Tag Archives: loss

Our Border Collie Bilbo out on the mud flats. No doubt he is looking for his tennis ball. He doesn't care about the view and certainly tries to avoid the water.

The Thinker: Our Border Collie Bilbo out walking at low tide.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Lindt Cafe Siege, Sydney: Please Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids.

In the aftermath of the Martin Place Siege, a request has gone out via Facebook to send Christmas cards to the children of hostage Katrina Dawson who was tragically killed.

I am just the messenger.

No doubt you have heard about the dreadful siege held at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place this week. I have honored the two of the hostages, Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson who lost their lives  in previous posts. While not discounting the enormity of grief felt towards Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson’s three young children aged 8, 5 and 3  lost their mum.  At such a young age, that loss goes beyond grief.

Steven Isles has sent out a request via Facebook to send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s children. The cards are being sent c/o their uncle’s office. Sandy Dawson is a well-known Sydney lawyer. In a very public case, Steven Isles’ own father, Senior Sergeant Mick Isles, disappeared on his way to a training course in 2009 and his body was never found. Isles said that when his father first went missing, he remembers lots of people dropping off meals and letters to show their support.

‘You feel a bit bombarded at the time, but on reflection you go “Wow” – it certainly was a welcome distraction to have that much support,’ he said.

Mr Isles said he was talking about the tragedy amongst friends when he came up with the idea to start the Christmas card drive.

STEVEN ISLES’ FACEBOOK POST

CHRISTMAS CARDS FOR Oliver, Chloe and Sasha Dawson. Let them know we are all thinking of them.

At times of such tragedy we, Australians being the resilient people do what we do best and that is band together during someone’s time of need.

There is still time. When you are at the shops or the newsagent please buy a Christmas Card and send it to the three beautiful children Katrina Dawson leaves behind.

I have spoken with Sandy Dawson’s [Katrina’s brother] Clerk and commitment has been provided to deliver to Katrina’s children all mail that arrives. Address cards to:

Oliver, Chloe & Sasha

Banco Chambers

Level 5/ 65 Martin Place

Sydney NSW 2000

Share this message anywhere and everywhere, lets get as many cards as possible to these children and lets show them how many people are thinking of them

Thanks in advance everyone.

Proud to be an Aussie.

Every card these children receive is something like a  hug, a loving thought and a reminder that there is still goodness in this world after such evil has struck.

Could you please reblog this post to get the word out. I know it’s almost Christmas and many of you live overseas but we all know how much kids love getting mail and it would be good for them to receive Christmas cards from all around the world…even if they arrive well after Christmas. Perhaps, you could even include a postcard showing where you live. These children are not needy so there is no need to send toys. These would be better given to your local charity.

I’ve pasted a link to the full story about this compassionate Christmas card project below.

In the meantime, Katrina Dawson’s family has set up a charitable foundation in her memory which will be focused on women’s education. Here is a link to the foundation’s website: http://thekatrinadawsonfoundation.org/

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 Read more about the Christmas card project here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2880158/It-s-just-token-say-Mum-s-won-t-forgotten-Man-father-disappeared-highly-publicised-case-starts-Christmas-card-drive-children-siege-victim-Katrina-Dawson.html#ixzz3ML8gHfv2

Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For the fallen by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)

ANZAC Day commemorates not only the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops or ANZACS at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 25th April 1914 but also honours service people who have served in all of our wars.

I didn’t really grow up with this sense that my family had served in the war even though my Great Uncle Jack had served in New Guinea in World War II and my grandfather had served as an Army Captain within Australia. Geoff, on the other hand, grew up with two uncles who had served in New Guinea and another who had served in Darwin and his Nanna who had lost a brother in France during World War I. Last year, we also found out that his father’s uncle had served at Gallipoli and went on to be part of the charge at Beersheba. So when it comes to ANZAC Day, our family has something personal and close to home to honour and respect. We have also seen the longer term impact of war on wives and children who experienced alcoholism, violence and depression. Not because they were bad men but because they had seen and experienced horrors that no one should experience and then they were simply sent home.

