Tag Archives: growing up

The End Of An Era…

“This is the way the world ends.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

-T.S. Eliot

Today, both of my children left the school we have called home for the last seven years. This has been a very emotional time for me as well as I’ve been quite involved at the school and have done the publicity for 6 years. However, I’ve not only written press releases, I’ve also been the school photographer. I haven’t simply photographed the kids like some fly on the wall from a distance. I usually talk to them. Encourage them to smile and come out of themselves so I’m definitely no stranger up there myself. I’ll really miss the kids and truly appreciate what an honour it’s been to get to know them in this much more personal way.

Next year, our son starts high school, so he’s definitely reached a point of no return. He is out of the nest and will soon be grappling with his new, much expanded universe. Our daughter, on the other hand, still has two more years of primary school to go but has been accepted into a selective primary school. Her new school is a 45 minutes drive away or an hour train and bus ride. This may prove too much but we’ll see how it goes.

While our daughter left the school quietly , exiting stage left largely unnoticed, Year Six left with more than the usual bang.

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Kindergarten children hold hands forming the arch for the tunnel.

 

 

It’s a school tradition for all the kids to form a tunnel or guard of honour  and the Year 6s move through. As Mister explained, this can be quite tricky because the Kindergarten kids are half their height. So, he found himself ducking, weaving and crawling through,  which I’m sure just added to the fun. There were many tears as the kids went through and I’m surprised I didn’t cry myself but filming and photographing the action probably distracted me. Besides, I still don’t think it’s sunk in that we’ve left. That a whole new road has opened up. Make that two roads.

As luck would have it, a severe storm hit Sydney yesterday. In what was a very Jane Austen moment, not long before the tunnel was due, the heavens opened up. Rain bucketed down. Lightening flashed. Thunder, which had been rumbling most of the day, suddenly cracked with a vengeance. Although this sounds bad enough, we’d actually been spared the worst. Parts of Southern Sydney were hit by a tornado rated as an F2 (strong for Australia).

So, rather than leaving school with a whimper, Year 6 of 2015 went out with a bang…and a flash!

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To be perfectly honest, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like next year when the three of us won’t be heading off to school together. If my car was a horse, I wouldn’t even need to steer. The car well and truly knows the way and it wouldn’t surprise me if we somehow end up there by accident on the first day next year: “We’re back!”

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Last night, we had the “Year 6 Farewell”, which was the grand finale for year. The theme was 1970s hippie/surfie. Each student designed their own record cover, and there were some fabulous designs there…loads of rainbow-coloured texta. There was also a vinyl record for each child with their photo from Kindergarten (their first year at school) on one side and Year 6 on the other side. These were hung with fishing line from the roof of the hall and looked very impressive en masse. One of the parents made a Kombi photo booth, which looked fantastic. Parents were allowed in to take photos at the start and were shooed out for most of it and return for the final proceedings. A video has appeared of the teachers doing the Nutbush on the school’s Facebook page. They’re a great bunch of dancers.

 

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Mister on Record.

 

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Mister and Geoff at the Farewell.

As hard as it is to leave the school, change is a part of life and we all know what happens to still water. It stagnates. We have to keep moving.

Quite often we have no idea where we’re heading and are just fumbling around in the dark. Most of the time, things eventually become clear.

So, as much as I’d like to stay put and keep keeping on, we’re off.

We are done! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc3LGzNEkL0

By the way, thought you might be interested in a poem I wrote about when Mister started school: The Acorn https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-acorn/

Will you or your family be experiencing any fresh starts in the New Year? Please share!

xx Rowena

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Creating Space to Grow Up.

Until recently, I’d never consciously considered how much space my kids needed to grow up and truly reach their potential band and that without this, their growth could be stunted.

After all, we all need space to grow…just like a tree. An acorn could never become an oak if it had nowhere to stretch out its extensive branches.

However, in the expediency of getting by, it’s easy for the jungle to take over both physically and metaphorically and our growth is stifled.

veggie patch beginnings

veggie patch beginnings

In many ways, our kids have a lot of space. We have a backyard where they can explore a myriad of possibilities. Indeed, after the weekend, we even have the makings of our very own veggie patch. They also have our two dogs, Bilbo and Lady, to play with. There is seemingly plenty of room to move. Moreover, there’s also the beach just down the road where they can gaze out to the horizon and let their imaginations wonder far across the sea. That’s if we actually get there.

Indeed, there’s plenty of space for their minds, bodies and spirits to expand for growth.

However, while there’s all that space out there, their bedrooms are another story.

To be frank, they’re absolutely stuffed. Stuff keeps going in but little goes out. You could say it’s been the result of too much love, a soaring imagination and my obsession with op shops where I keep finding the most incredible things very cheap. It’s not uncommon for me to have piles of things waiting for them when they get home from school and despite my enthusiasm, they’re usually so ho-hum about them all. I’m lucky if they even look up from Minecraft long enough to roll their eyes!!

Our daughter's impressive three-storey doll's house is on the move.

Our daughter’s impressive three-storey doll’s house is on the move.

Anyway, just like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, all that stuff couldn’t possibly stay in there forever and the big regurgitation process has begun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhbHTjMLN5c

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids' bedrooms.

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids’ bedrooms.

Yes, stuff is literally spewing out.

Much of this is hastily dispatched into the boot and off to the op shop before anyone can change their minds.

However, there are also the left overs, which of course, none of those annoying decluttering “experts” never discuss.

Yes, indeed they never mentioned “no man’s land”.

Anyway, what all the cluttering experts conveniently forget to tell you is that the clutter gets incredibly worse before it starts to get better. That’s because most of your cupboards are packed like a loaded spring and once you start releasing the pressure, the stuff explodes all directions just like an exploding dandelion. The upon release, your clutter plants itself in some fertile corner of your house, grows roots and re-establishes itself somewhere else. These self-sown cultivates are then often joined by those hapless homeless items which keep moving round and round your house from the kitchen table, into the bathroom, the bedroom and perhaps even packed into storage.

Consequently, as a result of this “declutter” process, we have our son’s car bed and our daughter’s huge doll’s house sitting in our lounge room. That’s in addition to the sofa bed we brought back from Palm Beach which is perched in front of the piano, which I’ve been trying to give away for at least a year to a Mum who can’t seem to collect it. We also have a procession of tables and an old sofa bed to move on out the back. Our overcrowded house is indeed starting to look like a departure lounge for a gang of furniture allsorts.

As much as I'm looking forward to getting the doll's house out, it's hard to part with these personal touches.

As much as I’m looking forward to getting the doll’s house out, it’s hard to part with these personal touches.

While the decluttering Nazis can seemingly throw anything out without even a drop of sentimentality, I personally find all this change and transition quite stressful. While I’m delighted that my kids are growing up and becoming more independent and developing their own personalities, I just don’t know how much to let go. There are so many memories etched into their precious things and yet there’s way too much to keep. Indeed, I’m starting to feel like I’ve swallowed a push-me pull-you and I’m paralyzed between going forward and moving back, which should, at least in theory, place me in the present but I’m not so sure!!

Yesterday, for example, I came across a toy rainbow lorrikeet which sings when you press its tummy. Of course, you’d say to keep that. However, when I tell you that it’s beak and eyes are missing, you’ll say: “broken…toss!!” but when I tell you that Bilbo chewed it’s face off when he was a puppy and he’s now approaching old age, then that poor damaged lorrikeet tells more of a story that something brand new and pristine.It tells a story of growing up, growing old and ultimately moving on to that great blue doggie heaven in the sky.

Needless to say, the lorrikeet stays.

Yet, I’m fed up with having no space, wading through the mess on the floor and the arguments over cleaning their rooms. There’s so much stuff that we’re all feeling completely overwhelmed and quite frankly, I just want the lot to disappear. Poof!

