Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What got you talking in 2013

I didn't intend to take a break from blogging. I had every intention to keep on writing through the festive season. I really did. It's just that, life got so busy. Cooking, entertaining, cleaning, recovering by the pool. Repeat. Finding the space and time to write just hasn't been easy. Today I'm getting ready to head down the coast to spend NYE with family friends. It's only the second time since I had kids that we've been invited to someone else's place for new years so I'm excited. I love having people at my home too but sometimes it's nice to be hosted by someone else. 

I've got a couple of blogs brewing for the new year but in the meantime thought I'd put together a list of the ones that got you talking the most in 2013. If you're a new seventies baby [welcome!] this may be a good snapshot for you and if you've been here from the beginning [thank you!] you may remember some of these.

I love hearing from you so if you feel so inclined, please leave me a comment [positive or negative]. You're the second most important person that I'm writing for after all.

The one about my little sister, PIMA...   - this is my opportunity to mentor a young woman in today's world.

The one about the vagina... - guess what? Vaginas are not dirty... despite what marketers will tell you.

The one about my Dad... - sometimes it’s the quiet little memory in the corner, hoping to go unnoticed that, in fact, gets your attention.

The one about the paedophile... - sometimes sick fuckers look like nice guys... and girls 

The one about my brush with fame... - I could have been Tania Senna. Just sayin'.

The one about obese kids... - what do you do if your kid is allergic to calories?

The one where I give my boys relationship tips... - there's a few mums around that I wish had dished this advice out to their boys. Would've saved me a lot of wasted time.

The one that pissed off a lot of my male readers... - because women can't joke about sex.

The one in which I confess to not liking kids... - judge me if you will. 

The one where I weigh in on breastfeeding in public... - and two of my favourite photos as a mum.

So, that's the top 10 for 2013. Thanks for coming along for the ride... I hope to keep you reading and talking in 2014. 

Happy New Year guys. Stay safe. Stay happy. Love. Be loved. I wish you good times and sleep.

Tan xx

Monday, 2 December 2013

Toasted Cinnamon Almonds

This is incredibly easy to do and DELICIOUS. A jar of these wrapped in a gorgeous bow would make a perfect Christmas gift... if they last that long without being eaten!

You'll need ABOUT...

4 cups of unblanched, raw almonds
2 egg whites
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 level teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat fanforced oven to 150C

1. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with a whisk until frothy.

2. Whisk in vanilla extract

3. Add almonds and mix through mixture until all are coated.

4. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients

5. Pour dry ingredients over almonds and stir gently to coat.

6. Grease flat biscuit or oven trays and spread almonds evenly in a single layer. [TIP: I lined mine with baking paper which made it a bit hard to stir the almonds once they got sticky]

7. Bake for approximately 1 hour, stirring at least once with a flat spatula at about 30 minutes.

8. Allow them to cool on the trays and store in airtight container.

9. Try not to eat them all at once.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Being a mother is not the most important job in the world but...

image source: www.dailytelegraph.com.au

Let me start by saying I am NOT taking on Catherine Deveny. I.AM.NOT.

And these are the reasons why.

1. Because I really like and respect her [as a writer and particularly after seeing her on the SBS program, Go Back to Where You Came From] and 2. Because there’s no way I could come out unscathed... so I pick my battles. VERY carefully.

But her recent article {here} made me feel uncomfortable. Just a bit, but uneasy nonetheless. To be fair, I agree with much of what she said and I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with her assertion that being a mother is NOT, by any means, the toughest job in the world. It does not compare to many, many other far harder/tougher jobs performed throughout the world – whether you’re a working mother OR a stay at home mother or a guardian or a father or a carer. She is right and most of the mothers I know would also concur.

However, if I was taking Catherine Deveny on [which I am not], I would argue that it is MORE than just a relationship. It is certainly a job to care for your children. I have a relationship with my sister but I’m not listed as her ‘In case of emergency’ person. The person most responsible for her is. Her mother is. And her father.

Do mothers actually say ‘being a mother is the most important job in the world’? Sadly, yes some do. Some sprout it at school coffee mornings and playgroup and on social media to justify their own decisions, yearnings, sacrifices and losses. However, most [that I know at least] do not. 

In fact, the most common declarations I hear in my circle are:
“Being a mother is the most boring/relentless/exhausting/thankless/rewarding/mundane/gratifying/shitfully draining job I have ever done” And I would not be talking out of school to say that I have heard that all said over the period of one night with a group of mothers playing hookey with a bottle or 4 of sav blanc under their muffin tops.

I personally have said all of that. One trillion times. I have also said this. Being a mother is the most important job I HAVE EVER DONE. Because it is true. Because I have never had to run a country or be a judge or perform brain surgery or research a cure for cancer or counsel a child who has been abused. Because in my entire life, I have NEVER done anything more important than raising my kids. More stimulating? Sure. More respected? Probably. Critical to the bottom line of a business? Yep. Better paid? Abso-fucking-lutely. But more important? Not to me. Not to my husband. And not to my kids.

