Friday, 27 September 2013

International Food Night - Brazil

In my recent quest to read everything I can about Montessori I have discovered an amazing blog called Sorting Sprinkles.  (If you missed why you can read about my quest hereValerie is like me- a former teacher and Montessori enthusiast who has a toddler to explore Montessori at home and a preschooler to provide after school support and extension to.

While reading her blog, I found this great post about introducing food nights with an international focus and Valerie has reminded me that it's been quite a while since my last post (you can see Sweden here) and I had planned on making these regular posts.

Unlike the last country which can be very easy to do with the help of IKEA, this one requires a bit of work.  But it's so worth it!

Today we are taking a little trip to South America and it's biggest country - Brazil.

Of course, we located Brazil on the globe.

And made a flag.

I'm sure there were Passport pages too, but I haven't got photos of those and, yes, I did promise to blog about them too!

The country's national dish (according to my thorough Google research!) is Feijoada.  This is a dish served at celebrations and is designed for groups, so why not get a big bunch of friends for family over.  You can find a recipe here.

Several kinds of smoked meats, ribs, and beef jerky are simmered with black beans. I chose not to include the pigs foot and offal!  It is traditionally served with Brazilian-style rice, collard greens, farofa (for which I couldn't identify an alternative, so omitted), hot pepper sauce, and orange wedges (to help with digestion, apparently, but adds a nice fresh zing).

It takes a couple of days to prepare and a good while to simmer, but it is just delicious.

For dessert I made a Caramel Custard Flan (recipe here).  I chose it because flan is a common favourite in South America, it's pretty easy to make and it's gluten free.

Have you visited anywhere on a culinary journey lately?

Oh, and a very Happy Birthday to my amazing husband, without whom there would be no crazy ideas and family fun.  I love you, Honey xxx

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Time after time

My mind has been turning over the concept of time lately.  

The last two weeks have given me cause to ponder just how strange and constantly changing our perceptions of time can be.

Those five days my husband spent away felt like fifteen.

Though, that same week my Mum was here and it went by in a flash.

Six hours of sleep is no where near long enough, but that episode of Power Rangers Samurai I watched with the kids sure felt that long!

Of course, two and a half hours of splashing in a pool feels like no time at all.

Getting the kids to finally make their beds can take all day.

Add to all this that the twentieth of September marked five years since our little family packed up and moved to the Territory...  (My eldest is missing from the photo below.  He moved up a week after us following a holiday with family in Melbourne) 
That has gone ever so fast, and yet, there are so many signs of its passing.  Two new babies have joined our family and they've all grow so very quickly - one of our boys is now an adult.  

We have slowly come to realise that the two years of temporary relocation has become a new home and a new place to build our memories and family traditions.  

At the same time I'm conscious of not wasting my time fretting over the past, nor spending it all planning the future- both of which I'm want to do, oh too frequently.

My mulling over all of these relative concepts led to a search to find others who can express it all better than me.

George Harrison said,
"It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one."
I'm trying to focus on the here and now.  To be present in every day moments with my kids.

The incredible Mother Teresa is quoted as saying,
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin."

 My favourite, though, comes from this literary genius...

"How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?"

~ Dr. Seuss

Wherever you are, and however fast it's going, I hope you're taking the opportunity to enjoy it and live the moment.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


I started a bunch of different posts this week about turning thirty five. Yep, yesterday was my thirty-fifth birthday. 

I started a post about how our society has a misplaced stigma against aging and how, instead of denying my age, I would prefer to celebrate it. It felt too full of myself. 

I started a post about the fact that adults are really just children who owe money*. It felt too juvenile. 

I started a post about the wisdom that comes with age and experience and how poignant this is when you're parenting a young adult of your own.  It felt too "Young man, turn that music down!"

What I'm feeling right now is grateful. Grateful and content. 

I am blessed with the most wonderful family of unique, lovable and challenging men.  
I am married to my best friend and soul mate whom, I know, is as committed to making this family work as I am. 

I am healthy and able bodied and am more comfortable in my skin than I was twenty years and three babies ago!

I am finding joy in the role of full time mother and an intellectual challenge as I've plunged into the world of blogging. 

Quietly content and so very, very grateful. Wishing you a lovely weekend. 

