Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Squeakers

Our family has some new members.

They are squeakers.
They are fluffy, furry, four-footed girls who love to munch, munch, munch.
They are guinea pigs.
My guinea pigs.


I got them for myself for my birthday.  Long story, but the short version is that Boyo hates guinea pigs but I kept hoping he might change his mind.  After nearly nine years, I finally figured out that this wasn't going to happen.  I decided I needed them anyway.  Having another three years of study before me, I needed something that was 'just for me,' a sanity helper, something to stroke.  I nearly got rabbits.  I'm so glad I didn't.  I don't actually like them.  I'm scared of big rabbit feet.  Guinea pigs have little legs, soft bodies, and cuddly dispositions.  Okay, so not all of them are cuddly, but when well cared for, most are.  I love that they talk to me.  Sometimes it does get a bit much, I admit, but mostly I love the squeaking. 

Munchkin thinks they are great.  He likes to have cuddles.  He reads books to them, tries to force feed them, and helped me bath them.  He is learning that it is never appropriate to poke an animal's eyes. Never, Munchkin, never.  He is learning that having pets does require work.  We have to move their cage every day, pat them every day, and every week I clean their straw out (onto the garden, yay, more mulch!) and refill their waterbottle.  As you can see, he has been very interested in the makings of the cage even before the guinea pigs came to live in it.

I built the cage myself.  And wondered why.  It is not quite square as I forgot to check some measurements of the pre-cut stuff and one was a bit longer (or was it shorter?) than the others and I didn't realise in time.  But it is sturdy and easy to move.  It needs a paint to help keep it dry.  I have just confirmed that this week after a week of mostly wet weather.  The girls were not wet, but they were slightly damp in there!

Squeak and Licorice came to us with their names.  They were breeding stock, and have both had litters before.

Squeak is the whirly white one.  She is slightly indolent.  Okay, quite indolent (read: lazy).  She likes to eat all day long, even while lying down.  She is easy to pick up and hold because she is such a relaxed personality.  If you ever get the chance to meet her, you will understand why she is so named.  When eating she is quiet.  Otherwise, she keeps up a steady stream of quiet, or not-so-quiet squeaking.

Licorice is not relaxed.  She's a bit more savy than that.  She has short hair, mostly chocolate.  She is middle aged already so is very used to people and their ways.  She knows all about how fast you have to move to beat the person to your outside door before they can pick you up.  She has attitude.  Licorice likes to be on the move, watching all the goings on.  She is quiet.  You hardly ever hear her squeak, though she does make a gorgeous little 'brrrr' when rubbed in just the right spot.  She too likes to eat.  I think all guinea pigs like to eat.  Apparently very loudly (according to my husband).

They have settled in really well and I'm glad I chose to get piggies that are already used to people.  It makes negotations with the toddler so much easier, and interactions less fraught with pee on clothing (nary a pee in sight thus far!).  We have a little plastic container lined with shredded paper that the girls come inside in on occassion.  Otherwise they are usually wrapped in a piece of overlocked towel.  Guinea pigs like to burrow and I'm happy to accommodate if it means they like me more.  Grin.

I am a very happy piggy owner.
My husband is tolerant.  He knows it is not worth him being nasty to the cavies.  I know not to expect anything more.  It has been a peaceful transition.

Amy

ps - I built the cage, my parents bought the equipment, and Boyo actually ended up giving me the money to buy the girls!!! I have a most wonderful husband!  Mwwwwh. (that is a kissing sound, by the way!).

Stop and See



What do you see?  Something beautiful, I hope.  That's what I see.
Yet only one of these flowers came from my garden.  The alstromerias...those are the bigger peachy striped ones in the middle.

Even those are growing underneath the banksia rose, wedged behind another plant, in a tiny strip of ground beside our driveway.  I didn't even realise they were there until at least a year after we moved in.  I'm wondering if I should move them elsewhere. Somewhere they will get sun and attention.  But I'm worried that might kill them!  They seem to be doing quite well on neglect.