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Geoff and I have been into the ANZAC Day march in the city only once but every year since I can remember, I have always watched the march on TV. In some respects, it is a solemn occasion where we remember and honour the dead but there is also so much to look at and I have always felt such a love and a fondness for the old men marching with their medals pinned to their hearts. I remember when these old men had been to WWI and slowly and surely they became the faces of World War II veterans and now even the Vietnam Veterans are looking well…old…and the WWI diggers have gone and WWII ones are thinning out.

Along with watching the march on TV, I have another time honoured tradition…making ANZAC Biscuits. Mothers, wives, girlfriends and anyone who cared, baked ANZAC Biscuits at home and sent them overseas to the men at the front. Such packages and letters from home were treasured, providing a much needed connection with their loved ones at home as well as breaking the monotony of military food.

Not unsurprisingly, making ANZAC Biscuits on ANZAC Day is as tradtional as the official Dawn Service and the march.

ANZAC Biscuits are really just an oatmeal biscuit and by modern standards are pretty plain. You can jazz them up with chopped nuts, ginger or even choc chips but for ANZAC Day, I always keep them plain and authentic. Their simplicity also serves to remind us of simpler times when austerity measures had been implemented, rationing had been in place and there wasn’t our modern over-abundance of just about everything. Things were scarce…even the basics like eggs.

Despite their simplicity, ANZAC Biscuits with their dose of thick, sticky, sugary golden syrup are scrumptious.

If you are a connoisseur of ANZAC Biscuits and as strange as it may seem, these people do exist, you need to specify whether you like your ANZACS soft or hard, very much the same way people get quite picky about having their fried egg: “sunny side up”.

Personally, I have had great difficulty mastering the perfect ANZAC. Most of the time, I find the mixture doesn’t come together well and I’ve needed to add extra butter to bind it together. Moreover, as I only really make ANZACS once maybe twice a year, I haven’t managed to perfect the process and work out quite what makes them crunchy or chewy. We just get what we get and usually because I’m baking them with the kids, I’m just thankful for that.

If you have read my blog before, you will know that most of my cooking efforts with the kids have their dramas and I must admit that I’ve had a good think about why we have the kitchen of chaos instead of something approaching the scientific wonder of the Australian Women’s Weekly Test Kitchen. I mean, you can be sure that most of our antics could never be replicated by anybody anywhere no matter how hard they tried.

As usual, baking ANZAC Biscuits failed to disappoint and we had our usual range of hiccups.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The first thing that you have to keep in mind when baking ANZAC Biscuits, especially if you like me want to bake them while watching the march, is that you need to check that you have all your ingredients the day before because the shops are shut on ANZAC Day until after lunch. This is a very important word of warning and despite my best efforts, I keep getting caught. This year, we are staying at my parents’ house at the beach and it is not very well stocked so I brought everything with me including the metal biscuit tray. However, I’d brought everything except the main ingredient…the oats…because I’d bought this wonderful metal tin put out by Uncle Toby’s specifically to house your big box of oats and to keep the nasties out. Thinking I had about a 12 month supply, much to my horror, I didn’t check my supplies. The tin was completely empty without so much as a single oat left inside. Some horrific porridge-guzzling Goldilocks and her three bears had been guzzling my oats.  I scoured the cupboards optimistically.  Dad has his very healthy whole grain oat porridge “stuff” which looks like oats on the outside but also has other grains mixed in and as tempted as I was to use this instead, Geoff and I both agreed it was a bit of a gamble. We were all looking forward to our annual ANZAC Day indulgence and we didn’t want a “fail”. We had to wait.

 

So we watched the march and while waiting for the shops to open, we took the dog off for a walk along the mud flats and the kids and I squirted Neptune’s Beads at each other and at ourselves and had a bit of fun. It had rained heavily overnight and it was still overcast so not terribly pretty but it was fun sloshing through the mud even if we didn’t see any crabs. Miss, I must say was thrilled about that. She doesn’t like crabs. She doesn’t like them at all and the mud flats down here start crawling as thousands of them emerge out of their holes at certain times of day which as yet I haven’t managed to pin down.