* This is not my work but rather one of many awesome lines from a brilliant film called "Peter's Friends" written by Rita Rudner and starring Stephen Fry, Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. If you haven't seen it- Do!  Soon!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Delusions of Montessori Grandeur

Do you ever have moments when you question the status quo?   Moments when you get an idea in your head that changing things could be better/healthier/ more productive/glorious for every one involved?  Han Solo-esque "delusions of grandeur"?

I had one of those moments last week when I realised that homeschooling my kids could change everything.  We would save money, time, money, fuel - and therefore, the environment, and, did I mention, money?

Now, this idea - like most of my more brilliant ideas - usually arises during periods of intense sleep deprivation.  Periods when my neurons are firing randomly in their exhaustion.  Firing into parts of my brain that have been forgotten in this anesthetic world of being at home with the kids.

Last week, I spent my spare time talking to friends about it and reading everything I could about homeschooling, homeschooling in Australia, in the Northern Territory and different education approaches - in particular Montessori. (My kids currently attend a school that uses Montessori approaches in their Preschool.)

I envisaged a future of happily engaged, intellectually stimulated, emotionally stable children thriving in the loving, tailored environment which I would create.  I got quite excited about the idea of lesson planning again.  Observing my children, Maria Montessori style and creating activities based around their current interests.

I got so excited about the whole concept that I put this activity together for my seven year old after observing his excitment about the new NFL season (Grid Iron, for us Aussies) as he was identifying all of the teams he knew.

With this activity, he had to identify the team, establish whether they represented a state or city, locate it in the atlas and then glue into onto the map.  Two solid hours without a break and he did not want to stop.  Joy!

Following discussions with the other half of this parenting team, we decided that yes, I could totally rock this homeschooling business- the academic side, at least.  We agreed, however, that the social side of schooling was as important as the academic.  Especially for one of our boys who really struggles with reading social clues and situations and needs to see those modeled more frequently, and with more variety, than he would get at home, even with my best efforts to socialise.

So, I'm going to do the next best thing.  I am going to provide a home environment that supports and builds upon the information being delivered at school, activities that provide extension or remedial work where required and special tasks that cater to their individual interests.

I started small - a quick transferring activity with blocks and tongs.

Then made this cute pegging activity. (Most early Montessori activities are designed to build early writing skills.  Pegging helps practice the pincer grip required for holding a pencil correctly.)

I spent the weekend putting together this practical life area with a child-sized kitchen, utensils and food.  What a winner!

Add a cup of water to the pot and we ended up with one captivated kid.  His older brother spent some time out there this afternoon too.

Now, Montessori can be expensive.  Their unique, specially designed wooden toys are expensive to purchase.  But, I have been pinning like a mad woman and have a list of activities that I want to start making/assembling that capture the essence of the Montessori approach with out costing a lot of money.

I loved the activities on this site, and the fact that Dana has broken them down according to the age at which she introduced them to her son.

I'll keep you posted on how I go, and share some more activities as I make them.  We are planning a playroom makeover soon which will help make all this a reality.

So, tell me, what's been your grandest delusion?  Did it pay off?  Or maybe you'd like to chat about educational philosophies? Leave a comment, they make my day...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


One of our favourite family traditions is also the simplest.

Once a fortnight - or whatever fits into our schedule/s - on a Friday or Saturday night we have "Pizza- Movie Night".

This tradition has been going on long before we officially became a family.  That's a lot of pizza!

We take turns choosing a fun movie to watch (usually one for the family and one for us once the kids are asleep), we make our own pizzas and we sit and eat in front of the TV.  

This is a big treat because the television is never usually allowed on at dinner time and we all sit down at the table together.  It's a really important thing for busy families to have dinner together as much as possible, don't you think?

Mostly we stick to our favourite pizza toppings - pepperoni and supreme.  Sometimes we go a little bit fancy- cherry tomato, bocconcini and basil is delicious.  

Then there are those times when we go off the chart awesome and make fun character an Angry Bird,

...or Chewbacca Angry Bird,

...or our most recent, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Bonus points if you can tell me which turtle this is!!

It's really easy (not to mention SO much healthier) to make your own pizza from scratch.  I use this pizza dough recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home cookbook, then throw on some passata, our toppings of choice and tear or grate some mozzarella over the top.  