Anyway, as I said, the kids are growing up and they can’t grow up without anywhere to move. Childhood slowly but surely needs to give way to … drum roll…the teenage years.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

While this might be a period of dread for many parents, it feels less daunting for me than facing the terrible twos, although we’re not there yet. Although our 9 year old daughter thinks she’s already there, our 11 year old son, at least, seems blissfully unaware of what lies just around the corner when he starts high school next year.

It turns out that Minecraft does have some virtues, after all!!

So instead of simply writing about sorting that mess out and procrasinating

    , I’d better get back to it.

    Time and the tide of clutter waits for no one.

    xx Rowena

Feeding Life Lessons to My Kids.

This being the second week of the school holidays, I’d personally like to turn all the life lessons I have ever read into some kind of breakfast cereal and shovel it into my kids quick smart whether they’re hungry or not. This is what parents did back in the Victorian era and it seems like a much better idea than being glued to electronics, especially when the outdoors is so incredibly beautiful, serene and finally sunny!!

Moses wasn't too happy with his peoples either.

Moses wasn’t too happy with his peoples either.

I know ramming the Ten Commandments down their throats might seem a bit “old school”, “traditional” and potentially a form of social control. However, perhaps deferring to a higher authority is what I need. After all, as soon as their father arrives home, the little mischief makers do exactly what they’ve been told and fall into line. Don’t you think calling on God’s almighty divine intervention snap them to attention even faster than: “Do you want me to go and call your father?”

While I absolutely adore: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran whose poetic language just flows like heavenly music, The Ten Commandments cut straight to the chase and pretty much cover all the bases. I also like the sense of hell fire and brimstone, which is infused in the “thou shalts” of the King James version as well.

Perhaps, I should start using a few “thou shalts” of my own around the house:

  1. Thou shalt listen to your mother.
  2. Thou shalt do your chores.
  3. Thou shalt wipe your own backside.
  4. Thou shalt not fight with each other or with your parents.
  5. Thou shalt not whinge, whine.
  6. Thou shalt accept: no means no!

You know I actually felt quite empowered by the “thou shalt”. I think I shalt add it to my arsenal.

Our kids do scouts and as everybody knows, the scouting motto is: “Be prepared” and a big part of it involves being able to pack for camp. This is, as it turns out, an incredible life lesson. Scout’s does a fabulous job preparing kids for this by providing a packing list for each and every camp, which even has a visual diagram. It is hammered into the Scouts that although they can have assistance, they must pack their bags themselves. Moreover, as I still have lingering chemo brain myself and have never been good at packing light anyway, I find the whole thing too stressful . Yes, I know. Even though it might be a very good life lesson for me as well, I’m avoiding these packing nightmares like the plague. I am now getting to the point of tough love too! You don’t pack it, you deal with it!!

As you might have gathered, I’m over it. Maxims like “flogging a dead horse” and “pushing shit uphill” definitely come to mind.

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way"-"Oklahoma".

“Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way”-“Oklahoma”.

Anyway, while I’m waxing lyrically about life lessons for the kids, I need to consider a few for myself. It’s a sunny day in paradise and what with all the rain we’ve had, these are precious…particularly as we head towards Winter.

So without further ado, the kids and I are off to walk the dogs along the waterfront before the tide comes in. After all,

The tide waits for no (hu)man!

Edmund Burke

Stay tuned for part 2. How could I write just a few paragraphs on such an inspirational topic?

L is for Life Lessons in the A-Z Challenge. The letter L official marks our halfway point. Hurrah! Not that I’m wishing it was over but it is called a challenge for a reason. It’s challenging!

XX Rowena

A Lifesaving Journey with Anne Frank!

In the opening lines of The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne shared the excitement of unwrapping her diary: “Dear Kitty” …a gift for her 13th birthday. Likewise, on my 13th birthday, I had a similar rush of excitement when I unwrapped Anne’s diary, which was a gift from my mother, along with an empty journal to get me started.

Anne Frank writing in 1941.

Anne Frank writing in April, 1941.

Mum was forever trying to get me interested in reading but she also encouraged and nurtured my writing. When I was around 11 years old, she’d taught me how to spell “enthusiastic” and I was as proud as punch with my new word and liberally started adding it to my compositions at school to receive that all-important red tick and VG in the margin. That same year, Mum also gave me a thesaurus. Although it took me a few years to really master it, that precious book opened my mind to the real possibility of words and engendered a real love of words themselves. Words…not just as part of a sentence, or telling a story but words as individuals. All of a sudden, I could appreciate their unique sound and imagery in the same way you can appreciate the beauty in a single, musical note.

Anyway, having connected so strongly with Anne Frank, not unsurprisingly, I wrote my journal entries to: “Dear Anne”…the perfect friend and confidant. That said, to be honest, writing to her was a bit like staring in a pond at my own reflection. She knew, understood and accepted me in a way I didn’t even accept myself.

Of course, I wasn’t conscious of any of this at the time. I just wrote and wrote, pouring out my very troubled heart to Anne Frank in a way that I couldn’t with anyone “real” at the time. After all, who can? As we traversed the years, Anne became drawn into and even a very part of my heart of hearts.On reflecton, I suspect these outpourings to “Dear Anne” were like writing to a much older, wiser part of myself. An inner dialogue with and to that essential, spiritual part of my being, which The Bible describes as having God living within us.That God was somehow speaking to me through her words…or was that my words or even His words??? Ouch! I’m so confused!!

There were so many, many times when writing in my diary saved me from that swirling vortex of pubescence, which really can engulf a teenager and certainly wasn’t unique or peculiar to me…just part of growing up.

After all, being a teenager can be a very perplexing and challenging time. As if simply growing up wasn’t hard enough, when you add all those surging hormones and mind, body and spirit all get thrown into the mix, you have one very explosive pressure cooker. As parents often lament, it doesn’t take much for the lot to explode! Writing to Anne Frank via my diary, was a kind of pressure valve, letting out the steam before the pressure cooker exploded leaving splat all over the ceiling.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
― Anne Frank

Although I related intimately to Anne Frank, well you might question that connection. After all, we were two complete strangers living in such different worlds at different  times. What could we possibly have in common?

An snapshot of Anne's original diary.

An snapshot of Anne’s original diary.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
― Anne Frank

Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression and was actually the same age as my Great Aunt. Indeed, they were born only months apart, which has come to intrigue me. With the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the Franks fled to Amsterdam and ultimately went into hiding in the Secret Annexe where she was not only in hiding from the Nazis but was also living under the microscope in impossibly close quarters with her parents, sister and other residents. Indeed, she had to share her bedroom with an old, cranky male dentist, which seems highly inappropriate through modern eyes!! That would be a living hell for any teenager!!! Anyone!!!

Frank Family Photo May 1941

Frank Family Photo May 1941

What did I, a girl born in the late 1960s in sunny, suburban Sydney on the other side of the world during a time of peace and economic prosperity, have in common with Anne Frank?  The casual observer would say that a bad day was having to walk to school or fighting with my brother for control of the TV… such trivial concerns in the overall scheme of things!!

However, underneath the surface, my situation wasn’t quite that straight-forward, which was no doubt an another reason I connected with Anne Frank. We didn’t know it at the time but I was living in a weird sort of prison all of my own.

Anyway, beyond her circumstances, Anne Frank also expressed so much of the frustration, angst and confusion of being a teenager and she did so in such a way that millions have found solace in her words. Just like me writing away at my desk in suburban Sydney, millions of young women have also addressed their journals: “Dear Anne”.