All the others in this lovely bunch of flowers, I picked on a walk one day down our boardwalk.  There's manuka.  It doesn't last long in a vase but I just couldn't resist the small white flowers.  Then the deep purple weeds we get around here - I don't even know what they are called but when you get a whole deep purple drift of them, it's an amazing sight.  They can grow as tall as I am and love to populate gravelly, abandoned ground.  Then there's the white ones and the yellow ones.  Some flowering fennel or wild parsnip and some ragwort?  I'm not really sure, but I thought they were pretty and I wanted a change so they came home with me.

Isn't it amazing?  Here in a vase, they look incredibly beautiful.  Yet I walk past them almost every day, and see only weeds.  But what makes them weeds?  They ability to survive, and thrive in a hostile environment?  That we want to pull them out to make room for more conforming plants?  I'm always amazed at the beauty that is tucked all around us, into every aspect and facet of the natural world.  We spend our whole lives in it, yet so often miss it.

I hope you have a day filled with beauty.  Beauty seen and found and felt.
Amy

Noodles Anyone?

I found an easy noodle dish recently that is likely to become a regular summer dish.

Easy, quick, versatile, and tasty.  Excellent!

Called Noodle Salad, this recipe came from Nourish Magazine but this is my adaptation based on what I had available.  You could serve it hot or cold (cold is great on a hot summer's day).  Add some shredded meat if you want.  I didn't bother.  It tasted fine without it.  Use some gluten free pasta for a GF variation.


Cook 1 packet of egg noodles as per directions (usually 250-300g of noodles, in 4 clumps in the packet so you are using the whole lot).  To cook noodles, you usually want a large quantity of boiling, salted water.  After cooking, drain these and rinse with cold water.  Cut them up with a pair of sizzors otherwise you probably won't get them into a bowl!

Finely slice:
1 spring onion
Handful of cherry or small tomatoes
2 stalks celery
1 red or orange capsicum

Heat on stove (so it melts together):
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup sweet chilli sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 cm piece of root ginger
3 cloves garlic
3 Tblspns brown sugar
1 Tblspn fish sauce

Mix it all together. 
Add some fresh herbs or green leaves (spinach, lettuce, chives, parsley, corriander) or some shredded chicken, or pre-cooked prawns.  You could also add peas, corn, snowpeas, or beans.
Serve. 


YUM!

We are officially into summer now and the weather seems to agree, so I'm trying to make more meals that require little cooking time and are lighter to eat.  This one's a winner.
Do you find your meals change with the seasons?

We were finding it so hot this past week, we even moved the outdoor table and chairs under the trees and ate our dinner outside!  I'm looking forward to more outdoor meals, just as soon as we get some fine weather again.



Amy

Treasures

We all have them.  Those little things we count as precious.  Some are valuable because of their price.  Others because of who gave them to us or how we came to find them.

Munchkin has a new treasure box.

It's an empty Roses Chocolates Box.  Shiny blue, just the right size for small hands to cart around.  A catch on the top that he can (usually) do up on his own.

He needed one.

We had a growing collection of small things that had no home.
Several ciccada shells.
Half a dead bumble bee (because Mummy made sure he had the part that couldn't have an old stinger attached).
Various empty snail shells.
Some interesting seed pods of varying shapes and sizes.

I handed him the box as a short-term occupier, thinking he might pop a few things in there (most probably cars) before shredding it or squashing it.  Nope.  He loves it!  It is now his treasure box.  When we come home with more little things now, they have a home to go straight into.  He loves to take them out and look at them, then pop them all back in.  Mummy loves having somewhere to keep these tiny things so they don't get left littered all over our house.  Mummy loves encouraging Munchkin to have treasures.  His love of the outdoors, of exploring, of investigating, these are all things to be honoured, to be honed, to be encouraged.  But it is nice to have somewhere to keep all the things so that guests don't get too terrified arriving at our house and we don't spend all day trying to avoid standing on a snail shell that's been left on the lounge floor.


Some of you, my dear readers, may wonder why I allow my son to bring home ciccada shells.  To play with slugs and snails.  To stop and poke at sticks and stomp on dirt when we are meant to be out walking.  And I do admit, some days it takes all the patience this Mummy can muster to just let him be, let him see and feel and experience for himself without spending the entire day hurrying him from one thing to another.  Sometimes I do hurry him.  Sometimes far too much.  My own agenda deciding the things we can or can't do today.