As for a gluten free base for me, well, I'm still searching for perfection.  Let me know if you've got a winner I should try!

Tell me, what's your easy/fun/favourite family tradition?

Monday, 2 September 2013

Oh, the places he'll go...Reminiscing

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places! 
You're off and away!

Do you love Dr. Seuss as much as I do? This one is definitely my favourite.
Last week I posted the monthly photos I've been taking of my baby, lamenting how fast those 20 months have gone.  You can see some seriously cute pictures of the last 20 months here.

Not only does this mean he's growing up too quickly, but also that's it's time to get serious about planning his second birthday party.  Second! (And don't even get me started on how fast the others are growing up!)

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Before I start planning a birthday party, I like to reminisce about that child's last party and, oh boy, did I love Rohan's first birthday party!
We seem to have inadvertently started a tradition of combining our sons' first birthdays with their naming ceremonies.  Rohan's first birthday happily coincided with our Christmas trip back "home" to Brisbane, so combining occasions worked in our favour once again.

Obviously, I chose the theme "Oh, the places you'll go!" from the incredible Dr. Seuss book and I just know this kid is going to move mountains!

We chose a beautiful spot in a park at Moffat Beach on Queensland's glorious Sunshine Coast and set up.

We kept the decorations simple - tissue pom poms and these beautiful map hearts that Mum & I made hanging over and around the table.
I punched some hearts out of old maps and Mum sewed them onto some ribbon.
I also love this sign my husband made which included some places that are very special to us and that we hope Rohan will visit someday.   

I decorated the table with ribbons and food labels, a sparkly number "1", a mini suitcase and globe and the most beautiful, pop-up version of the book.
The food was an International buffet of finger-foods - Skagenrora (Swedish prawn cocktails), Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Thai Fish Cakes, Thai Lemongrass Chicken Skewers, Greek Salad Skewers, American Hot Dogs, Indian Tandoori Chicken Kebabs and Laos Grilled Beef Skewers.
(Though, clearly I could not take any photos in which the tablecloths were free of spills!) 

Rohan was a huge fan of the Thai Fish Cakes... 
And Hamish found himself a comfy spot at the buffet and went to town on the Laos Grilled Beef Skewers...
It was such a glorious summer day, but it got rather hot out there in the sun...
We tried to keep our guests cool with a rainbow of cold drinks...

We had a quick little naming ceremony where we shared the wonderful story of 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!" and the significance of the names Rohan Aoraki...

We introduced everyone to Rohan's Godparents - my dear friend, Andrew and Matthew's cousin, Brooke - who made their promises to watch over and guide him throughout his life...

Then we drank a toast to our baby and wished him a long and happy life...
After lunch- dessert!  The bunting in the trees over the dessert table and that chalkboard might just be my favourite things of all...

The heat proved a little too much for my cake pops...

I kept the birthday cake simple and just made a couple of dozen, gluten-free vanilla cupcakes.  They were decorated with cake toppers featuring all the best quotes from the books and a few of the cute pictures I'd used on the invitations.
 Rohan enjoyed his first taste of cake...

 ...and Grandma managed to keep all her fingers..just!

You can bet Hamish found himself another prime position and enjoyed the desserts too...

It was such a great day- celebrating our baby...

being a family... 
 enjoying cuddles...

and introducing Rohan to his Godparents...

and being thoroughly adored by our whole family.  Here's Rohan getting some Nanny cuddles...
 Instead of gifts (though, a few sweet people couldn't resist), we asked our guests to bring a postcard or a photo of a place they thought Rohan should go and write a little message to explain why this place is so special and/or is special to them.  

We got some really touching, absolutely gorgeous messages and the fabric book of family travel photos with travel quotes my Mum made had me in tears.
After the festivities concluded, the family and friends that remained all hit the beach to cool off.  Our exhausted birthday boy fell asleep in my arms all snuggled under a beach towel.  

When he woke up, he was lucky enough to find cousin Emily willing to share more cake with him...

His brother's decided the empty drinks containers with their icy water were the perfect spot to keep cool...
Did I mention just how great a day this was?!?  So many special memories and such a wonderful way to celebrate our baby's first year.

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Modecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!