Anne wrote about her strained relationship with her mother and living in the shadow of her perfect sister, Margot. She also felt that she was being constantly criticized by the other adults in the annexe who simply didn’t get her. These are experiences most of us can relate to and so through her words, we found a mirror of our own struggle as well as a much loved and needed friend and confidante.

I also related to Anne Frank as a person as well. We are both extroverts, wanted to be journalists and have inquiring minds. Both of us were obsessed with asking “why?”. We were both fascinated and intrigued by people and what makes them tick. We also struggled with our relationships with our mothers. These commonalities bridged the many, many gaps which lay between us. She was my friend, my confidante and at times, it seemed like the only person on this planet, who had ever walked in my shoes because we both felt a sense of being different, misunderstood and outcast.

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank also became the perfect soul mate for any teen, or anyone at all for that matter, who grapples with being different for whatever reason. Anne Frank’s sense of difference not only involved being a young Jewish girl being persecuted by the Nazis. Once living with her family in the annexe, her sense of difference stemmed more from everyone else in the annexe and it certainly wasn’t easy for her being the youngest and feeling like she was being treated as a child, even though she had become a young woman. At times, Anne feels persecuted by everybody in the annexe and feels she can’t do anything right. Haven’t we all been there?

“Although I’m only fourteen, I know quite well what I want, I know who is right and who is wrong. I have my opinions, my own ideas and principles, and although it may sound pretty mad from an adolescent, I feel more of a person than a child, I feel quite independent of anyone.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

However, as my journey continued beyond the turbulent teens, I outgrew calling my journal Anne, although I’ve never outgrown my love for her. Once I’d left school and started university, I discovered that people come in all sorts of packages and that diversity is a blessing, not a curse.When I was backpacking through Europe back in 1992, I visited Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, which was certainly an incredibly special, deeply,deeply personal experience. I have never forgotten what she meant to me and how writing to her saved a drowning soul so many times all those years ago.

It was only as my journey continued that I came to realise just how much Anne Frank had helped me. All my life, I’d felt different but didn’t know why. I had this deep sense and knowledge that something was wrong but couldn’t work out what or put a name to it. There was something deep and unfathomable going on and I searched, really ploughing the depths it all but it still remained a mystery. Once I reached university, I found out I wasn’t so alone and there were indeed thousands like me but still that nagging doubt persisted. Something was wrong.I developed an intense interest in psychology, philosophy, literature, prayed and wrote angst-ridden poems in an almighty quest to try and unravel my own inner mystery and somehow understand myself.

Meanwhile, I was diagnosed with serious anxiety.

It was only when I was around 27 when these seemingly vague symptoms stepped out of the closet and spiraled out of control, that the mystery was revealed. After feeling like the room was spinning round, I went to the GP who asked me to put my finger on my nose, a classic neurological test and I missed. He referred me to the neurologist and I was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a variation of hydrocephalus. Suddenly, a myriad of weird symptoms fell into place and the unexplained started to make sense. Apparently, I’d had this all my life and it was probably caused my my very difficult birth. Although the symptoms had always been bubbling quietly under the surface, six months after diagnosis, I descended into a neurological hell, which was right out of Oliver Sack’s: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.  I went on to have brain surgery and was given a shunt, which managed the pressure in my head. It was a long road back to anything approaching “normal” and I went through six months of intensive rehab where I learned to walk again (this time without staggering around with the broad gait of a sailor on a shaky skiff) and well as overcoming serious short-term memory issues and having virtually no ability to organise myself.

Unwittingly, Anne Frank helped me survive those torturous teenage years where the symptoms of the hydrocephalus were there but written off simply as “Rowena”. Since re-adjusting the settings, it’s been quite a journey…incredibly frustrating and slow moving at first but intriguing in retrospect. While I am still me, there are definitely traits that weren’t “me” at all and were symptoms which have since faded, if not gone altogether. Even now, almost 20 years after surgery, I am still noticing improvements but still have some lingering struggles.  I can now play the violin, ski but more importantly, I met and married my husband and have largely been able to look after our two children and the dogs. I also returned to work as a Marketing Manager, although chemo two years ago has put work on hold for the time being.

I am still an extrovert and full of all the contradictions I shared with Anne Frank and I hope, have a deeper sense of compassion for people who don’t fit the norm and maybe don’t have a “Dear Anne” they can call their own.

These days, I am also a parent and next year, our son will dip his toe into that swirling vortex of pubescence when he starts high school. Somehow, I can’t see him writing to “Dear Anne” but he does Scouts and plays the guitar and I hope these outlets will bridge the gaps for him.

Meanwhile, our 9 year old daughter dabbles with writing in her diary and also loves drawing in there as well. I’m looking forward to giving her a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank when she turns 13 so she can also perhaps experience that same connection I found so many, many years ago.

Last year, I stumbled across this interview with Anne Frank’s father, Otto, who spoke dare I say frankly about reading her diary. This is an absolute must!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWRBinP7ans

Did you ever write a journal growing up and any suggestions on helping boys get through the teenage years would be appreciated!!

xx Rowena

PS: I think you’ll all agree that Anne frank achieved this goal:

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
― Anne Frank

Easter is Growing Up!

This year, there was no Easter Hat parade with all the school children singing: “Here Comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail…” www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G6F0pyaT7c Both kids are in primary now and considered too mature for such childish things.

Yum! All that yummy Easter chocolate!

Yum! All that yummy Easter chocolate!

To add salt to the wound,  crime to end all crimes, the kids shot the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy with one very effective bullet not so long ago. For years I’ve been telling them they had to “believe to receive” but seemingly weren’t listening. They weren’t happy when I didn’t leave any Easter eggs out.However, they hadn’t left any baskets out either.

A very Happy Chappy!

A very Happy Chappy!

Somehow, I don't think eating a Lindt carrot quite qualifies for the Paleo Diet!!

Somehow, I don’t think eating a Lindt carrot quite qualifies for the Paleo Diet!!

Further breaking with tradition, we’re on holidays and so we didn’t make it to Church and even though we did try to find a service, we still missed out.

It’s also hard to think about the symbolism rebirth of the resurrection which is more in tune with a Northern Spring than Autumn in Australia where the leaves are changing colour and starting to die  as we head towards Winter.

In other words, our Easter was all topsy turvey and upside down. No regrets because we had a fabulous day. It just wasn’t how we usually spend Easter.

Yet, as John Lennon said:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

However, while the kids were too grown up to believe in the Easter Bunny anymore, they were still keen for an Easter Egg Hunt and we invited the kids from next door over to join in the fun. We had a second hunt today and the rain hit just as the search began. Oh yes! Our scruffy Lady puppy dog snatched one of the eggs and tried making a speedy getaway as Geoff chased the dogs out of the hunting grounds. We don’t feed our dogs chocolate but we’ve only had Lady for about 6 months and she knows all about chocolate. She loves it and appears at the light whenever chocolate appears much to her disappointment. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate can kill dogs.

"Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way"-"Oklahoma".

“Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day. I have a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way”-“Oklahoma” Frank Sinatra: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNm76stOJis

We were also thrilled that after two days of solid rain and predictions of more to come, that the clouds lifted and we woke up to bright, glorious sunshine and we were out the door to make the most of what had been “the view”. The dogs were particularly thrilled and as soon as the gate was open they sped down to the beach. However, it was high tide meaning they couldn’t get very far on foot and so we bungled them into the kayak with me and they certainly got more than they bargained. Bilbo’s lucky his claws didn’t get stuck in the plastic. He was very uncomfortable and not the courageous adventurer at all!! You’ll read more about that as the A-K Blogging Challenge continues under K: Kayaking with Dogs.

Kayaking with two dogs onboard certainly is an acquired skill, especially with Bilbo who hates getting his paws wet and prefers terra firma.