And this is where it all gets a bit grey for me. For... whilst I agree that being a mother [or carer or father etc, etc] is not the most important job in THE world, I believe that raising good people IS. Our children are the next generation of our world. They will grow into adults who will become the caretakers of our universe and our animals and our cultures and our history and the generation of children to follow. So with that in mind, ALL that are involved in this vital function of our future should also believe that it is, in fact, incredibly important. If there is a parent or carer or guardian [of any kind and regardless of how they came to be one] who has committed to taking their ‘job’ as the most important in their life, we should support them – NOT tease them.  Not try to ‘out’ them or ‘outdo’ them. 

It is our job, our responsibility and our obligation to do our very best to raise our very best.
Is it not?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Father Christmas Dilemma

Things I didn’t expect before I became a mum #698 - The Father Christmas issue is a big one when your kids are little.

In my family, we grew up believing that if we were good, all we needed to do was ask the big man for our gifts and they would appear... or sometimes not but we seemed to understand that Father Christmas delivered different types of presents to different kids. I don’t know how we reconciled that in our own young minds but we managed. Visiting him was a bit of a problem though and I’ve got a few teary photos on or near his knee. He’s weird looking and always so hot to sit on. Blegh. Nonetheless, it’s what we knew and I never thought twice about it. Until I had my own kids.

If I’m to be honest, which I promised myself I would be when I began writing, I’m not a big fan of Father Christmas. The whole concept just doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t like the idea that presents appear magically from a man my children have never met just because the day  [and tradition] says so. I don’t like that they go and sit on his knee and ask him for any number of gifts and they will appear, in exchange for some carrots and a glass of milk/beer.  I don’t like that there’s no-one to thank for those presents. And, for me, it’s not enough to just see them excited to open something up from under the tree. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-Christmas or anti-presents. I’m not the Grinch. I’m just not a fan of the big man.

So, this is how we do Christmas. 

As much as I don’t like the FC concept, I also don’t want my kids to be the ones to ‘bring down Christmas’ for everyone else’s kids either. This is how I compromise. 

In our household Father Christmas fills up their stockings with lots of little presents. He gives them balls and books and lego and textas and cds and dvds and card games and anything FUN that will fit in their Christmas stocking. Not all at once of course – but those are the sorts of things that FC brings them. I act just as surprised as they are when they open each one up exclaiming ‘isn’t he clever to know what you like??!’ and other things like that. It really is a lot of fun and the boys love it. Under the tree they will find clothes from us [we always got clothes for Christmas and I've carried that on] and maybe something special like a new pool toy. Then, each Christmas, Mark and I buy them ONE BIG present to share from us. Things like a remote control racetrack or a high-end basketball ring. This year we’re planning on giving a soccer table. We like to give things that encourage them to play together, without a screen even though they ask, every year, for a wii, playstation, bla bla. We’ve got another couple of years’ resistance in us – I hope! 

So, when the BIG ONE comes out and they unwrap it, Mum and Dad get the big hugs and thanks and gratitude. They understand that it hasn’t arrived magically, out of thin air, from some man that they don’t know. They see that the work that Mum and Dad does results in special things for the family and we talk about why we gave it to them. We tell them that we thought about it and remembered a time that they played with one somewhere else and loved it and so we saved up and bought them one. Not in a, ‘this is a learning experience’ kind of way, but in a ‘we’re really happy that you like it’ kind of way. The way we do as grown-ups when we give presents to friends that we’re excited about... wait – do you do that? I do. As soon as I see the recipient like my gift, I get all gushy and tell them why I thought they’d like it and how I had find it online or I just saw it in the shop and HAD to buy it for them. But maybe that’s just me!

Is this the right way to do Christmas? I’m not sure, but I think we’ve covered our bases. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the great challenges of parenting is compromising what you once believed to be unwavering values in theory for the reality of life.

How do you do Christmas and how do you handle the FC situation? 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Warring Women versus The Sisterhood

Image source: www.ketzali.com

We are one bitchy, judgemental lot aren’t we?

Every day I read social media updates about mummy wars and women criticising each other for choices made and clothes worn and parenting decisions and food choices. Blogs and articles are constantly being written by women imploring other women to stop judging each other. To give a sister a break. To stop being such bitches. Our own focus on women as crap people is relentless. The negativity that we are imposing on ourselves is endless. It feels like we are all beating the same self-deprecating drum in an effort to show how evolved we are.

And it is true that we are judgemental. Many of us measure our own performance and, sadly, self worth by how we see everyone else is performing or coping or falling apart. It’s not new. We’ve always done it only now, in the information era, everyone knows about it. We used to just bitch behind each other’s backs. Now we post status updates and share articles in a passive aggressive attempt at saying “I’m doing a better job than she is.”

