
Happy Sunday!

I'm going back to the original rules this week with one oldie and one newbie. For my oldie, here's Doris Day with Perhaps, Perhaps Perhaps.




And I was checking out the video spotlights on my Google homepage and came across this one from Kimbra. I thought it would match well with this Doris Day song because of its old-time feel:




Tell me what you think. Did you enjoy these songs?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This Week I'm Grateful for...Well-Behaved Offspring

Not so long ago, when dining in a restaurant, I used to look longingly at the families with older children who sat quietly eating their meals. I looked forward to the day that my children would be able to accompany us to a restaurant, and I wouldn't have to spend my all my time amusing them in order to avoid the inevitable boredom and running amok.

Image Source

I must admit that the children have always been pretty good for their age group, but I still longed for the peace of older children who knew their manners and were happy to sit for a longer period of time than say, a nanosecond.

My day has finally come.

Last night, we joined friends from overseas for dinner at a restaurant. I was worried because my friends' children were grown and out of the house, and I wasn't sure how the adult company would appreciate having my small people at the end of the table.

I asked the boys' auntie to babysit, but as luck would have it she had a previous engagement, so we brought the children with us.

I needn't have worried:
  1. Because my friends are brilliant with kids, and my friend's husband was teaching the boys how to pretend they had strings of boogers coming from their noses with the new glow in the dark worms they were given as presents. I know. Lovely restaurant behaviour, but fun was had by all.

  2. Some aliens whisked my boys away and replaced them with well-behaved, well-mannered children who ate, get this...spaghetti with meatballs...without a drop of mess on clothes, table or floor. This is unheard of as I have battles with MisterEight about the correct way to eat long pasta every single time we have spaghetti, and it always ends in tears...my own.

  3. Our dinner companions adored our children and commented about how our boys brought back fond memories of their own two sons at that age. Many a remark was made about my boys' beautiful smiles and behaviour. [Insert beaming smile of parental pride here]
So this week, I am grateful for having had a night out with good food, good wine, good friends, good conversation and well-behaved offspring. Who could ask for more than that?

I am taking part in Maxabella Loves' Grateful Saturday. Head on over and follow the rules and link up.

Friday, September 16, 2011

All By Myself

I think I'm becoming a recluse.


Image Source
In MisterEight's prep year, I made an effort. I got to know other mums and I made social engagements. I enjoyed the company of others, but lately, I've lost some of that enthusiasm.

I don't want to accompany my son to Little Johnny's birthday party and make small talk with other mums whom I have never really met. I even find myself avoiding making social commitments with my own friends. I can feel myself retreating. The only people I've been talking to lately is Will and the boys.

I think it might be a defense mechanism to avoid adding more commitments to an already hectic schedule. The upcoming move is weighing heavy on my mind.

Yesterday, rather than stick around at a birthday party MisterEight was attending, I went to the shopping centre next door to the party venue and browsed in a bookshop. I spent time ogling the time-saving gadgets in the cookware shop. It was nice. It was guilt-free, and I was all by myself (apart from the shopping centre full of people, but you know what I mean).

Once Will is back at work (today will be his first day back), I would love to sneak away during the day and watch a movie at the cinema, all by myself. I think I just need a little alone time. After all, with Will at home nursing us all back to health, I realise that I haven't had a moment on my own in over three weeks. No wonder I'm going a little batty. Today is the last day of school term so there's another two weeks of 'togetherness' time in my immediate future. I think I'll be having a mental health day today while I still have the chance.


What about you? When you do get some alone time, what sorts of things do you enjoy doing?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We've Been an Unhealthy Bunch

Our past few weeks have been definitely out of the ordinary. It feels like it is just one thing after another for this family.

To be brief:

  1. Will was ordered to take a couple of days off work due to exhaustion that was manifesting itself in a pain in his side. The doctor prescribed an exorbitantly priced drug and an ultrasound that was inconclusive. The pain is now gone.

  2. A few days later, I woke up with the mystery swollen foot, was unable to drive and was in a great deal of pain. An ultrasound ruled out Deep Vein Thrombosis. Will had to take time off work so that he could take care of the kids.

  3. Image Source
  4. At the same time as my foot affliction, MasterFive came down with a tummy bug that became a respiratory infection requiring antibiotics and a week off school. Oh and he had conjunctivitis as an added bonus.

  5. Then it was my turn. I caught the flu and was out of action for a week. I won't go into the gory detail, but I'm telling you now, that I can't remember ever feeling so bad...and I've done chemo. When I was finally prescribed antibiotics my tonsils were no longer recognisable, which is probably because I don't have tonsils. Throw in conjunctivitis.

  6. MisterEight decided to join in the flu fun and ended up with three days off school, missing his best friend's birthday party and almost missing his school musical. Don't forget the conjunctivitis.