Kayaking with two dogs onboard certainly is an acquired skill, especially with Bilbo who hates getting his paws wet and prefers terra firma.

My parents came round for an Easter meal. While setting the table, I discovered the glass table top reflected the clouds and immediately grabbed the camera:

Sunseting over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Sunsetting over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Despite wanting to keep this post simple, I couldn’t resist looking up Easter traditions around the world:

Sydney, Australia: The Royal Easter Show: http://www.eastershow.com.au/

France: If you fancy some spring cleaning, head to Alsace in France: http://www.frenchmoments.eu/easter-in-alsace/

Italy: we have Pan di Ramarino: http://sociopalate.com/2015/04/02/golossary-pan-di-ramarino/ and Agnello Pasquale, A marzipan lamb, is a typical Sicilian Easter dessert.http://sociopalate.com/2015/03/30/golossary-agnello-pasquale/

Ireland: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/how-the-traditional-irish-easter-was-celebrated-120536204-237383821.html#

Germany: A beautiful German Easter tradition is the Osterstrauch. This is a branch or small tree decorated with hollowed-out eggs: http://www.quick-german-recipes.com/easter-in-germany.html

Argentina: the world’s biggest hand-made chocolate Easter Egg:http://globalnews.ca/news/1922341/giant-easter-egg-cracked-open-in-argentina/

Latvia:When I was in infant’s school one of the Mums who came from Latvia taught us how to make coloured eggs boiling up brown onion skins to make the dye. As young child, I was amazed! Check this out: http://www.latvianstuff.com/Lieldienas.html

The Phillipines: https://mangosalute.com/magazine/what-do-filipinos-do-during-easter

Weird Easter Traditions Around the World: http://www.mirror.co.uk/usvsth3m/flying-bell-weird-easter-traditions-5451736

Preparations for the Easter Hunt.

Preparations for the Easter Hunt.

How did you spend your Easter? I hope you had a wonderful day!

Anyway, we would like to wish you all a Happy & Blessed Easter reflecting on Christ’s resurrection while also enjoying all the fun stuff as well…Easter eggs, Easter Egg hunts and making all sorts of Easter arts and crafts.

Love and Easter Blessings,

Rowena

PS Here are some interesting Easter curiosities from around the world:

Byron Bay: Australia’s Alternative Paradise.

As  soon as you exit the Pacific Highway and take the Byron Bay exit, throw your watch out the window and prepare to slow down. You’re now on Byron Bay time. Not only that, you’re about to enter another world where it’s more or less assumed that you’re at least somewhat lateral, alternative, creatively inspired or just plain mad. Well, not quite everyone. Byron Bay is no longer the hippy mecca it once was but despite the yuppie blow-ins, it’s retained much of it’s original character. You might just need to look further afield to find it.

Byron is all about taking the road less traveled...the alternative route. Check out my kids exploring the grass off the well-beaten track.

Byron is all about taking the road less traveled…the alternative route. Check out my kids exploring the grass off the well-beaten track.

Dolphins viewed from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Dolphins viewed from Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Whale Spout near Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

Whale Spout near Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

As we have family living in the Byron Bay hinterland, we tend to head up to Byron at least once a year and Cape Byron Lighthouse has become something of a yardstick of our kids’ growth over the years as I force them through another round of photos against it’s glowing white fascade. You really do need a good pair of sunnies out there.

Family Photo 2nd July 2010 outside Byron Bay Lighthouse

Family Photo 2nd July 2010 outside Byron Bay Lighthouse

Determination!

Determination!

We always stop for an ice cream at the lighthouse and it's always a race to see whether the kids can finish it before it melts.

We always stop for an ice cream at the lighthouse and it’s always a race to see whether the kids can finish it before it melts.

 

Of

Byron Bay looking North to Mt Warning.

Byron Bay looking North to Mt Warning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of  course, Byron i also renowned for it’s many gorgeous beaches and great surf. However, rather than giving you a picture postcard view of Byron Bay, in keeping with the spirit of Byron, I thought I’d share some of the ephemeral sights we’ve uncovered over the years. You see, when it comes to Byron Bay, anything is possible and you certainly don’t need a permit to be a little different.

Starting off at the beach, we came across a sand sculptor who was building the most amazing creations in the sand. He created this fire breathing dragon, which I’ve photographed here. You’ll notice he’s having a cup of tea and that’s my Royal Albert teacup which I photographed around Byron Bay on a few visits. I’m not ashamed of stepping out beyon dthe flow myself.

 

We met a guy who is a world class sandcastle builder and I offered his dragon a cup of tea.

We met a guy who is a world class sandcastle builder and I offered his dragon a cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also stumbled across this medley of musos and dancers who met up around sunset each evening just as the Rainbow Lorrikeets were churping away in the Norfolk Pine Trees beside the beach.  They sure showed me you’re never too old to boogie!

We stumbled across this random group of whatsy-me-call-its: dancers, musos and hangers on which meets around sunset at the Northern end of the beach. They sure showed me you're never too old to boogie!

Musicians and dancers, Byron Bay at sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

Crepes at the Beach: January, 2011.

Crepes at the Beach: January, 2011.

In January 2011, we had a wonderful surprise when a  group of French backpackers set themselves up just off the beach doing a roaring trade selling crepes…just like you’d see on a footpath in Paris. We felt absolutely spoilt indulging in scrumptious Nutella crepes or lemon and sugar after emerging from the surf. As you could imagine, this thriving little enterprise was operating without Council approval or any form of insurance. That is Byron Bay.

As much as we love the beach, the sun demands respect and so we stay off the beach much of the day. One of our other favourite hangouts in Byron Bay is the park beside the railway. This park has the most fabulous climbing tree, which is a type of fig. It got damaged in a storm I believe and it’s fallen over and now grows along the ground like a caterpillar. This makes for fabulous climbing, especially for really little kids who can reach the branches.

This tree has become something of a magic wishing tree and every time we go there, somebody has stuck something different in the branches and we can’t wait to see what’s there. We’re only talking about simple things like ribbons tied in the branches, a milk crate suspended by a rope but on one visit we came across a very touching artistic tribute by a grieving mother whose son had died in the park and she wants to help young people feel good about htemselves and help all of us feel more love.

Mister in our climbing tree in the Railway Park. Every time we go there, something else is hanging there or decorating the tree. It seems like a magic wishing tree although there's a rough side to the park here with drinking etc. We need to choose our moments wisely when we take the kids.

Mister in our climbing tree in the Railway Park. Every time we go there, something else is hanging there or decorating the tree. It seems like a magic wishing tree although there’s a rough side to the park here with drinking etc. We need to choose our moments wisely when we take the kids.

She decorated the climbing tree with bright yellow flowers and painted the park benches with all sorts of messgaes and graphics. I was still wandering around with my tea cup and photographed it wioth her artworks.

 

Tea Cup in the Railway Park, 2011.

Tea Cup in the Railway Park, 2011.

A heart broken mother whose son died in this park wrote these messages on the park benches.

 

Unfortunately, even paradise has it’s underbelly and Byron Bay is no exception. Unfortunately, our beloved park attracts some heavy drinkers who can get quite narky and obviously, this isn’t a suitable environment for the kids. I’ve also heard that there are quite a few rapes.

Thje photo below was taken at the old railway station where I’ve sure homeless people must doss down. Sadly, Byron Bay isn’t just all beautiful beaches, peace, love and serenity.

Sadly, Byron Bay isn't just all beautiful beaches, peace, love and serenity.