By the time Geoff returned from the shops and I’d had a bit of a nap, it was late afternoon by the time we were making the ANZACS and beforehand we quickly whizzed up our pizza dough for dinner and set it aside to rise.

It is always gets tricking making anything with the kids after making the pizza dough. The kids love getting their hands into the dough, squishing it through their fingers and really giving it a good workout. They can’t resist! However, dough is dough and I wasn’t happy seeing Miss with her hands in the bowl mixing the oats with the other dry ingredients. “Get your fingers out of there! That’s what spoons are for!!”

When it came to mixing the dry ingredients, which I’d thought was relatively simple, even this proved challenging to the kids and I could feel my patience getting very thin, very thin indeed. When you are pouring a cup full of flour as an adult, or at least an adult who has been cooking all of your life, you just know where that magic, unwritten line is on a cup that measures a cup full of something. It’s not ¾ of a cup and it’s not a cup full with some kind of mountain peak stuck on top of it either. It’s a full cup with something like a finger space left empty at the top so your supposedly full cup of whatever, doesn’t spill. I’m sure it is actually possible to pour a cup full of something without spilling it on the bench too but I’m not sure if I’ve even pulled this one off. We’re all a bit careless around here.

Besides getting pedantic about measurements which may or not matter in the overall scheme of things, kitchen safety became a serious issue when the kids were mucking around in the kitchen today. Consequently, we gave them more than a serious talking to especially about burns but also about knives. We told them that the kitchen is a workshop with dangerous tools and it needs to be respected. It is not a playground. The message wasn’t really sinking in so I opted for a bit of tough love and we looked up kids burns in Google went to images and showed them what some of these burns can look like. We also watched an educational presentation which you can link through to here: http://www.chw.edu.au/prof/services/burns_unit/burns_prevention/

I think that sank in although with kids you never know. I’d swear they have what my grandfather used to call “good forgettery” before his Alzheimer’s set in.

So after that very lengthy preamble, here is the recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. When we made it today, it produced a chewy, rather than crunchy biscuit and it was truly delicious!

Xx Ro

ANZAC Biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

2/3 cup castor sugar

¾ cup coconut

1/3 cup Golden Syrup (5.5 metric tablespoons- easier to measure!!)

125g butter

1 teas bicarb soda

2 tablespoons hot water.

 

Directions

1)      Preheat oven to 160° C (325° F)

2)      Place the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a medium-sized bowl and mix together with a large wooden or stirring spoon (ie not fingers!!!)

3)      Take a small to medium saucepan. Measure out golden syrup using either a cup of measuring spoons. I actually have a series of cup measures and that’s ideal for measuring out the golden syrup. Being so thick and sticky, it’s not the easiest to measure out. Add butter. We always buy the 250g packets of butter for cooking and I have noticed that even when the kids do a relatively simple thing like cutting the butter in half, they usually push the knife through at a not insignificant angle which can significantly alter the quantity of butter. Of course, you can take more of a laissez-faire approach with the kids and have fun and it doesn’t matter how it turns out but that’s not teaching your kids how to cook. I do quite a lot of ad hoc cooking myself and rarely follow a recipe to a T but I have enough experience and instinct to be able to cook by feel. I generally know what the mixture is supposed to look like despite what the recipe says and will jiggle ingredients around until it looks right. That sounds like I am contradicting myself but it does make sense.

4)      Place saucepan on the hotplate at a medium to high heat stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need to be watched closely but don’t walk away either. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, decide yourself whether to let them manage the hot aspects of the recipe.

5)      While the butter and golden syrup are melting, you need to prepare the bicarb soda and water mix, which is what enables the biscuits to rise and I’ve always felt the way the melted butter and golden syrup mix rushes up like a volcano provides great entertainment. I remember my Mum introducing me to this mystery as a kid and I was in awe. It was absolutely fabulous.