I remember another child, years ago.  She came home with things in her pockets all the time.  Butterflies.  Seeds.  Shells.  Pretty stones.  Sticks and leaves and flowers.  Once, her mother couldn't work out why the house smelt so bad.  It reeked.  Like cat pee!  Then she found them.  A whole collection of eucalyptus seed pods carefully tucked into a small girl's jacket pocket.  Treasures found and kept.  They stank.  They sadly had to go, after a discussion with the small girl about smelly things not being a good idea to bring home as treasures.

That little girl was me.  And now I am the Mummy, so I'm trying to remember what it was like, this almost compulsive need to carry things in your hands, feel the smooth texture of that rock or the rough bark of that stick, to stop and listen to the birds, or find the helicopter you can hear in the sky.  I'm trying.  Sometimes I don't get it.  Sometimes I am too much an adult and in too much of a hurry.  But every now and then I do.  I remember.  I enjoy.  And when I look at my son's treasure box, I am proud.  This is my son.  These are my genes at work here.  And it's a good thing, a beautiful thing. 

We found another ciccada shell this morning.


Amy

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Emmanuel

They were poor.

You know that donkey we sing about?
“Little donkey, carry Marry…”
If she had one, it was probably borrowed.
They walked for a week.
Heavily pregnant.
Arriving in Bethlehem, there was no room.
Joseph’s home town.
Every single living male relative he had, with their families, and there was no room.
This wasn’t just a simple matter of “Sorry, we’re full up this week.”
No. This was rejection. This was humiliation. This was more along the lines of, “You married that little whore, so you’re not family anymore. You and that girl and that disgusting child can fend for yourselves. You’ve embarrassed us. We don’t want to know you.”

Eventually, someone took pity on them. Offered them his stable. Probably a good thing he didn’t tell his wife (I can just imagine her, finding out later, shrill voice, “You did WHAT? Let them have the stable?! Those two? You stupid man, you should have kicked them out onto the street like your brother did! What will people think of us, giving refuge to THEM?”

A stable. That’s not so bad, right? Soft, fragrant hay. Lowing animals. Warm and cosy, bathed in yellow light.

Have you ever been IN a stable? They smell off animals. Damp, hungy animals. And animal poo. Lots of animal poo. They are rarely beautiful. And rarely peaceful.

Besides, these were poor folk. This stable was no Ritz Carlton for Animals. It was probably a small cave etched into the side of a hill. Or maybe even just an overhanging ledge. And it probably wasn’t ‘just out the back’ so you could still use the house facilities. Disgraced, Mary and Joseph’s only offer of accommodation was a smelly, damp, dirty hovel on the outskirts of town, which they had to share with the goats. Were they relieved or angry? Or did they weep with both?

We don’t know. All we know is that night, into shame and squalor a baby was born. A baby who will rule the world. A baby who is Emannuel. God with us. He did not come as a Prince. For then we could say that he doesn’t really understand how it feels to be human, to be rejected, shamed, disowned. No, he came as what appeared to be an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy. He came to poverty, to despair, to shame.

He did not come to set Israel free from Rome. Instead, he came to set us free from ourselves. From the bonds of sin that entangle us. From selfishness and from hatred. He came to set us free from grief and loneliness, to connect us with the One who made us. He came. We shunned him. Because there was no fan fare we thought that this can’t possibly be it. But it was.

He was wrapped in strips of rags. His bed was an animal feeding trough. There were no pretty baby clothes or matching embroidered sheets and blanket. He had no soft toy. He didn’t even have his own bed. His grandparents didn’t come and give him soft gooey baby-induced cuddles. His only visitors were some shepherds and some strange people from a far away land (who probably didn’t speak a language his family could understand anyway!). They at least brought gifts fit for a king. Gold, frankincense, myrrh. But what was he to do with those? A baby born into poverty, who probably knew hunger and lack. It’s likely those beautiful kingly gifts were sold to save his life, to buy food while Mary, Joseph and Jesus hid in Egypt for several years so he wasn’t slaughtered by King Herrod.