On a more poitive note, of course, no tour of Byron Bay is complete without going Kombi spotting. Back in the day, Kombis were all lined up prked along the beachfront with boards on their backs. You can still spot Kombis around town these days but they are obviously thinning out. Here’s one I spotted by the railway station:

In it's heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

This is by no means a comprehenive tour of Byron Bay. I haven’t evn covered Byron Bay’s famous markets, which sell the very best chocolate donuts that ever walked this planet. They’re more of a cross between a jam donut and a chocolate croissant and just thinking about them is making me feel like getting in the car and driving  North.

While it’s a bit of a thing to climb Mt Warning or to the lighthouse to watch the sunrise, we are better equiped for watching the sunset and this is the prfect way to exit Byron Bay.

The Sun Set Byron Bay

The Sun Set Byron Bay

This is my second contribution to the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Bis for Byron Bay.

xx Rowena

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

 

The Acorn

You walked through
the school gate with hesitation:
a blank page with your name scrawled
crookedly in the corner.

An acorn planted in fertile soil,
you germinated.
Bursting through that constricting shell
too small for you to grow,
you poked through the soft earth,
a tender shoot reaching for the sun.

As your shoots headed for the sun,
your roots tunneled deep
towards the very centre of the earth
soaking up the spring rains
and you flourished.
Anchored to the ground,
reaching for the sky,
you were firmly planted.

At least,
that was in my dreams.
Sadly, even a fruitful journey
is full of storms and contradictions
and even blue skies burn.

I watched your leaves
change colour with the seasons;
their illuminated palette glowing
like stained-glass windows
backlit by the glorious sun
and bare sticks persevering
through another winter’s chill.

I shielded your tender stems
against those howling, winter winds
and quenched your insatiable thirst
all summer long.

At first,
I always held on tight,
holding your hand,
paving the way
trying to teach you
everything I knew.

But then…
little by little,
I let go…
just enough
for you to grow.
For I knew one day
you would have to stand alone.

DSC_8646

II
I don’t know who played
cruel tricks with the clock
and even meddled
with the very hands of time
but you’re no longer a sapling.
You’ve become a tree,
even growing acorns of your own
and I don’t know where
all those years have gone
or how to get them back.

Oak Tree, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Oak Tree, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Anchored to the soil
through your enormous trunk,
your mighty branches now
stretch right across the sky
with strength, persistence and endurance,
through sunshine and rain,
providing homes to the multitudes.
Birds build their nests
singing great morning choruses
as ants march up and down
carrying bulging loads with great intent.
Children build cubby houses
climbing towards the sun
laughing and having fun
while you smile proud,
oozing with life and love.

I am so proud
of all you’ve become!

III

DSC_8650

Now, it is I who needs
your strength
as my leaves change colour
falling to the ground.
Slowly but surely,
the colours wear away
until only the veins remain
and you are helping me
across the road instead.

DSC_8711

I don’t want to go
but we each reach
the end of this road.
and as the cycle goes on,
the oaks need to leave room
for the acorns to grow.

IV

You entered the gate a boy…
a blank page
with your name
scrawled crookedly
in the corner
but now you’ve emerged…

a man.

On 17th December, 2009 I wrote the very first version of this poem. It was the day after our son finished his first year at school and he was still only 5 years old. I had been struck by how far he had come in that year. When he arrived, all he could do was scrawl his name in the corner of a big, blank sheet of paper but by the end of that year, he was writing tentative sentences and was reading quite well, even if sitting still and concentration weren’t his thing.

I have reworked the poem many times since then and have even extensively reworked it today.

Mother & Son played by actors Ruth Cracknell & Garry McDonald.

Mother & Son played by actors Ruth Cracknell & Garry McDonald.

The relationship between mother and son weaves its way throughout the poem, which reminds of of a favourite show: Mother & Son, staring Ruth Cracknell and Garry McDonald. I don’t kno whether you’d describe it as a comedy or a tragedy but Mum in the story has dementia and Garry McDonald plays her middle-aged divorced son who is still living with Mum but probably not by choice.

Mother & Son
: “The Funeral” clip: http://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/mother-and-son-funeral/clip1/

Time has certainly flown past. He is now 11 years old and is in Year 6…his last year at Primary School. Next year, he’ll be passing through a different gate when he goes off to High School. His journey hasn’t progressed as smoothly as the fairly idealistic path depicted in the poem and life hasn’t been smooth sailing but he is finding real maturity now and growing up inside as well as in terms of height. We are very proud of him!!

This poem remains a work in progress and I wonder if it will ever be finished.

However, I wanted to share it with you.

Moreover, today is 1st April and the beginning of the Blogging From A-Z Challenge which takes place in April each year. This is the first time I’ve participated and I’m a little bit daunted about tackling the technical side of it all but sometimes, you just have to hurl yourself straight off a cliff and keep running!!

Love & Best wishes,
Rowena

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

I am participating in the A-Z Challenge.

Grow Slow…Happy Birthday Miss 9!

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

Paul Simon : The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Last night, as I kissed our daughter goodnight, she said: “This is my last night of being eight.” She was overjoyed!! She’s one of the youngest in her year at school and it’s no secret she gets a bit cheesed off that it takes eternity for her birthday to come round each year. There’s only a couple of months and the frustrating tail-chasing game starts all over again. Like all kids, she wants to grow up too quick. Our “little Miss” is 9 going on about 15 especially when she struts around the house in her fancy silver high heels, which almost fit her now. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d bought them from the charity shop for dress ups!!

That said, she is still a little girl and boys are still “yuck”…thank goodness!!

Im not sure how long that’s going to last with her brother who turns 11 in less than a fortnight and heads off to High School next year. I have no illusions about what all of that means. However, I feel much better prepared for the teenage years than I was for early childhood. At least, I can remember what it was like to be a teenager and I’m sure it was only yesterday.

Family Photo Back at Home.

Family Photo Back at Home 9 long years ago.

As we celebrate another round of birthdays and I’m forced to think about the passage of time yet again, I am reminded of time’s  cruel tricks. Since all other theories and explanations have failed, I’ve concluded there’s some kind of horrid, malevolent watch matcher lurking somewhere way up in the sky who keeps tinkering with the cogs and speeding things up. Don’t you agree?

I mean…Surely time couldn’t move that fast unless it was taking performance enhancing drugs and even then we’re talking about lethally high doses.

Someone or indeed, something, is doing an awful lot of tinkering with the gears up there. That’s the only way I can explain how time goes really fast when you want it to go slow and conversely barely seems to move at all, when you really want it to speed up like while you’re waiting in a supermarket queue and the person in front of you with enough food to feed an entire army can’t remember their pin and you’re running late and your child is standing on a street corner after dark in their ballet leotard and it’s cold and you don’t know what sort of creeps are hanging around.

Time always goes agonisingly slow then!!!

Ever the philosopher, me at around 6 months.

h Ever the philosopher, me at around 6 months.

Once upon a birthday, my grandparents used to sing me “Happy Birthday” on the phone and my grandmother would tell me year after year, about when they “got the phone call” and my father told them they had a grand-daughter and they’d put her in a warmer. She always left out all the details such as how I was facing sunny side up and things had been touch and go. That THAT phone call wasn’t just about “it’s a girl”. It was a serious answer to prayer and their daughter and grand-daughter had made it through a rather perilous journey called birth.

You forget that your baby is hopefully crying the first time you see them.

You forget that your baby is hopefully crying the first time you see them.

There were no life or death dramas when our daughter was born, aside from when Big Brother, the inimitable “Little Man”, decided to climb up on the hospital bed to have a cuddle with Mum and activated the  emergency switch. That immediately and brutally flung the head of the bed straight down and in the process, the drip stand fell down and bumped Miss on the head. Miss ended up with a bruise on her forehead and was sent off to the Special Care Nursery for observation. A storm in a teacup but we still stir Mister about that. It’s not his only tale. The antics of “Little Man” are legendary but largely just involve a healthy curiosity combined with high speed.