So now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me remind you of something very important about us 'warring women'.

We are a sisterhood. And just like sisters, we are able to bitch and insult and fight and disagree until one of us loses our shit and then we’ve got each other’s back.

Yesterday, I saw three separate women unexpectedly and spontaneously burst in to tears. They all went from smiles to sobs in less than 60 seconds. Each time they were surrounded by women they knew. Each time they succumbed to their emotions because they felt they could. And each time the women in their vicinity moved in with a speed and purpose that only other women understand... because for all our bitchiness and comparisons, we get it. We are all struggling. When we see a sister crumple under her own pressure we are fundamentally compelled to support her. When we see another woman struggle to fight her demons we stand behind her, next to her and many times in front of her. I see women rally for each other all the time. I see it online even more than I see the apparent war of women.

My sisterhood is strong and incredibly valuable to me. It is rich and full of women who represent so many different walks of life. It is diverse in age, culture, politics, religion, sexuality and geography. 

It is my anchor. It is my constant. 

I was raised by a single mum who had an amazing sisterhood. It is in her battlefield that I learnt the lessons of womanhood. It is through her and her friends that I learnt to gather my own army. Watching my mum and her friends navigate life together is where my awe of women began. In fact, from my view point, watching them around the dining room table making cups of tea and smoking cigarettes as they swapped stories and ear-rings, it was almost magical

To this day, I find magic in my friendships. My sisters have single-handedly healed gaping holes in my heart. They have saved me a million times from a million different tragedies. They have stood by me through fist fights [real and metaphoric] and I have seen my joy reflected in their eyes and heart  time and time again. I have a friend that calls me crying often and by the end of the conversation, which is sometimes only 5 minutes long, she’s laughing. 

That’s magic. That’s powerful. THAT'S what women do.

And if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “What are you talking about? I don’t have a sisterhood!” then you’re probably a man OR you haven’t met the right women yet. 

Do not despair, sister. Start close to home and gather your army and in the meantime stick around... 

I’ve always got room for more in mine x

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Senna and Me

I have a story. A brush with fame. A tale that my family and I delight in every now and then. Like the other night over dinner at my mum's.

Once upon a time, Adelaide hosted the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

The year is 1986 and it's my second year in the pits. My mum had befriended the international Mercedes head the year before and with that friendship came many benefits during grand prix week including pit passes for the whole race.

This is during the era that young Brazilian, Ayrton Senna was driving the black John Player Special car - back when cigarette companies were sexy and allowed to sponsor everything. Mum's friend, Gerd, was incredibly close to Ayrton and, in fact, was possibly responsible for 'discovering' him. It's through him that I find myself visiting Ayrton in the pits before his races. I'm young, so I don't really get it all and it's car racing so I can't say that I'm too impressed, given that I'm years away from my drivers licence. But Ayrton is lovely and kind and cute in a grown up kind of way.

The race ends on Sunday. There are parties and celebrations but not for me. I go to school on Monday and when I get home the phone rings and it's Ayrton Senna. Calling me. On my phone. At home.

He says 'hi' in his gorgeous accent and we chat while I sit at the dining room table, twirling the telephone cord around my finger. He's relieved that the race is over and is looking forward to a break over the next week. He tells me that he's planning on staying in Adelaide for a few days and wonders if I would take the time to show him around the city. Grown-up me knows he was asking me out. Grown-up me knows how incredible that moment was. Grown-up me is sickened at the memory of what happens next, because 14 year old me was an idiot.

"Sure!" I gush "Let me just ask Mum"

"Muuuummmmm! Ayrton's on the phone and he wants to stay in town for a few days and wants to know if I can show him around. Can I?"

And what, the fuck, do you reckon Mum said?

"No Tania. You have to go to school" Just like that. Did not even pause to think about it.

And do you think 14 year old me had the nouse to COVER THE MOUTHPIECE ON THE PHONE while this exchange went on?? Well do ya?? 

Nooooo. Because 14 year old me was an idiot.

I turn my attention back to Ayrton to tell him that I wasn't allowed to go. And he asks, as charming as can be "How old are you Tania?"

And you know what I said, don't you? I told him. And then he said thanks and it was lovely talking to me and he hopes to see me some other time in the pits and though I do see him many times, he never called me again.

I was almost famous.

The End.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

I've made my decision

My day started off with my youngest on my bed, crying. With heaving sobs and snot. Begging me to allow him to have his Nerf gun present that has been denied him since he was given it over a year ago. I'm NOT a morning person and after working late last night did not have the constitution for that battle but have you noticed that none of that really matters when you're a mum? 