This is the King of the World. The most glorious being one could ever meet. The one who speaks, and it is.

For [the Servant of God] grew up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He has no form or comeliness [royal, kingly pomp], that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected and forsaken by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness; and like One from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him. Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy]. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole. Isaiah 53

Emmanuel. God with us.

God with all of our petty, disgraceful, dirty humanity. God who loves us regardless. God who LOVES US ENOUGH to leave the beauty, riches and adoration that is rightfully his as King of All, to be born into a pitiful smelly stable to a peasant girl and her betrothed, to be rejected by us, the very ones he came to help.

Yet he still came.

And they called his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Emmanuel. God with us.



I pray that this Christmas, God is with you.
Amy

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way


I read an idea over at Great Fun 4 Kids yesterday that I think is fabulous!

Appreciation Training!

You know, for all those times you hope your kid will remember that they have in fact been taught manners and could dust them off and air them out in public once in a while!?  Especially at Christmas, when there's so much gift giving and receiving hype that it becomes really easy to wish for more and more and more, and forget to say, "Thanks!"

Check out Simoney's post for details, but the basic idea is to create a game in which children have to ooh and ahh over random presents (collected from around the house and wrapped up for the game before being returned to their respective homes afterwards).  They have to find something nice to say about it.  It's a great opportunity to not only remember gratitude, but also get creative.  You could even go so far as to call it the "Appreciation and Innovation Game!"  Just what can you do with a peg that turns it into something you love?  What nice thing can you find to say about an empty toilet roll or Dad's old singlet that's been turned into rags?  Can you put on a funny voice and pretend to be a movie star receiving a priceless gift? "Dahhhling, it's just fabulous!"

After all, for many children, these things we have lying around our homes are treasures.  They don't get fancy toys from K-mart or new clothes from Farmers.  Sometimes it's good to remember how blessed we are.  And to have a laugh while doing it! 

Now, at two and a half Munchkin is probably a little young for this game.  But I'm going to stash this away in my "Christmas Ideas" to pull out in another year or so.  I imagine it will be a ton of fun!  And something that us adults could both enjoy and benefit from just as much as the kids!

Do you (or did you) have any fun ways of teaching your children manners, appreciation, or gratitude?


Amy

Better?

We are facing another year in which Boyo may not have full time work. The building industry here is still very, very quiet and while Boyo has been filling a needed role over summer, he will almost certainly be surplus to requirements come the end of January. Certainly not Plan A on our agenda. But there is another option before us. He could return to study and complete a Diploma in Engineering. This is actually something he has been wanting to do for years, and probably should have done right back when we met and married nine years ago. It’s brand new to our Polytechnic this coming year, and having the qualification would certainly improve Boyo’s chances of getting back into the Civil field. The issue is money (when is it not?!). I’ve stopped working. I needed to stop working (I really, really, really needed to stop working!). But that means we would now have a considerable shortfall should he study next year. So I’ve been talking with God about that. About how I can’t take on a whole lot of work on top of being Munchkin’s mum and studying thirty hours a week. About how Boyo is already working a fifteen hour shift right through the night. About how while we can shave things off our budget, we can’t shave THAT much. It’s not that I don’t want Boyo to get his DE. I really do. It’s that I don’t want both of us studying at the same time again, trying to juggle two study loads, assignment due dates, exams, and work around a young boy who needs his parents’ attention. Last year was incredibly difficult. Incredibly. I really don’t want a repeat. No way. Please, no way. I don’t want another year where we can’t go away for a weekend (like the first half of this year) because we have either work or study six days of the week that we can’t cancel or move.


This whole dilemma has brought up some interesting thoughts.

We are surrounded by supportive family and friends who are all cheering us on, and this is an incredible blessing. I am so very glad to live where we do, and know the people that we do. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But there’s one response I find myself wishing people wouldn’t use. Very well-meaning and I’ll bet that I’ve said the exact same thing on countless occasions without realising just what I’ve been saying. It’s that being in the middle of this ‘less than ideal’ situation has made me second-guess.