Getting back to our daughter’s arrival…

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love
To the dark and the endless skies

Roberta Flack (a romantic song but so apt)

Little Miss a few days old.

Little Miss a few days old.

The other thing, I remember, of course, is the very first moment I saw her.  She was much smaller than I’d expected and only weighed 2.93 kg and was an average length of 49cm. She was exceptionally petite and I guess given that I’m quite tall myself (174cm or 5 ft 10″), I was a little surprised. She was so tiny that we needed to get her baby-pink, miniscule 0000 Bond Suits outfits from the Special Care Nursery where they were kept nice and warm for the premmie babies. My Mum was sent to buy some micro-clothes for when we went home.

Our Gorgeous Little Rainbow Fairy Almost Aged 5 and About to Start School.

Our Gorgeous Little Rainbow Fairy Almost Aged 5 and About to Start School.

I know I’ve mentioned time before but tell me, where does time go? I know lines like that are cliched and a road too well-traveled for a seasoned writer and yet, this great mystery still hasn’t been explained. Not all time travels at the same rate and where my daughter’s concerned, time has fast-forwarded faster than the speed of light!!

Miss on her first day of school.

Miss on her first day of school.

After all, I could have sworn she wasn’t born that long ago and she’s only just started school. Yet, somehow she’s migrated from infants into primary and is now well, perhaps not towering over all of the new kindergarten kids but has certainly moved on. I feel like I’ve been hit by a flying brick and I’m lost, almost in a trance or in a dream, while everything flies past me.

I’m so confused!!! (Remember John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Cotter? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29BoqCMRBFk)

I hope she’s had a Happy Birthday. She opened her presents before school and as it turned out, the local radio station was at school this morning and they wished her Happy Birthday on air…much cooler than on Mummy’s blog!!

Miss celebrates her birthday with SeaFM Radio Host Kristi before school.

Miss celebrates her birthday with SeaFM Radio Host Kristi before school.

She took the most amateur-looking Cake Pops to school for her class. I can’t believe I let her talk me into making those because, as my mother advised me, you never make something new for a special occasion and when I’ve broken that Golden Rule, I’ve regretted it. As we all know, regret with family birthday cakes is usually accompanied by nerve crushing angst, tears and if you’re really wound up…hurling the cake across the room.

That is, if the dog hasn’t eaten the cake first. I have very bad memories of a food-thieving, greedy Old English Sheepdog called Rufus being caught in the act. That dog used to steal food and swallow it plastic bag and all. Eventually, we’d find the evidence deposited on the back lawn!!

I don’t know how that dog survived for so long!

Happy Birthday Miss!

Happy Birthday Miss!

Instead of having a special birthday dinner tonight, the kids were off to Cubs and Scouts. As we still haven’t sorted out the details of either of the kids’ birthday parties yet, this was opportune as a few of their friends were there. That meant making a batch of chocolate cupcakes and huge boxes of chips for tonight’s celebration. Miss told the lady at the checkout that: “Scouts love junk food and we purchased supplies. What a great ambassador!

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

There’s a world of quotes which I could pass onto my daughter but here are a couple from AA Milne’s: Winnie The Pooh.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

I also like this one from Stephen Fry:

“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”
Stephen Fry

Happy Birthday Precious Miss!

May all of your dreams come true..,in time. I’d like you to grow up before you open that dream fashion business in Paris. Climb some trees. Make clothes for your dolls and film them with your iPad. Ride your bike. Walk the dogs and wear your hair in plaits with rainbow nails and silver high heels, which are still too big and keep baking glittery cakes and drawing precious pictures just for fun.

As much as you yearn to grow up, you can’t rewind time. It only speeds up.

You might not appreciate it it now but there’s real beauty in growing slow.

Love & Blessings!

Rowena & Mummy

Me & My Girl

Me & My Girl

PS A week after Mister’s birthday sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send to Miss as a post birthday present: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ

Day 3: Yeast Pizza from Scratch and Quirky Apple Pie

Day 3- Wednesday 16th January, 2014

It just crossed my mind that I should point out that our kids are currently on their extended summer school holidays which has provided us with the luxury of being able to cook leisurely meals together without having to dash off to after-school activities or manage homework.

Cooking with a view.

Cooking with a view.

Our latest cooking experience has served once again to remind me that doing anything with the kids usually comes with its share of surprises even when I try to stay at least one step ahead of them.

Day 3: Wednesday 16th February we had Yeast Pizza from Scratch for dinner and Quirky Apple Pie for Dessert. We’ve given both of these recipes the thumbs up and will be cooking them again but not both on the same night. They are both rather labour and time intensive and would be better matched up with quicker alternatives.

Still in my PJs late afternoon helping the kids with the dough

Still in my PJs late afternoon helping the kids with the dough

Cooking tonight’s meal proved more stressful than previous nights.

I was definitely being over-ambitious making Pizza and Apple Pie both from scratch on the same night, especially when I have an early start getting to chemo in the morning. It also just occurred to me that I hadn’t cooked either of these recipes before and so I was also on a learning curve along with the kids. That said, they were most fairly simple dishes in themselves but having to explain seemingly steps in intricate detail for the kids and demonstrate how to do things like peel and cut the apple, did complicate things and added significantly to the preparation time.

Dinner ran late and the kids went to bed before Geoff and I sampled the pie. The kids had their for afternoon tea on Thursday after I’d arrived home from chemo.

The cooking plans were further over-stretched by what has become our routine pre-dinner swim in the pool. I had been promising to take the kids for a swim in the pool most of the afternoon but had a nap and their swim just kept getting pushed further out. Unfortunately, this promise was wearing rather thin and looking threadbare by late afternoon when I told the kids we needed to make the pizza dough first. From my point of view this was good planning and time management. The dough could rise while we were swimming but the kids weren’t convinced. They could sense a fob off a mile away but they reluctantly acquiesced.

However, then I remembered that we also needed to make the pastry for the Apple Pie and it needed to go into the fridge for 30 mins to rest. In terms of trying to have something resembling time management, that also meant making the pastry before we hit the pool. By this stage, the kids were staging militant protests. They weren’t happy at all!  My promises had gone from stretched, to threadbare and were now stark naked and I was bluntly accused of “lying”. I immediately leaped to my defence and did some exceptionally fast back-peddling explaining and they caved in. Somehow I was going to take out the Guinness Book of Records title for making the world’s fastest pastry.

I must admit that I was also keen to get into the pool. I’d missed out on my laps on Tuesday and I needed to get them in today. Aside from medical intervention, this swimming is my best shot at improving and conserving my lungs. It is essential.

Of course, with my little apprentice chefs focused on swimming, they weren’t at their enthusiastic or focused best. They were also starting to bounce off the walls a bit too. It was a hot day and they had been cooped up for too long inside to stay out of the sun.

Making the Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

1 sachet of dried yeast (7g)

1/2 teas salt

2.5 cups of plain flour

1 cup of warm water

1 tbl olive oil

Directions:

  1. Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Using a pair of scissors, snip open the packet of yeast and add it to the other dried ingredients. Ensure the kids don’t tear the packet open as the yeast will spill everywhere.
  3. Stir the dough with a spoon to mix the ingredients together and use hands and tip the dough onto a floured board. Knead the dough adding flour or water until the dough is dry to touch yet elastic. It needs to look like the dough you see in the pizza shop window.
  4. Place it in a large, deep bowl and put it in a sink with warm water, ensuring the water level is well below the top of the bowl. Leave for around 30 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.

Comments

This recipe came from my Australian Women’s Weekly “Kitchen” Cookbook.