So as he screamed the sleep away my husband, who was getting ready for work [a little too eagerly I might add] did something never done before. He asked our son to leave the room and closed the bedroom door. 

"Tan, I think we should let him have the gun. Pete [his brother] and I grew up with spud guns and cap guns. Sometimes we played with them but not always. They didn't shape us into violent men. The more we say no to him, the more obsessed he's going to be. Why don't we let him have it and just be very clear about our boundaries?"

And just like that, I felt the pressure lift. 

I have struggled with this decision ever since Stefan ramped up his campaign for the toy. It's one of the things I find most challenging about parenting. Having to make decisions with and for my family that do not always completely align with my own values. It's been a hard lesson for me to accept that and, actually, I probably haven't really yet. Because I have always parented full-time, while Mark works, I have made the majority of the day-to-day parenting decisions. Being a 'bit of' a control freak, I like it that way. But this week has been difficult for me and today I am grateful to share that decision.

So today, with my husband's full support - I succumbed.

We called Stefan back into the room and explained that he can have the gun and these are the rules:

  • No shooting, aiming or pointing at anyone.
  • No shooting, aiming or pointing at any animal.
  • No shooting in the house.
  • Share with your brother.
  • No playing with it when we have friends come to play.

He agreed to all of them and repeated them back with a tear-streaked face that positively beamed.

Then he and his and brother set up a target outside and started shooting. The whole activity lasted 20 minutes and the gun has lay discarded on the kitchen table ever since they put it down to play basketball and look at their animal card collection.

And suddenly, I feel a bit foolish.

PS - I also want to say, you helped me through this process too. When I put this out there and asked for advice, I was so grateful and touched that you took the time to share your opinion and experience. I took on board all your wisdom about intent and values and gut feelings and boundaries and resistance. And I'm so impressed at what wonderful, insightful readers I have in my little online community! 

Thank you :)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Boys and Guns

I’ve been locked in battle with my youngest for weeks. It’s passionate and exasperating and, just like him, unrelenting. We’re fighting over guns. 

This gun in particular...

On his 5th birthday he was given it as a present from a well-meaning friend. I watched his face explode with delight. 


He has been attracted to them from an incredibly young age, which has at various times both fascinated and confused me. We have an almost unspoken ‘no gun’ rule in this house. I never bought my boys guns, despite my youngest's imploring. We’ve had super soakers in the pool but no toy guns. My eldest has never really cared for them. Could not care less if he never uses one [though, thanks to being invited to some birthday parties recently has developed quite the interest in laser skirmish]. But my youngest has always been into them. He fashions guns out of playdough and toilet rolls and cricket bats and sticks found on the ground. It’s a fun game of make-believe to him that he must have seen SOMEWHERE. Maybe tv. Maybe through friends at play. Whatever, wherever – the boy covets the gun.

When he received the gift, my heart skipped a little. I was polite to the giver but swiftly put the unopened box away reminding my rapt 5 year old boy that ‘Mummy doesn’t like him to play with guns’. It did not go down well and though it has sat high up on the cupboard in the guest room ever since, he has not forgotten about that gun. 

And today he came out in full-force and threw everything he had at me. Tears. Screaming. Stamping feet. Storming out. Threats to climb up and get it. Declarations of unfairness. Promises to not point it at any people. Throaty, heart-felt pledges to only use it with a target. Begging. And the big question.


And to be honest, between you and me, I’m not really sure anymore. Is it really, that big a deal for him to play with a gun? He’s kind and loving and sensitive. His 3 year old cousin will reduce him to tears because he won’t even defend himself against him. He is not, by nature, an aggressive or mean child. But he loves playing with guns and I wonder... can they ever just be a toy? Can playing with guns ever just be about fun?

We went to the Royal Show last month and he won this big dog. 

He won it in a shooting game. The gun was a water pistol, aimed at a target which inflated a balloon but it was a gun. Am I being a hypocrite by allowing him to play that but not allowing him to play with a nerf gun that half the kids in his class have? Am I playing double standards when I let my eldest attend laser skirmish parties [where they shoot EACH OTHER] but not let my youngest shoot a foam dart at a target?

Where is the line and have I already crossed it?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

3 NON-DISNEY Family Movies You Should Watch

We have A LOT of movies. We don't have Foxtel and I limit the amount of commercial tv the kids watch and to make up for it, we have a great library of movies. I tell myself that it's better for their concentration to focus on one story line but maybe [probably] it's better for MY concentration as it occupies them for nearly 2 hours.

There are some movies that I can't stand like The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks. CAN'T. STAND. THEM. But there are some that I find myself stopping to watch even when they're on for the 700th time. Some are really obvious like Happy Feet and to this day my all-time favourite scene in a kids movie is this one...

I CANNOT watch that without putting up the volume and singing. Every time. Which has only been about 350 so far.