6)      Remove golden syrup and butter mix from the stove. Have the bowl of dry ingredients nearby and add the bi-carb soda and add water mix to the saucepan. This can really froth up and get quite excited so you might have to move quickly to avoid spills. This is a job for big hands or kids aged 12+ considering the hot, sugary fat involved.

7)      Mix well. You might need to add extra butter to get the ingredients to mix together well. You don’t want the biscuits to be too greasy but the mixture also needs to hold together well without crumbling. We ended up grabbing handfuls of mixture and squishing it together a few times to shape flattened balls which stayed together. I don’t think I’ve had to do that with recipes I’ve made in the past but they had been more of a crunchy consistency where these biscuits were more chewy.

8)      Cover a metal biscuit tray in non-stick baking paper. In the past I’ve placed spoonfuls of mixture onto the tray but with this recipe, I needed to squish the mixture together a bit for it to hold together. You need to leave a bit of space between each biscuit to allow for expansion.

9)      Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden. Remove from oven. Leave on tray to cool down for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Simple and scrumptious and we can remember our fallen heroes as well!

Love & Blessings,

Ro xxoo

Mixing.

Mixing.

 

 

My two little mini chefs.

My two little mini chefs.

Teaching the Kids How to Cook

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am currently having chemo to treat a rogue auto-immune disease. The chemo is going well and apart from some fatigue, I am largely feeling quite well. I am also starting to feel that the treatment is working and that my lungs are slowly improving…at least a bit. I’m still walking. Still breathing. Yesterday, I was bouncing around in the pool with the kids giving them piggyback rides. I certainly don’t look sick at all!

While chemo is going so, so much better than expected, it has been very thought provoking time and my entire life has ended up on the dissection table. Where am I going? What is important? What stays in and what goes out? It has been very intense at times.

However, while I’m naturally concerned about managing my own life and health, the kids are virtually my all-encompassing consideration. Mister is almost 10 and Miss is almost 8. They are too young to be faced with losing their Mum. That said, they’re not as young as they were. I’ve almost been fighting this disease for 8 years and am thankful for each and every extra year that we have together. Thankful that they are older, stronger, more independent and more likely to remember Mummy than the year before. This isn’t a morbid thing. It actually makes me really appreciate life more as well as the need to carpe diem seize the day. Squeeze each and every last drop out of everything. No waste! We really enjoy life most of the time.

Yet, while there is every likelihood that I’ll get through this crisis and be fine enough, the shadow is still there.  I feel very strongly that I owe it to Geoff, the kids and also to my parents to have my shit at least somewhat sorted out. I don’t just want to leave them in the lurch and make any bad outcomes any worse than they need to be. We all need to be somewhat prepared for when that mythical bus finally comes to get us and I want to leave a legacy, some memories, something for them to hold onto and not just an empty space. That is really, really important to me and I believe even more important for them!

Just before I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis 6 years ago, I read a book called Letters to Sam by Daniel Gottlieb, which was a series life lessons written in a letter format to his grandson. I was incredibly moved by this book and inspired to write something similar for my kids. I pounded the keyboard and wrote something like 40,000 words stopped and walked away. I decided it was crap which was probably me just being overly critical again although I had also read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and he put things so beautifully that anything else seemed quite redundant. Besides, I went into remission and it seemed like life lessons could wait. I’d become immortal!

With my recent health setback, I was more concerned about the practicalities of life rather than philosophical issues. After all, not all life lessons come in a book. They’re also hands on and tactile, developing our bodies as well as our minds.  I realized that the kids needed to become independent, responsible and stand on their own two feet and that cooking teaches these skills. These are skills they need to develop regardless of my health status. After all, cooking and cleaning up after yourself are essential, survival skills.