Making the pizza dough is a great educational opportunity to teach the kids about the properties of yeast, its history  and how it works. I found this fabulous web site which does a wonderful overview: http://www.breadworldcanada.com/sciencehistory/science.asp

Hands only Grandma could love!

Hands only Grandma could love!

If you are making the dough with more than one child, I strongly recommend that each child makes their own dough. It was an exceptionally fun, very tactile, creative experience for both children and they loved delving both hands into the flour, kneading the dough and getting the right consistency. They were also quite possessive of their dough and there really wasn’t room for two sets of hands. Grin at the mess and bare it.

Just really make sure they wash their hands well before and after. Mine needed to use the scrubbing brush to get it off. If you are worried about germs, you’re better off buying a pre-made crust or doing it in the bread maker. We’re building up our immunity in this household.

Making the pizza dough was definitely what you would call “an experience”. The dramas began when the kids ripped open the little metallic sachets of dried yeast and the yeast spilled all over the table, chairs and onto the floor. To make matters worse, the balcony doors were open and there was quite a sea breeze and the yeast started to blow everywhere. This naturally made the kids rather upset, not to mention me! It was time to start practicing my deep breathing techniques before I lost my cool.  I am finding throughout this cooking project that the kids manage to do things I’d never even considered. After all, who would think about the yeast blowing away?

DSC_7463

Miss turned sifting the flour into a creative exercise. As she was sifting, she announced: “Pat, pat, pat I’m making a mountain…It’s snowing and I’m at the Snowy Mountains”. She then went on to draw faces in the flour: “Time to make an alien face”.

Such cheap and expressive creative entertainment...and fun!

Such cheap and expressive creative entertainment…and fun!

While I was pursuing culinary excellence, the kids had discovered the age-old wonder of flour, yeast and water and the wonderful squish of dough between your fingers. Miss announced: “No point using a spoon to stir it. Let’s get messy!” Meanwhile, Mister managed to coat his hands in wet, sticky dough. He was having a ball playing with the stuff. It was great entertainment even though it was a very sticky, messy blob bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the neat little ball you see in the pizza shop window.

The Abominable Doughman

The Abominable Doughman

We managed to make the rest of the dough without incident although Mister’s dough was too wet and Miss’s dough was too dry. Go figure? They were made using exactly the same recipe and I oversaw the ingredients. It is another one of those great mysteries of science. This is where a bit of improvisation comes in and knowing what that lump of pizza dough looks like at your local pizzeria and adding water or flour until the consistency looks right.

The dough looks surprising "normal" rising in the sink after all that action from the kids.

The dough looks surprising “normal” rising in the sink after all that action from the kids.

We put the dough in a large bowl in a sink of warm water to help it to rise.

Meanwhile time to make the pastry for the apple pie.

Quirky Apple Pie

I don’t know why I felt such a burning desire to make apple pie with the kids. I’ve never made apple pie before unless you count the one I made in the pie machine recently which was simply puff pastry filled with grated apple sprinkled with brown sugar. It tasted great and was super quick but it was hardly authentic.

The Quirky Apple Pie isn’t what I’d call a traditional Apple Pie either but at least we’d made the pastry from scratch and it was baked in the oven with real apples. Geoff said it reminded him of his mother’s apple crumble recipe and with all the brown sugar and cinnamon in this recipe, that’s more the flavour we experienced.

Choosing a recipe for our Apple Pie was quite a stressful, confusing business. There are millions of recipes out there and I just wanted to get it right the first time. I didn’t want to go on some crazy apple Pie baking crusade spending the rest of my life trying that elusive perfect recipe…the Holy Grail. Life’s too short. I was intending to make a more traditional English style Apple Pie, however, I came across a pie plate at the Red Cross Op Shop in Avalon and it had a recipe printed onto the dish. This seemed like a bit of fortuitous serendipity to me. It was meant to be. This would be our Apple Pie.

However, upon closer inspection, it turned out that the recipe didn’t include a pastry recipe so I needed to consult Google on the fly ensure I had all the required ingredients. The kitchen here is very rudimentary.

Pastry for our Apple Pie:

1 3/4  cups plain flour

1/2 cup  self-raising flour

185g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon chilled water

Directions

  1. The kids need to measure and carefully slice off 185g of butter making sue they  keep the knife straight to ensure measurements are accurate. This proved tricky.
  2. Beat egg and chilled water together with a fork.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until a dough is formed.
  4. Adult removes the blade and the child can scoop the pastry out with a large spoon and transfer it to a bowl or plate.
  5. Divide the pastry into 2 balls one larger than the other. The larger ball will form the base and the small one will be the top. I asked Miss to put some flour over the pastry. In keeping with the pizza making efforts, however, she buried the pastry in a blizzard of flour so you need to emphasise that the children only use a little bit of flour…a dusting. I pulled out the cling wrap and passed it to Miss who wrapped the pastry up. While she made a comment about “not being a very good wrapper”, she did a great job.
  6. Keep handling of the pastry to a minimum and keep it as cool as possible. Pastry doesn’t like hot weather.
  7. Refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes.
The difficulties of cutting the butter in a straight line.

The difficulties of cutting the butter in a straight line.

The pastry is ready to go in to the fridge. Hadn't noticed my paint brushes on the bench...oops!

The pastry is ready to go in to the fridge. Hadn’t noticed my paint brushes on the bench…oops!

Swimming Time!

So we were now at the stage where we had the pizza dough rising in the sink and the apple pie pastry chilling in the fridge. It was finally time for our swim. We really didn’t have time for a swim but I’d promised and promised and promised. The kids really love our time together in the pool. They were racing me as I did my laps and instead of the piggybacks I gave them the other day, I was their dolphin and they sat on my back while I largely swam underwater. I did my 20 laps and also played mermaids with Miss and raced Mister. I am quite amazed at what was possible despite my muscle weakness and dodgy lungs. Surely, the treatment has to be working?!!

 Back to Dinner…Pizza Time!

Ingredients

Pizza dough

Tomato paste or pizza sauce

Teaspoon of crushed garlic per pizza

Grated mozzarella cheese

Diced leg ham

½ tin of diced pineapple

½ punnet cherry tomatoes

2-3 slices of wasabi cheese sliced into small cubes about 5mm across

Fresh rosemary

Roasted diced sweet potato

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 °C.
  2. Grease 2 x pizza trays with spray oil.
  3. 3.       As each child had made their own pizza dough, we had enough dough for two thick-crust pizzas…one for the kids and one for the adults. The kids had a Ham and Pineapple Pizza and Geoff and I had Ham & Veggie Pizza with Wasabi Cheese. As we didn’t have a rolling pin, the kids simply pressed the dough into the tray.
The kids' Ham & Pineapple goes into the oven

The kids’ Ham & Pineapple goes into the oven

Kids’ Ham & Pineapple Pizza

  1. Spread the tomato paste and crushed garlic over the top of the pizza base until well covered.
  2. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top until it is about 2cm thick.
  3. Scatter the pineapple over the top of the cheese. Make sure the pineapple is spread evenly across the base to ensure good coverage.
  4. Dice leg ham into 1-2 cm cubes and spread them evenly across the base again ensuring good coverage.
  5. The kids sprinkled a layer of grated mozzarella cheese about 2 cm thick over the top and then scattered about 125g of pineapple pieces over the top as well as pieces of leg ham. Had to remind them to spread the toppings evenly over the top. That went into a hot oven for roughly 15 minutes. Aside from making the base too thick and giving it more of a foccacia appearance it went well.
The Parents' Pizza

The Parents’ Pizza

Parents’ Pizza

Geoff and I had ham, roast sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, grated mozzarella and small cubes of Wasabi cheese on ours.