But some of the movies are a bit more obscure and if you haven't, I encourage you to watch them. Here are 3 that you may not have considered

Arthur and the Invisibles
This movie features the voices of David Bowie, Madonna, Snoop Dog, Jimmy Fallon, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Emilio Estevez, Jason Bateman, Freddie Highmore and Mia Farrow as the grandma. Have you even heard of it? It's absolutely STAR STUDDED and it's a winner in this household. 

The Story
Arthur is ten years old and is staying with his grandmother while his parents are away looking for work. His eccentric grandfather has been missing for years and the house his grandmother is living in will be repossessed, torn down and turned into a block of flats - unless his grandfather returns to pay off the family debt. Arthur discovers a way to enter the world of the Minimoys, gorgeous tiny people living in harmony with nature... in their own garden.

Why I love it
The characters are gorgeous, the animation is fantastic and the world in the garden is enchanting. There is romance and a villain and a hero. There's action and fun and I love hearing all the famous voices!

Suitable for ages 4+

Real Steel
Starring Hugh Jackman

The Story
Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a deeply in debt, ex-boxer [Hugh] discovers he has an 11 year old son, Max, who wants to know his father. Their relationship develops as they bond over a discarded, old generation sparring robot called Atom that Max found. 

Why I love it
The development of the relationship between father and son gets me every time. There's no swearing and, though boxing is an aggressive/violent sport, the fact that it's robots fighting means there's no blood or anything gory like that. There is one scene that involves a real fight between men which does involve blood and is a little unpleasant. But, there's the whole underdog can win message and Max teaches the robot to dance. Strangely, it's an incredibly feel-good movie which my boys love. Also, Hugh Jackman.

Suitable for - it's rated PG 13+ but my 6 and 8 year old boys watch it. I wouldn't recommend it for kids who are sensitive to any kind of fighting or violence - regardless of age.

Fantastic Mr Fox
Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Defoe, Owen Wilson

The Story
Based on the book by Roald Dahl, it's the story of Mr. Fox and his wild-ways of hen heckling, turkey taking and cider sipping, nocturnal, instinctive adventures. He has to put his wild days behind him and do what fathers do best: be responsible. But he is too rebellious and too wild so he tries "just one more raid" on the three nastiest, meanest farmers that are Boggis, Bunce and Bean. A tale of crossing the line of family responsibilities, midnight adventure and friendships.

Why I love it
The animation of this movie is so different to most of what my kids watch and that in itself is engaging. It's a quirky movie with a grown up feel wrapped in kids' fun that has won a stack of awards.

Suitable for - kids who don't need a lot of bright colour on the screen to keep them engaged. This movie is PG rated but again, my 6 and 8 year old boys love it. It's purposely quite subdued in colour, resting on the sophistication of the animation and dialogue which would make it unsuitable for young kids [and adults] who like a bit more going on. 

So there you have it. 3 movies that you may never have considered [or even heard of]. 

What are some of your obscure favourites?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Gluten and Lactose Free Donuts

My gorgeous cousin Mandy has four kids and 50% of them have allergies and food intolerances including lactose intolerance, sensitivity to wheat gluten and an allergy to milk protein. This DOES NOT make meal planning easy but somehow she manages to make sure no-one misses out. Today, on Facebook, she posted up the yummiest photos of some donuts she made and I asked her to share her recipe with my Seventies Baby readers.

So she did :)

Mandy’s Donuts

1.5 cups gluten free self raising flour
½ cup caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
125g Nuttelex [dairy free spread] softened
1 egg
¾ cup lactose free milk of choice [ie rice, almond or oak milk]

Step 1. In a bowl stir flour, sugar and salt to combine. Add butter, egg and milk, beat with electric mixer until thick, creamy and smooth

Step 2. Spoon into doughnut pan and cook at 200 degrees for 9 mins or until golden depending on size of doughnut moulds. These can also be dropped into hot oil and cooked until golden.

Chocolate Icing: Copha, pure icing sugar & cocoa powder. Check ingredients to make sure they're gluten free. Melt 2 tablespoons of Copha then add 3/4 cup sifted icing sugar & 1 tablespoon cocoa then add hot water out of the kettle until it's at the desired consistency. If it’s too runny, just add more icing sugar [very technical instructions there!]

Cinnamon sugar: Combine caster sugar and cinnamon to taste in a bowl. Brush donuts with melted dairy free butter and dip in sugar mixture, making sure all sides are coated.

Eat responsibly.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

My kids ARE NOT fussy eaters!

This is often what lunch looks like for the boys on the weekend

My kids ARE NOT fussy eaters... they’re particular.

My boys eat well. They like vegies and meat and fish and fruit. They enjoy food not typically liked by kids like anchovies on their pizza and whole gherkins on their antipasto plate and triple cream French Brie and Spanish goats cheese and pickled herrings on brown bread with raw onion and salty Dutch licorice. 