  7. Will has miraculously (and I hope I'm not speaking too soon here) managed to avoid the flu symptoms but both his eyes are blood red and swollen with the conjunctivitis. He's still off work, but thankfully the rest of us are well, so he doesn't have to look after us.
So on top of all the above health issues, throw in:
  1. My exam.
  2. Having to postpone our move date, because the new address was not even close to being ready.
  3. MisterEight's birthday.
  4. Father's Day.
  5. A school musical to prepare costumes for.
  6. Organising the move.
So Will's fathering and nursing skills were put to the test, and he came out shining. We've just got to get through this move and then hopefully life will settle down a bit before Christmas. One can only hope. 

On another note, we have something to look forward to this weekend. A former work colleague from one of my first jobs ever, is in Cairns, visiting from Vancouver, and we are meeting up with her and her husband for a meal on Friday evening (if Will's eyes have improved by then). Can't wait! 

What have you been up to whilst we've been dealing with all the sickness in our household? Do you have anything you are looking forward to this weekend?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

He Would Have Been 80 Today

Am miserable sick today, as I have caught whatever was ailing MasterFive all last week, but I wanted to hop on to note that today would have been my Dad's 80th birthday.

There wouldn't have been any song and dance, because he didn't like there to be a fuss made of him. I simply would have called him today and he would have told me a joke that I'd heard a million times before, and I would have reciprocated with my own new joke.

So this is for you Dad:

A little girl walks into a pet shop and asks in the sweetest little lisp: "Excuthe me, mithter, do you keep wittle wabbits?"

And the shopkeeper gets down on his knees, so that he's on her level, and asks: "Do you want a wittle white wabby or a soft and fuwwy bwack wabby or maybe one like that cute wittle bwown wabby over there?"

The little girl puts her hands on her knees, leans forward and says in a quiet voice: "I don't fink my pyfon really giveths a thit."

Miss you heaps.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Session: For the Best Dad in the World

On Sundays, I join Thea at Do I Really Wanna Blog? in popping some music on the blog. The rules are: there are no rules!
Old or new or in between. Related or not.
But always songs you love!
Here are my picks for this week.
You can play along by linking up with Thea.
Happy Sunday!

It is Fathers' Day, so today it's a special edition of Sunday Session. I want to share with you some music that hubby enjoys. First there is some requisite AC/DC - this is the song that is often played in the car, so much so that my boys know the lyrics. Will has been to Acca Dacca concerts many, many times. He also loves a bit of Jimi Hendrix and some Doors

I also want to share with you some music that we both love, and I never would have known how great these artists were if it wasn't for Will.

From the Robert Cray Band (we saw him live at Selena's in Coogee Beach in the late 90s):





And from Stevie Ray Vaughn (Will saw him live in New Zealand):





A bit different this week, but I have been just hanging out to include a bit of blues music here, and Fathers' Day was the perfect excuse.

Dedicated to the Best Husband/Dad in the World, it even says so on the card the boys made for him.

Even though Fathers' Day is celebrated in June in my home country of Canada and my Dad is no longer with us, I am still thinking about him today too.

Happy Fathers' Day to all the other 'Best Dad in World's out there!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

This Week I'm Grateful For...Free Time

It's been a pretty hectic week, so at this week's end, I am very grateful:
  1. That my exam is finished. I have been studying like a crazed person for the last few weeks, and I sat my exam yesterday. I didn't complete all of it, so I honestly don't know how I did, but have decided to put it out of my mind until I get my result in six weeks' time. In the meantime, I am going to revel in the fact that I have all this time to do whatever I want. It's kind of funny that now I actually have time to do stuff, I haven't the first clue as to what I want to do.
  2. Image Source
  3. Sickness and pain are gone or going. MasterFive has been sick with a nasty tummy bug since Sunday. We've been back and forth to the doctors and chemists, and nothing seemed to make much of a difference. Today, he still has conjunctivitis and has to forgo his very last soccer game of the season, but all in all, he seems to be on the mend.
  4. I woke up with a very painful and swollen foot on Monday morning, but thankfully the pain and swelling has subsided, and I'm even contemplating going for a walk later today.
  5. For my excellent choice in husband. Throughout all the study, illness and pain, Will has been my rock. He's been by MasterFive's side during the nights when there were high temperatures and vomiting. He's done school run and after-school activities for MisterEight (Happy Birthday to my beautiful boy), because I was unable to drive. Besides, my nose was permanently in a book for this last week. He's made me fried egg sandwiches with bacon and cheese. He's brought cups of tea and he's pretty well done everything I do around here for the last week. I think he'll be glad to be back at work on Monday.
I am taking part in Maxabella Loves' Grateful Saturday. Head on over and follow the rules and link up.

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