“God’s got something better.”

Okay, so here’s the thing. Sometimes He doesn’t. Now I know that really stuffs with our Christianees philosophies of an all loving God, intent on blessing the socks off us. But my reality, at least, is that God does not always have something better and I really wish people would stop saying that.

How could he have something better than giving you the baby you have always longed for? How could going through years of infertility be “better?” How is unemployment “better” than that amazing job opportunity you ‘just’ missed out on? How is losing a loved one “better” than getting to grow old with them? Sometimes God’s route simply isn’t what I’d consider better. It just isn’t.

The issue is the difference in our perspective. He says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, they are very, very different.” He looks at the heart, while I often look at the surface of the matter, avoiding the deeper workings of the soul.

So I guess it’s not that he DOESN”T have something better. It’s that I might not THINK it is. I might even think that it sucks. Had a few of those the past few years.

God’s better and my better are often not the same thing. He says, “This route is better.” And I have a paddy. Because really, I don’t want the rocky, winding route. I want that one over there that looks nice and lush and easy. But he sees things I can’t see. Hidden pitfalls. What is around that corner there. And he’s looking for things I often dismiss as unimportant. I’m all for feeling comfortable and successful. God is much more interested in my character. And training, preparation, and obedience. Honesty. Kindness. Being in the ‘right place at the right time’ for someone else. Because of some of the things I’ve walked through, I’ve been able to be there for friends. And that is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t make the experience easy and to be honest, sometimes I don’t even feel like it made it worth it. But maybe for the other person, my friend, it does. Maybe they needed someone there who knows what it feels like to walk the path they face, even just a little.

I think sometimes God is standing there saying, “But this one is better for you.” Notice? Not that it is just better. But that it is BETTER FOR YOU. Like when my two and a half year old wants to eat another biscuit and I say no because he’s already just had one. I offer him some cheese and an apple. He negotiates. He whines. He has a tantrum. And here I am, his loving parent, just trying to give him the best start in life, making sure that his body gets what it NEEDS not just what his taste buds are craving. Sometimes God gives us what we need, not what we want. It is better for us.

What I have concluded is that while I think it is a bit of false theology to say that God always has something better for us when he closes an opportunity, I do believe that he always HAS something. It might just be different. Now instead of saying that, “God must have something better,” I am telling myself, “He has something else in mind, something different.” And I do know that in that different, there will be blessing. No matter how hard that different might be, no matter how not-better I might think it, he will be right there. If I stop whining long enough to listen, he might just tell how this experience is good for me.

Amy



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Man Cold Alert

I have a man cold.

I hate man colds.


I really, really hate man colds that spring themselves on me just before Christmas, when the humidity and temperature has decided to be summery.

Did I mention I hate man colds?

*For the uninitiated, a man cold is a variety of cold common to men.  It is darstadly, vicious, long-lasting and life-draining.  Man colds invariably leave their victims moaning on the couch, too exhausted to move, requiring loving administration of pain relievers and assorted comfort food.

I am reminding myself that this too shall pass.  That I should really have expected it.  After all, I stopped.  Stopping usually pre-disposes a tired, run-down person to colds.  Ugh.

I am telling myself to be grateful.  I don't have a life threatening illness.  I don't have to drag myself round eight hours of cleaning either.  I don't really  have anything pressing that must be accomplished this week.  Sigh of relief. 

I don't understand why some people dislike bed.  I LOVE bed.  Especially when I'm sick. So I've been taking myself to bed each afternoon once Munchkin is asleep.  Not that I've actually slept much.  It is a bit hard to really sleep well when you have either a raging sore throat (the kind that panadol, asprin or anything else won't touch!), or your nose is so blocked you can't breathe out of it.  But still, the rest is nice.  I need it.

The kind doctor told me yesterday that I'm on the up.  I'm glad.  I don't really want the antibiotics script he gave me 'just in case.'  My throat is no longer sore, so if the snot-ball would just dislodge from my sinuses I could get on with my life.

