Monthly Archives: June 2015

Sunshine Reflections

  

It’s Sunday, and normally this would be my ritual “time out” at a local cafe, eating a salad and reading the Sunday mags. I haven’t felt the urge to do it for about a month now. Possibly because I’ve been actively socialising more lately.

That’s probably the biggest bonus that came from housing my friend and her 6yo for two months: I preferred to not be at home much, and needed to vent and lean on others more to stay sane, so I got out and about with my 2yo most mornings and improved my social skills quite dramatically.

I think that’s also why I dropped off the online radar so much too. I didn’t need social media as much because I was talking to people face to face. I’ve joined two knitting groups and have been hanging around at school drop off and parks and other kids’ activities more. It’s been pretty amazing really. 

Today has been a bit shitty so far though. My oldest has something going on in her head that’s making her hyper-sensitive and self-focussed. She’s so prickly when she’s like that! Just bosses and snaps and breaks down over tiny things but won’t actually let me help her work through it all. I just had to get out of the house because I couldn’t absorb any more of her emotional gunk without lashing out and making it all worse.

While walking around in the sunshine I came across this gorgeous paperbark tree. I’ve passed it many times before but it perfectly matched my head at the moment so I had to pause and soak it all in. A little tattered and ratty, with too many branches going off in different directions, but the potential for sturdiness and growth all the same.

So now to sit in the “wintry” sunshine (seriously, I’m wearing a light cardi and have bare ankles! This is midwinter now?!) and get all my rambly plans and thoughts and to-do’s onto paper and out of my head so I can roll up my sleeves and turn the day around for the family. Whether I like it or not, I’m the trunk of this tree. Gotta dig my roots in and brace myself better.

Tasty Tuesday: Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Aw yeah, baby! This was an experiment of mine that turned out SO BEAUTIFULLY that I just have to share.

Gluten free, dairy free, cookies and cream ice cream. With only three ingredients.

My first attempt at making something like this came about as an accident. I had some macaroons going crumbly so had the idea of approximating an “Eton Mess” style thing by breaking them up and mixing them with chilled coconut cream and jam. Then I kind of ruined it by adding chocolate chips, which completely overwhelmed the other flavours.

Bum.

On a whim I chucked it in the freezer. The next day I stirred it up a bit with a fork and found that it got a really nice ice cream texture – and was utterly delicious! Then the next time I pulled it out and stirred it with a fork it was even creamier and tastier. I vowed to try it again sometime, on a larger scale.

A few weeks later I made a few microwaved chocolate cakes in mugs for the girls and myself that turned out a little dry. I found myself wishing I had some ice cream to soften it – and had the brainwave of turning it INTO ice cream for my Midwinter Feast this year. Booyah!

You have to plan this one in advance if, like me, you don’t own an ice cream maker. It’s totally worth it though.

Ingredients

Serves 10-12, depending on how gluttonous you are…

  • About 2 C of dry chocolate cake or crumbly cookies (I made mine based on this recipe)
  • 2/3 C berry jam
  • 800ml (2 large cans) coconut cream, divided

Method

Crumble your cake or cookies into a large bowl and add 600ml (1.5 cans) of coconut cream. Keep the rest of the cream aside in the fridge.

Add your jam (adjusting amount to personal preference) and stir through. Pour the mix into a suitable container and freeze overnight, or until solid.


Break it up with a fork and whizz it in a food processor until it’s all grainy. Refreeze until you’re almost ready to eat it.

Break it up and whizz it in the processor again, this time adding the last 200ml of coconut cream. Keep blending until it’s light and creamy. You should end up with something like this: 

 

You can eat it at this point, but I popped it back in the freezer for about an hour so it would firm up a little more. 

 

So. Good.

If you have any leftovers I would recommend spooning it into icy pop moulds, as it freezes pretty rock solid again within a few hours. If you don’t want to do that you might consider thawing it out a bit or processing it again before you go back for more – or do what my daughter and I did and just hack bits off the frozen clump with a sturdy spoon!

Midwinter Magic


Okay, so all the goals I set on Sunday weren’t quite as realistic as I’d hoped. The rest of the day was spent gradually shedding and revising plans, breathing deep and letting go.