Their palate is broad BUT they do not eat everything.

I get defensive when people refer to my kids as fussy eaters. Aren’t we all fussy when it comes to food? There’s lots of food I simply won’t eat, so is it unreasonable for me to expect my children to eat everything that’s ever offered to them? I think it is. It’s exasperating at times when they don’t like something new that I’ve asked them to try, but I accept that they may not. 

So when I’m meal planning, I always consider the following palate nuances of my family kids [my husband eats everything]:

Texture – my kids can’t stand anything mushy. This includes mashed potato, boiled vegetables, mornays. It also includes any vegetables that have been cooked in a saucey dish like carrots in a casserole or soup. But the upside is they’re BIG on salads, steamed crisp vegies, french fried chips and crunchy tuscan style potatoes [‘cause they’re just square chips]

Sauce – the eldest hates ‘saucey’ dishes. So when I serve casserole, for example, I have to only serve him with just the meat out of it without the sauce.

Pasta – they will both eat just about any pasta combination. Except cream sauces. This makes my life incredibly easy. It also means every month I will make Bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs and lasagne at least once each.

Rice – because they won’t eat mashed potato, I serve most of our dishes with rice which they love.

Soup – they will only eat one. Home-made chicken noodle. Served with rice.

Cake – the eldest doesn’t care for it. He can do a cupcake, sometimes, out of politeness but most times he’ll decline any offer. His favourite cake, that he asks for every birthday, is a vanilla, banana cake I make with Betty Crocker vanilla icing. The youngest has more of a sweet tooth but is still not driven by cake. Neither of them like creamy desserts.

Sandwiches – the youngest always asks for the works. Ham, lettuce, cucumber, cheese, avocado, mayo. Crusts cut off. The eldest’s FAVOURITE is fresh tomato and salt. Crusts on. He can eat 3 in a sitting. They won’t eat peanut paste or cheese spread but I can get away with serving them vegemite or honey. The whole family will put away a platter of BLT’s in minutes.

Meat – the eldest only likes roast lamb done on the weber. My youngest will eat any lamb but particularly loves lamb loin chops with the fat on. They both love steak and home-made hamburgers, chevaps and sausages.

Chicken - roast, take-away, yiros, satay, stir-fry, schnitzel. They love it.

Tacos – BIG winner. EVERTHING is crunchy so they make their own and throw them back.

Fish – I confess, we don’t eat a lot of fish in this household. But when we do, the kids are on board. Tommy ruffs, salmon steaks, whole snapper, tinned tuna. All baked or pan-fried, served with salad and chips. Nothing saucey except mayonnaise.

Eggs – If they’re fried, then they have to have the yolk broken and spread out and cooked right through so that it looks like a pancake. They call it ‘flat egg’. If they’re hard boiled they have to be JUST cooked in the centre and never runny. They will not eat omelette or scrambled egg.

But even knowing all these food preferences, does not always mean dinner time is easy. Sometimes they’re not in the mood for what I’ve cooked and sometimes they’ve filled up on after school snacks. Most times, because I know I’ve considered everything they like, I will make them eat as much as possible anyway. But if they’ve been served something that I know they don’t like, I will support them in their polite refusal to eat it. Just as I would expect any grown-up to support my choice to not eat something I really don’t like.

My advice to newer mums than me when they have ask how to deal with a fussy eater, is always the same. 

Firstly, consider texture. If they don’t like carrots too crunchy – steam them. If they don’t like mashed potatoes, roast them. Sometimes you can still get them eating the food you want them to [and that the rest of the family is] if you just prepare it differently. 

Secondly, if there is a food flavour that they really can’t tolerate – then don’t make them eat it. If your child’s diet is healthy and diverse, does it really matter that they don’t like avocado? If they will happily eat apples, mandarins, grapes and peaches, is it important that they eat bananas too? 

Of course, you must use your own instinct to sniff out a trickster. If you habitually provide dessert after dinner and they know you’re gonna let them have it whether they finish dinner or not – then chances are you’re being played. And don’t even get me started on the trap of offering sweet treats as a reward for eating the good stuff. That’s a whole other blog post.

There are LOTS of helpful blogs and sites with great tips on how to introduce food to kids who are fussy and if your kid is, then I’d suggest you check them out.

But just make sure they are actually fussy first.

Do you have fussy eaters? Or are they just particular?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The thing no-one told me about returning to work

When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I was two years into running my own business after resigning as the General Manager of a local telecommunications company. I had my own label and a fledgling menswear boutique that had not yet hit the income level required to pay for a full-time manager. At the time, I worked it 7 days a week to cover expenses and take a minimum wage home. 