Yesterday Munchkin drove trains and cars up and down Mummy's legs, in and under a blanket that he very graciously placed over his sick mother's legs while she lay on the conservatory floor.  Today his grandmother took him out while I cleaned her house.  He got to feed countless animals at a nearby animal park, while Mummy cleaned without having to worry what he was doing to the house.

He is now due to wake up.  I did open the curtains.  I suppose I should go and get him (Munchkin requires gentle persuassion to leave his bed most afternoons at an hour which means he will still want to go to bed tonight!).  It just feels like a bit too much effort right now.  Grin.  Perhaps he can read me some books (my voice not being the greatest just now)?  We probably shouldn't watch too much more Thomas this week.  But then again, it might be nice...


Amy, the snot ball (I usually come down hard with colds, so I even have my own personal 'snot ball' song to mumble to myself - yup, I am weird but I will spare you the song at least!).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Home Away from Home?

I just had to share this with you!




Kiwi's will understand, especially those from the Bay of Plenty, what the reference to Rena means.

I just love the quirky humour here.  Read the words on the billboard on the left...



"Rest, Relax, Rejuvenate" in case you can't read them.  And in case you can't see it clearly, both these signs are on the sides of shipping containers, with porches and decks added to create little living spaces.  I wonder if they really came from the Rena, or it was just a funny idea?  Grin.

This is a small private caravan park at Waihi Beach that we happened to walk past on a recent holiday with friends.



Amy

Friday, December 14, 2012

What I Learnt This Week

I learnt a few new things this week.  And remembered a few others too.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are absolutely sure your child is up to mischief?  ABSOLUTELY certain they are getting into trouble, being disobedient, or otherwise giving you cause for alarm?  Then realised that they were in fact the perfect picture of innocence.  Not only were they NOT doing whatever you thought they were, but they obviously had not even THOUGHT about it.

Yeah, had one of those moments.  We were sitting in the lounge.  Munchkin was in Mamma and Poppa's spare room bed.  His first time ever in the big bed there, and while I knew he was really, really tired, I was unsure if he would sleep.  Then came the noise.  A banging sound.  Not once, but twice did I hear it.  Mamma commented.  She thought it was Munchkin.  I did too.  So off I went, flung open the spare room door all ready to growl my recalicitrant two year old.  Only to find him sound asleep.  So deeply asleep in fact, that he didn't even twitch from all my barging.  Not even an eyelash moved.  He had fallen asleep exactly as I left him.  Mouth gaping, eyes glued shut.  It was definitely NOT him making the noise.  I had to do a very quiet backing manouvre and manage to shut the door without another bang.  Then I returned to the lounge to share the story, chuckling away to myself at how conned we had been.  We have no idea what was making the noise, but it sure did sound like little feet banging happily on a wall.  Just not Munchkin's.

Photo taken after attempts made to wake Munchkin up...He was still not really interested in the world even after a two hour sleep!

All elastic is not created equal. Bought the wrong sort, of course.  Bought braided.  Should have bought ribbed.  This is because ribbed elastic will not curl up inside a hem (i.e. around your waist).  It sits nice and flat.  Braided does not.  Found that out by experience.  Then went and bought ribbed elastic.  Thanks to my friend for letting me know the difference!  No thanks to the shop person I originally asked what the difference was!  In case you are wondering, ribbed elastic has little vertical lines down it.  That's what makes it stay nice and straight.

The ribbed elastic is on the left, the braided stuff on the right...any ideas of something I can make with three metres of braided elastic??

Even simple sewing projects are difficult.  I am making a simple three tier, gathered skirt.  All straight sewing.  No tucks, no buttons, no zips.  Just an elastic waist, and a hem.  Oh, and did I mention the gathers???  Who would have thought that gathering could be so frustrating, time consuming, or difficult?!  I am reminding myself that this is about learning a skill.  Yes, I am getting some clothes out of it that are one-of-a-kind, and that fit.  YAY!  But I'm also doing it to learn.  And learning I am.

