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?