I hadn’t planned on being a mum yet but I always knew the kind of mum I wanted to be. I wanted to be present. Invested. Full-time. I CHOSE to close the shop to allow myself to be that mum. I don’t see that as a sacrifice. I see that as a choice. My choice. Just as it was my choice to not return to paid work before both my kids were in school. I didn’t sacrifice my work to raise them. I didn’t sacrifice myself to raise them. I chose to become a mum. I chose to have children and I chose to parent them full-time. 

Was that easy? Fuck no. 

Was making the decision easy? Absolutely. 

Would I do it again? In a heart beat. IF I was going to have any more children. Which I’m not. DO YOU HEAR ME?? 


I was, voluntarily, out of the paid workforce for 8 years. 

Let me say that again, for impact. 8 YEARS

That’s nearly a decade of being driven by the needs of my children as a first priority. Yes, many times even before my own needs. ‘Cause, you know... I’m a mum right? It’s an incredibly demanding and taxing job which extends well past full-time but I gave it my everything.

My youngest starting school heralded the end of my full-time, stay-at-home mum role and the beginning of my part-time paid work role. Which should have been easy and perhaps even seamless in its transition. One would think.

What I didn’t know is that, actually, it’s a big shift in your thinking. That just dropping the kids off at school is not enough to trigger the highly efficient, super productive, over achieving paid work hormone that I had in spades previously. What I didn’t realise is that spending 8 years immersed in the minutia of motherhood can dull the professional senses a bit. That whilst I can juggle dinner, homework, grocery shopping, washing, cleaning and homemade biscuits all while organising the latest family get-together with the phone between ear and shoulder with the flick of the hair and a smile on my dial, getting your head in the business game takes a bit more deliberate thought. 

Being accountable to my husband and kids is NOTHING like being accountable to the ‘bottom line’ of a project budget. The deadlines of full-time motherhood have some room either side and if there is a day that I just can’t get my shit together, well everything will be ok. The house may look like it’s been ransacked, we might eat toast for dinner and the kids may be a bit stickier than usual when they go to bed sometime way past their bedtime but the next morning that day will be over and all will be alright. I forgot that to have a slow day when you’re working for someone often has quite serious repercussions.

When I worked full-time I was SWITCHED ON. Plugged in. Sharp. So much so that I even handled my personal relationships with the same business-like manner. In fact I still have an email from a corporate colleague comparing my 2 hour labour to my ‘usual efficiency’ performed at work. [HA! As if I had anything to do with that] I had mantras and routines and gym schedules and wool blend suits and the blessed Friday night drinks. I prided myself on my professional reputation and identified myself through my work. And then for 8 years I didn’t.  

And now that I’m back in the paid-work saddle, I’m working over-time to function part-time.

Did you have a big break from paid work? Have you experienced even some of what I’m talking about?

Please say 'yes'.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Love Rush

Do you ever look at your child and hurt with love?

It’s Sunday night. Hair night. So the boys are showered and gleaming and smelling like apples. I sit on the black leather couch sandwiched between them as we watch X Factor together. We’ve just finished home-made pizza for dinner because Sunday night is also my night off for dinner and Mark’s default dinners are pizza or barbecue. Last night was kebabs on the coals, so that was his barbecue card taken care of leaving tonight for pizza. One made by Stefan, one by Nathan and one by Mark. I have one piece of each and proclaim them all to be as delicious as each other [which is, actually, the truth]

Nathan is fully invested in X Factor. FULLY. Because it’s a competition and he loves himself a good competition. He has decided that we will all barrack for a different act, but Stefan wants to barrack for the same act as Nathan, so this causes issues because it's not a competition if you're both on the same side but Stefan doesn't like to lose so hitches himself to Nathan's winning wagon. He's clever like that. Stefan is into the show as much as he’s into anything which is quite a lot until he gets bored of it. Today he’s been complaining of his throat hurting when the sides touch, which is his way of saying ‘swallowing’ so he’s even more cuddly than his usual 120%. He wants to go to bed because he’s tired but he knows Nathan will stay up until the end of the show which means he will have to go to their shared bedroom alone and he does not want to do that, because his throat hurts and ‘I don’t want to be alone Mum’ So instead he pulls the hood of his dressing gown over his head to block out the light and goes to sleep in my lap, holding my hand. And I look down at his gorgeous face in his peaceful, warm slumber and my heart hurts. I hold his perfect little hand that no longer has those adorable baby dimples and instead has long fingers and nails that I notice need cutting and I think ‘didn’t I just cut them yesterday?’ But it wasn’t yesterday. It was weeks ago and I don’t know where that time went. 