One should not place a set of drawers beside a child's bed.  And one should not place a wardrobe beside that set of drawers.  A situation that will be rectified tomorrow, after Boyo and I have had time to regroup from our horror at discovering Munchkin can climb onto his drawers from his bed and reach the top of the wardrobe.  No, we did not have the great delight (and heart attack!) of seeing him actually accomplish this.  I simply came into his room today (after realising his had probably not slept much at all - there was chatting and bumping going on, but I needed a rest so left him to it), and discovered the blankets from the top of the wardrobe on the floor, together with a collection of glow-in-the-dark stars from the side of the wardrobe.  I shudder to think how long he was perched up there for.  And I shudder thinking about how on earth we are going to rearrange his small bedroom so he can't climb on anything from his bed.  Ugh.  And this is my non-climbing child.  The one who didn't try to get out of his cot, not even at two and a half when we put him into his big bed.

Young children have incredible memories.  How did Munchkin know that the star goes on the top of the tree?!  He insisted on putting it up himself and told us exactly where it is supposed to go.  I'm guessing it might have been the launch of our Christmas in a Box ministry at church earlier in the year (around June perhaps?) when we helped decorate a small Christmas tree with lots of fabric stars.  But either way, incredible that he remembers that detail.  I do wonder what else he has stashed up in his mind already.


Popcorn is SUPER easy to make.  I'd forgotten how much so.  We've made a couple of batches.  What amazes me most is how quick it is to get from cold, hard little yellow kernels to fluffy white popcorn in your mouth.  Munchkin thinks it is a great snack food.  Mummy has to agree.  We now have a few little containers of it for on-the-run snacks.

I like to add a little butter, salt and icing sugar!

You can use almost an entire morning doing art and craft activities, even with an only two-and-a-half year old.  Just be prepared for a bit of mess.  And that you will probably finish off a lot of it yourself.  The flowers are a trick I saw others doing...I helped Munchkin draw the stem and leaves, the centre, and then I added the cut paper for the petals.  I think they look really cute.  When he's a bit older he could do something like this all by himself, I'm sure but for now this was a combined effort.  Ok, a mostly Mummy effort, but at least I can say he did SOME of it. 


And the other thing I am learning? Or rather re-learning because I really should know this by now.  It is that I hardly ever get anything done when I think I will.  It almost always takes longer.  You'd think I'd have worked this out after thirty-one years, but no, I still always feel surprised and a bit ripped off when projects end up dragging on and on and on.  The current one is my sewing.  Not helped by using the dining table in between meals, when Munchkin is asleep.  But there's also the half-finished cardigan for Munchkin for next winter too.  I have at least picked that up again and made some progress this week, after it sat for months on end.  And I think I am finally getting the hang of reading the pattern.  I am promising myself I must finish it before starting study.  But then you should see my list of things to finish before I start study!  Grin.  Ever the optimist in the to-do list department.

I suppose I should go and do something off tonight's list before heading to bed?!  Hehe.
Thank you for dropping in and reading my ramblings.

Amy


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And now it's Tuesday

We ended up having a happily occupied Monday. Yay!

This included:
Gardening.  Mummy weeded, dug and moved some plants around while Munchkin dug, and played with worms, snails, skipping rope, ball, and cars.
Mowed lawns.  Lawns which were not very long, but full of clover.  I deprived the bees of their lunch in order to hopefully avoid Munchkin getting stung playing on the lawn over the next few days.
Pretending to sleep.  Munchkin decided that Monday was not a sleep day, thank you very much.  He lay in bed, banging legs on wall, playing with soft toys.  Emerged with pooey nappy, ugh.  Returned to room for a bit longer then emerged to play.
Sewing by Mummy, between sorting out non-sleeping boy.  I have been working on learning to sew some skirts so spent time folding, ironing, pinning, and sewing.  Plus of course rethreadding bobbins and trying hard not to make mistakes!
Feeding chooks.  This involves at least a 25min walk there (Munchkin having to walk part of it these days can add considerable time, as he hardly ever JUST walks - there's always so much to see!), feeding the girls, and then walking back home.  It usually takes our whole afternoon by the time we've had kai (food) after getting Munchy up from his sleep.
Cooking dinner and playing with Daddy (Mummy the former and Munchy the later).  Made the most delicious risotto I have EVER made, hands down.  Never been good at them.  Think I have always rushed the process.  This was AMAZING.  Next time, I will be making more leftovers to avoid squabbles over who gets it (we split this time, but there's not really enough lunch for either of us but neither wanted to give way!).