The biggest setback was when I discussed with hubby whether or not we should buy some ham or something in case there wasn’t enough turkey to go round (I don’t eat heaps of meat so am not the best judge of these things). He then got the idea of roast lamb stuck in his head so decided to take it upon himself to contribute that to the feast.

Breathe deep.

No problem. It can be done alongside the baked veggies. Of course this means another person running around the kitchen but I can adapt. This is about family and friendship and fun – not some dictator ordering everyone around trying to make it all perfect, right?

Then the clock kept ticking and the kids were needing attention while I was still de-cluttering the kitchen and washing dishes. No problem! Let’s do some tidying together.

Cue squabbling over spray bottles and the bathroom floor ending up drenched and baskets of toys upended in the living room as forgotten playthings are rediscovered.

Breathe deep.

I asked husband to be in charge of tidying the living room so the kids will all have space to play together, while I tackled the bathroom inbetween food prep activities (that are now more complex as I have to choreograph my movements around him, not that I’m annoyed or anything).

Hubby reminded me that he wanted to try his hand at the mulled wine this year. No problem! One less thing for me to worry about, right? Then he begins sampling the wine and enjoying himself – and losing all concept of time and stopping for frequent chats.

Breathe deep.

I love this guy, quirks and all. It’s not like I’m keeping to my own ideal timetable either. Let’s slow down, enjoy ourselves. So what if he’s digging out candles for the table and taking his sweet time zesting those oranges rather than neatening the living room? Our friends love us even though we’re the messy, disorganised people we are and OH CRAP IT’S 3PM ALREADY AND I HAVEN’T STARTED ON THE SOUP OR QUINOA YET! PEOPLE WILL BE TURNING UP IN AN HOUR!!

Breathe deep.

I put on the quinoa to boil while I tidy the kitchen sink and gather up ingredients for the soup and crumble. I’m starting to think we might just do poached apple and pear with the ice cream – and then realise that time constraints mean we’ll be trying to poach fruit, mull wine, AND make soup at the same time. Our stovetop isn’t big enough for that.

Breathe deep.

You know what? There’s more than enough food as it is. I’ll just drop the soup altogether. Once my friends add the bread rolls and salad they are bringing as contributions we’ll have an impressive enough spread without it.

Good-o. I’ll just give the bathroom a quick once-over (thankfully it’s pretty clean anyway) and go check on the living room – which is still a complete mess.

SNAP!

Right.

I see.

I grab an empty basket from the kids’ room and start throwing handfuls of toys into it, fuming the whole time. I’m so sick of being the only person who cares about this shit! I think to myself. How can the kids play with their friends in all this chaos? Where are people even going to SIT?!

“Mum can you get me some sparkly water?” My oldest asks, eyes not leaving the TV while she completely misses how cranky I am.

“Why?” I yell.

She looks at me, startled.

“I have repeatedly asked you two girls AND your father to clean up this room today and none of you have done a DAMN thing! Our friends will be here any minute!!”

A chorus of sorrys follows while I continue slamming things into the basket. Suddenly I realise: I just turned into my mother.

Shit.

Breathe deep.

“Well, if you’re happy with the current state of the living room that’s fine with me.”

I put the full basket in their room and go back into the kitchen. “Sorry hon. I’m trying hard not to stress out but it all boiled over.”

“You could have talked to me about it first.” he huffs over a saucepan.

*blink*

WHAT?! How many times do I have to gently suggest that cleaning the living room is more important than starting the mulled wine before you take it seriously?!!!

Breathe deep.

“Well I didn’t want to come off like I was nagging. Could you finish up in there when you get a chance though?”

We have a quick hug and I start chopping up apples while he does more tidying up. Minutes later one friend arrives with her daughter, along with a salad AND a bonus container of homemade chocolate macaroons.

It’s decided: poached apple with ice cream and macaroons for dessert.

Now that things have been simplified I relax some more and chat and sip wine. The girls run around excitedly and play dress-ups while hubby and I finish setting up the kitchen and thickening gravy and stuff. We have five adults and four kids altogether so I set up a play table as the “kids table” separate from the grown ups. 