The further I progressed, the more I came to appreciate that cooking actually covers a whole range of life lessons. Cooking teaches the kids how to:

  1. Plan an activity.
  2. Follow procedures.
  3. Listen to instructions and follow through.
  4. Learn by example.
  5. Time management
  6. Work as a team
  7. Experiment
  8. Clean up after themselves.
  9. Have fun!

They also learn about the ingredients, their nutritional values and how they work together (or not).

Cooking and food preparation, also teaches them about their own bodies and how they operate and how food establishes and maintains good health, preventing disease. It also teaches them about the environment, preventing waste and issues like ethical food production and reducing food miles.

For our family, meal time is also a time of prayer when we give thanks to God and also pray for people in need.

Another huge bonus is that we are cooking together and bonding as we go. As the kids gain new skills, their confidence increases and they feel I trust them. That I believe they can do it and that goes a long way in helping them believe in themselves.

I am the chef and they are my eager apprentices. They love it and are keen to help, be included and have fun!

I never realized the simple act of cooking a meal could be so educational!

The cooking project has evolved as I’ve gone along. What started out as a desire to share special family recipes evolved into teaching them how to bake basics like Chocolate Crackles. As I faced chemo, I realized that they really needed to learn to cook nutritious meals, not just cakes. Life had taken on a more serious tone.

However, like most of my “educate the kids projects”, I had to bring myself up to speed before I brought them onboard. After all, I had to provide clarity, direction and leadership. I need to have clear directions in mind and know where we’re heading. This cooking project was never going to work as some horrible variation of Blind Man’s Bluff. That would only lead to fights, frustrations and destruction. The outcome would be negative instead of positive.

I had a lot to learn! Although I am a good cook especially when it comes to baking, I’ve been sick for quite a long time and my cooking has ended up in an extremely narrow rut. Every time I visit the butcher, I stare blankly at what really is a smorgasboard of choice and order chicken schnitzel or a leg of lamb yet again. My niece recently shared her secret of roasting boiled potatoes in the waffle maker and that’s bailed me out too. I also keep peas and corn kernels in the freezer which have been a salvation as well. As bad as things have been, I’ve never resorted to tinned spaghetti and there’s always been the local Thai takeaway. They know us well and produce a good, nutritious meal! We’ve also been given a few meals too thank you very much!

Back to the Cooking Project.

Step one…planning.

Last week while the kids were at my parents’ place, I started the preparation process. I went searching for recipes and expanding my own horizons. It’s seems that in the many years since I last really went looking for meal ideas in recipe books (in contrast to baking which I’ve steadily maintained), the whole landscape of Australian cooking has changed. In my day, the Australian Women’s Weekly had an international cooking series where each nationality was kept distinctly separate. Italian was in the Italian book. French in the French book and Chinese in the Chinese book. Thai was a relative late comer to the series. They’ve recently put out a recipe book called Kitchen where the recipes are organized by cooking utensil. Under “The Saucepan” for example it includes: Beef Massaman Curry, Lamb Meatball korma, Baked Pumpkin and Spinach Risotto and Fettucino Alfredo all in the same chapter with all the nationalities mixed together under the unwritten banner of “modern Australian”. Don’t get me wrong. This is a great development. Australian society isn’t always such an integrated, cultural melting pot but it does show me that we’ve come a long way!

I developed a menu for the week, which has needed to become more flexible after my Dad bought us some chops and we’ve been out to dinner as a family and had a friend over for a rather unhealthy lunch of fish and chips. A friend also popped over with four of her kids and her daughter largely made the pancakes for lunch with me so that was another variation on a theme. Hmm…flexible focus. I’m learning on that front as well.

Here is our proposed menu for the week:

Monday night: chops and salad.

Tuesday night: Atlantic salmon and salad

Wednesday night: Pizza from scratch with Salad and Apple Pie for dessert.

Thursday night: Roast lamb with roast veggies (this is my chemo night).

Friday night: Lamb salad.

Saturday lunch: pancakes. We serve these with grated apple and I quite like blueberries as well.

Stay tuned.

Best wishes,

Rowena xx