Kids' Pizza

Kids’ Pizza

The Results

The pizzas turned out very well. The base of the kids pizza was too thick and more like foccacia but aside from that it went well. There was plenty leftover for lunch on Thursday for Geoff and the kids while i had my hospital sandwich.

Back to the Apple Pie…Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients:

1.5 tablespoons white sugar

1.5 teas cinnamon (original recipe had nutmeg)

4 large granny smith apples (the green ones)

¾ cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons of butter (60g)

2 tablespoons of plain flour

¼ to ½ cup of grated cheese

  1. 1.     Directions:
  2. Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
  3. Grease a deep 9 inch pie plate with spray oil.
  4. Take the larger ball of pastry. As we didn’t have a rolling pin, we simply pressed the pastry into the pie dish. However, when I pressed the pastry into the pie dish, I forgot that the recipe for the apple filling was printed on the surface so I hastily had to excavate and retrieve it. It was a hot day and the pastry didn’t like being handled but it survived.
An impromptu scavenger hunt searching for the recipe through the pastry.

An impromptu scavenger hunt searching for the recipe through the pastry.

5.Sprinkle the top of the pastry with white sugar mixed with a dash of cinnamon.

6.In a large mixing bowl, add brown sugar, flour and 1 teas cinnamon.

7.Peel apples and cut into quarters and remove the core. Slice each quarter into 3-4 slices. I gave each child an apple to peel. Peeling the apple took a bit of patient effort but after a few demonstrations and “can’t do it”, they both succeeded but it was quite a slow process. I tried Mister out on cutting the apples. He couldn’t cut through the apple but managed to cut the halves into quarters but then he cut his finger. Realised I shouldn’t have given him this knife and he should have had something like a standard dinner knife. Wanted to see how he managed. I peeled and sliced the rest of the apples.

8.Add sliced apples to the flour and sugar mix. Toss together with a spoon until the apples are coated by the mix.

Just look at all those scrumptious apples with all that seductive brown sugar.

Just look at all those scrumptious apples with all that seductive brown sugar.

9.Add the apple mix to pastry. Arrange the apples slices so they sit as flat as possible to conserve space. The top layer of pastry just managed to stretch across the top of the apples.

10.Cut the butter into bits and dot the apples with the butter.

Rolling out the pastry using Geoff's bottle of wine.

Rolling out the pastry using Geoff’s bottle of wine.

11.As I mentioned before, we didn’t have a rolling pin to roll out the top so I decided to improvise. Geoff had a bottle of wine on the bench. I coated it in plastic wrap and used it to roll out the pastry with a bit of assistance from Miss. The pastry broke into a few pieces and I wasn’t sure that there was going to be enough to deal the top but we just made it. It actually looked quite respectable… rustically homemade. Not a perfect job but it was good enough.

12.This recipe says to sprinkle the top of the pastry with grated cheese. Now, this seemed a bit odd but it is a bit of a Canadian thing to add cheese to apple pies so I thought I’d give it a try.

13.Put the pie into the oven at 200°C for 30-45 minutes and said a few prayers. It all seemed pretty dodgy to me. Did not feel at all confident that this pie was going to work out at all. Geoff wasn’t too encouraging either. Thought I should pre-cook the apples.

The Results

Our Quirky Apple Pie is finally done.

Our Quirky Apple Pie is finally done.

Despite all my misgivings, I was absolutely stoked with the results. The pie totally exceeded my expectations. It certainly wasn’t your conventional English Apple Pie due the brown sugar and butter content which gave in a flavour similar to Apple Crumble, which we all loved. The apples were quite firm and Geoff felt could’ve done with a quick zap in the microwave but I liked that and when we reheated it today, the consistency was great.

We will definitely be making the Quirky Apple Pie again.

Tomorrow night, Geoff and the kids will be cooking Roast Lamb and veggies. This seemed like a quick and easy meal while I’m recovering from chemo.

Inspired by an Astronaut- Life Lessons from Daddy.

Life lessons seem to be contagious around here and why not? We’re a switched on family. Well, at least we’re as switched on as anyone else you’ll find out there only too willing to tell you how to live your life!

Well, now Geoff’s jumped on the bandwagon and as usual has completely dwarfed all my efforts. He struck the jackpot. He found the life lesson of life lessons to pass onto our son and for once it seems it went in one ear and actually somehow managed to stick inside of his brain…at least for now. I’m going to type the story up and stick it on his bedroom wall right where he can see it along with a photo of Astronaut Chris Hadfield if I can find one. I might just have to send off a request.

Geoff is currently reading Chris Hadfield’s: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.  You might have seen Chris Hadfield on youtube singing his great hit: Space Oddity…a tribute to David Bowie’s legendary space song: Space Odyssey:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo

He’s also been featured on 60 Minutes. He’s an incredible guy, which of course, all astronauts are. They are some kind of supreme being having been among the very privileged few who have viewed our beautiful planet from space. The rest of us can only dream and surf the net for second-hand views.

I hope I don’t get busted for breach of copywrite or anything nasty like that but I found Chris Hadfield’s reflections so inspiring for kids that it is worth the risk.

It was July 20, 1969 and Chris Hadfield and his brother had just seen Neil Armstrong land on the moon. He writes:

“Slowly, methodically, a man descended the leg of a spaceship and carefully stepped on the surface of the moon. The image was grainy, but I knew exactly what we were seeing: the impossible, made possible…Later, walking back to our cottage, I looked up at the moon. It was no longer a distant, unknowable orb but a place where people walked, talked, worked and even slept. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to follow in the footsteps so boldly imprinted just moments before. Roaring around in a rocket, exploring space, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and human capability – I knew, with absolute clarity, that I wanted to be an astronaut.

I also knew, as did every kid in Canada, that it was impossible. Astronauts were American. NASA only accepted applications from US citizens, and Canada didn’t even have a space agency. But…just the day before it had been impossible to walk on the Moon. Neil Armstrong hadn’t let that stop him. Maybe someday it would be possible for me to go too, and if that day ever came, I wanted to be ready.

I was old enough to understand that getting ready wasn’t simply a matter of playing “space missions” with my brothers in our bunk beds, underneath a big National Geographic poster of the Moon. But there was no program I could enrol in, no manual I could read, no one even to ask. There was only one option, I decided. I had to imagine what an astronaut might do if he was 9 years old, then do exactly the same thing. I could get started immediately. Would an astronaut eat his vegetables or have potato chips instead? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book?

I didn’t announce to my parents or my brothers and sisters that I wanted to be an astronaut. That would’ve elicited approximately the same reaction as announcing that I wanted to be a movie star. But from that night forward, m dream provided direction to my life. I recognised even as a 9-year-old that I had a lot of choices and my decisions mattered. What I did each day would determine the kind of person I’d become.”

You read this and you can understand how he reached his goal. That’s incredible insight for a 9-year-old.

Geoff read this out to Mister and half-way through Mister said: “I can become an astronaut”. Geoff kept reading. Mister had the right answers. He knows what he needs to do.

Now, this story has particular relevance to Mister because he is also 9 years old. It was priceless for him to hear such wisdom from a peer, another 9 year old boy who had since gone on to reach his impossible dream and be an astronaut in space.  That is certainly worth far more than a mountain of talk from his Mum or Dad. Geoff and I were both so thrilled to be able to pass this onto our son. A legacy far greater than gold.

Today, I asked Mister what he wanted to be and he muttered his reply so quickly I couldn’t understand him. I asked him to speak more clearly. There was much excitement and animation in his voice as he replied:

“I have to talk really fast. There are 600 things I want to do and I only have three minutes to talk. ”

It looks like he’s taking after his Mum.

xx Rowena & Geoff

Reference:

Chris Hadfield: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Macmillan,  London, 2013, pp 3-4.