He sighs and I absent-mindedly pat his bottom and I remember when his whole body used to fit in my lap which surely was just last year but my heart skips a little bit because I know it’s been many years and as I’m gently tracing around his cheeks with my fingers, Nathan stretches out next to me and his legs are almost as long as mine. When the fuck did that happen? I pull him into me and I feel him relax as he rests his head on my shoulder and I’m taken back to when he was just a baby, before Stefan, and it was just Nathan and I and we were so in love with each other. When even the simplest moments between taking him out of his stroller and putting him in the car seat were opportunities for intense cuddling and big, wet, open-mouthed baby kisses on my cheek. And I’m quietly grateful that he still kisses me goodbye before he runs off to class in the morning at school.

It's the end of the day and my heart is bursting with love and pride but it aches just a little with guilt too. Because today, those gorgeous boys drove me mad. They fought with each other and dobbed on each other and pushed each other’s buttons. And every time they came to me with some bullshit complaint about the other, I got a little bit more pissed off. Each time that I had to tell them to stop fighting, or stop playing with the ball in the house, or turn the tv down, or remind them to use their manners, or go outside to play, or just shut up... my voice rose just a little bit more. So that by the end of the day, just before pizza, I didn’t want to look at them anymore. I didn’t want to hear their whining. I didn’t even want to be around them.

And I wonder, how can that be?

And I answer, because you’re a mum.

Thursday, 12 September 2013


So everyone’s asking if I’m ok. 

And I’m happy to say that yes, I am. And I’m happy to say that for most of my life I’ve been ok. Ups, downs, peaks and troughs but fundamentally ok. I’m lucky. For the most part I can see that when I’m down, there is still an up. In the darkness I’ll head toward the light which is always there... somewhere. In my loneliest hour I know that I am not alone and I will reach out for someone... and someone will be there. In my coldest season I will find warmth in an embrace or gentleness in a phone call. Most times, when I have needed to face demons and battle despair, I have been armed with an inherent belief that things could always be worse. When I have mourned the loss of people I have loved, I have done so knowing that there will be a brighter day and that the pain will not always be so raw. And on the rare occasions that I have felt too weighed down with grief and hopelessness, it has always been the investment of my friends and family in me that have pulled me up. For that, for them, I am grateful.

I’m off to make some calls.

I hope you’re ok too and I hope you know that if you’re not, it’s ok to let people know.

It’s ok not to be ok... xx

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Classic Choc-Chip Cookies

I've got a vintage copy of The Australian Women's Weekly Beautiful Biscuits cook book which I 'borrowed' from my first boyfriend's mum to learn how to bake for the love of my short life. Y'know, the one I was going to marry and have children with. I was 16 and have loved a couple of others since then and he's now a reverend or a pastor or something like that. When we broke up, I kept the cook book. It was part of my settlement package. Together with a white fluffy teddy bear holding a red satin love heart with "I love you beary much" on it, half a dozen mix-tapes and an id bracelet...

I first made these biscuits when I was 16 years old. 25 years later and not much has changed. I have removed the walnuts because you can't send kids to school with nuts anymore and have reduced the sugar amounts. I still make them to please boys that I love though. 

125g butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g choc chips [I use half white and half dark chocolate]

Preheat oven to 180c

Cream together butter, sugars and vanilla. [When I was 16 I used to do this with a hand-held mixer which took aaaaaaaages. Now I'm a grown up and I have one of those stand alone kitchen mixers that does it for me] Add lightly beaten egg gradually, beating well after each addition. Mix in sifted flour and salt. Add chocolate chips and mix well. Shape teaspoonfuls of mixture into small balls, place on lightly greased oven trays, allow room for spreading. [I got fancy and pressed the ones in the picture down slightly with a fork for a bit of detail. Made no difference to the taste.] Bake for 10-12 minutes.

They are a perfect lunch box size and the boys get one each every day. I have already reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe but there may be room to reduce it more if you like.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Crunchy Nut Cornflake Cookies

Every now and then I get in the baking mood. It's not a regular thing so when it happens, I bake a lot. I'd like do it more often because wherever I can I try to reduce the amount of preservatives in the family's diet. So I do things like use organic flours and free-range eggs and real butter and raw, organic sugar. It balances the guilt I feel for then coating them in sugary cereal. Anyway, I was in the mood on the weekend and tweaked an old biscuit recipe to come up with this one. It was a DEADSET winner with the family. 

I present you with....

You will need:

125g butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup self-raising flour
1-2 cups lightly crushed crunchy nut cornflakes

Preheat oven to 180c

Cream butter and sugar and light fluffy. [I never used to do this properly but now I have a mixer and my life has changed I tell you!]. Add egg, beat well. Fold in sifted flour, mix well. Shape teaspoonfuls of the mixture into small balls and roll them in the cornflakes. Flatten slightly on lightly greased oven trays. Allow room for spreading. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

It should make between 20 and 30 biscuits, depending on how big you make them.

These are seriously delicious and perfect for an after school snack with some milk for the kids. If there are nut allergies to consider, just use normal cornflakes or even Special K would work too I reckon. 

How simple is that??