 

It’s the first time I’ve ever done that since having kids! REALLY felt weird being on the “adults table” side of the equation but the kids loved having their own space. It was an unexpected rite of passage. *sniffle*

And I must say, the dining table did end up looking rather smashing with all of hubby’s tweaking. 

 

(Excuse the spilt quinoa – Miss 6 got in there before I took the photo and I decided it should stay rather than be prettied up!)

Everyone agreed dinner was delicious (well, all the adults anyway. The kids probably would’ve done better with the potato and leek soup and were too excited to do more than graze). The mulled wine was warming and flavoursome, and with relatively low alcohol content could be quaffed with abandon.

Best of all? The ice cream turned out SO WELL! I was pretty proud of myself (don’t worry, the recipe is coming right up). 

 

From front to back: ice cream, poached apple, macaroon. The poached apple wasn’t so great, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad at all.

All told it was a super fun night. Plus we’ve managed to build on the cleaning momentum a little for the last couple of days and kept the darn living room nice and clear. I even sorted through some clutter boxes yesterday – and actually threw out some stuff. Totally giving myself props for that.

Next year? Get all the cleaning done the day before and simplify the menu from the outset (preferably including more kid-friendly stuff). Considering things went more smoothly than last year I feel confident that I’ll totally nail it next time.

I mean, with another year to plan things how could I not? Right?

Note to Meg: it doesn’t have to be perfect

I’ve fallen back into the perfectionism trap.

It sucks so much! But I’ve crawled out before – I can do it again.

I’m writing and posting this in ten minutes. If it doesn’t fit an overarching narrative, so what? I don’t have to make sense all the time. I don’t have to document every step to blog about something effectively. It can be fun to jump into something halfway through.

With that in mind, it’s the Winter Solstice tonight. Last year I started off what I hope to become a family tradition of having a Midwinter Feast with a few special friends. It’s on again this year. Tonight.

It crept up on me this time so I only started planning a week ago. Things are in place pretty well though. Check out my to-do list: 

 

Note how it’s chock full of realistic goals, time frames, and divisions into “must do” and “this would be nice, but can drop if necessary.”

Plus I already have the turkey in the slow cooker: 

 

AND I made up some “cookies and cream” coconut cream-based ice cream last night, and have been breaking it up and re-freezing already through the morning so far:  

 

My guests are due in five hours so we can feast as close to sunset as possible. I can not only do this, but enjoy myself too!

Will keep you posted. 

(Okay, so that took me twenty minutes to write. Still, progress!)

Clawing my way back

Since last we met

My friend went into the shelter system, got soundly berated by the Department of Housing for how she’s dealt (or rather not dealt) with things, confirmed that she’s black-listed on any and all tenancy databases, and consequently moved interstate to Melbourne to try her luck there. She moved out of our place just after my last post – and lasted about five days before having to come back, as the various agencies who run the shelter system in Sydney simply could not find them anywhere to sleep (they run on a day-by-day basis so it’s all subject to availability).

Having that short break really highlighted exactly how hard it all has been on my family. I ended up having to tell my friend that apart from everybody else, I personally had hit breaking point and really needed to remove myself from the situation for a while to avoid total burn-out. She 100% sympathised, and that was the clincher for her deciding to move: considering she had exhausted the few support systems she had here, she really didn’t have anything to lose by uprooting anymore!

They caught the overnight train a few days ago and so far things are definitely going better for them. They’ve been put up in a motel and are getting friendly and helpful support. I guess that’s what happens when the system isn’t completely overwhelmed by demand! I do love Sydney, but it is getting harder and harder to live well here if you have anything working against you.

We still have a mountain of their stuff here and are trying to consolidate everything to pack up and take to the storage unit. Once she’s established herself we’ll work out how to get it all down there. Leaving that one for future Meg to deal with though…

For now I’m consolidating my energy and refocusing on my own little corner of the world. We’ve smoothed things over with the landlord and will have a house inspection in 6 weeks (or earlier if we get the place in shape more quickly). I’m getting my potter on whenever I can and slowly creating oases of calm here and there, and finding my way back to routines that nourish and support our household again.

Most importantly, though, I will spend this weekend in self-reflection. I’ve learned a lot about myself through the trial by fire of the last two months. I need to unpack it all and properly reflect so I can move forward even stronger and happier than before.