Today is Tuesday.  Walking to a friend's today, yay.  Play buddy for the boy, and someone to talk to for the Mummy! 

Dishes away?  Check.
Garden watered?  Underway.
Load of washing?  Underway.
Spend time with boy?  Shortly.  Breakfast then playing with cars.
Fruit and veges?  Stop on the way to friend's (could leave it to tomorrow but today suits me better).
Later today?
Cut and sew more fabric.  See about moving desk to bedroom for sewing and later, study.
After sleep time, probably baking (thought we were up to date, but Boyo has made greater inroads than anticipated!), hommus, maybe popcorn, perhaps some more gardening, and of course our green smoothies for today.  Then it will be time for bath, dinner, and evening routines.

What are you hoping to get up to today?

Amy

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Only Monday...

Monday.

9am.

Vacuuming?  Check.
Bathroom?  Check.
Toilet?  Check.
Kitchen?  Check.
Food scraps?  Check.
Beds made?  Check.
Washing?  Up to date.

Small boy time?  Duly spent making two tunnels and car wash for cars, plus brumming round on car mat, flying planes, etc.  Will of course require continued attention throughout the day.  Grin.




Car?  Otherwise engaged in ferrying husband to and from work.

Friends? 

Friends?

Hello?  Anybody out there?  Hmm...this could be a problem.

Baking is up to date.  Made assorted birthday cards, etc last week.  Don't need groceries.  Really shouldn't just watch tv.  It is a lovely sunny day.  Small boy tells me he is uninterested in going outside to throw his ball (the aim of the game is to hit the trees!), drive trike up and down driveway (read: Mummy push boy on trike up and down driveway till boy or Mummy has had enough), or do some gardening.  Might require some persuasion before one Mummy goes insane from boredom!

What am I supposed to DO all day???

Amy

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This is what it feels like!

This is what it feels like. Being a stay-at-home Mum. I’ve never actually been one before. Since before Munchkin was born, I’ve been a student. Then I added part-time work. Spending a whole week at home is just something I’ve never done. Not even for a holiday. We just don’t have them. Seriously, we don’t. We’ve been to two weddings in the past two years, both in Australia (both my brothers). Travelling with a six month old, then a two and a half year old really can’t be classed as a holiday. Then each summer there’s been the scary and rather roller-coaster like ride that is summer work. You take every single shift you are given. Because you don’t know when there might be another one. And you really need the money, because over half your income just disappears when Uni finishes. So I haven’t really had a week at home in years. If I get a weekend when Munchkin is with my parents, I’m either doing an assignment, or building a chook cage!
So this is what it is like. The tedious, monotonous, never-ending length a single day can reach. How can a day be THIS long? The ecstasy and delight of one small boy when his father finally arrives home. The relief of his mother!
The multitude of times my boy can ask “Play with cars, Mummy!?” Seriously, left to his own interests this kid would spend about 80% of his waking time playing with his cars in one form or another. The other 20% being split between eating and reading respectively.
The delight I feel in knowing that I don’t have to do EVERYTHING today. I can do washing tomorrow. Or the day after. It can even sit on the rack for a few days (at least until we run out of something).  The enjoyment of a quiet home for an hour or so in the afternoon.  Munchkin in bed (hopefully asleep most days!) and Boyo at work.  I loved having him around, don't get me wrong.  But I was ready.  Ready for him to head out and work again, ready to have some space and some peace.  Not so ready for the early morning madness that is Boyo leaving for work.  If you know me well, you should know that I absolutely HATE being talked to first thing in the morning.  Don't expect me to talk to you until I've showered/dressed, and eaten.  I think a lot.  But I really, really do not want to talk.   And I really don't like to be rushed.  You can hurry me along the rest of the day, but not in the morning.  So mornings are a little interesting just at present.  Boyo and I are up at 6am.  He leaves by 7:15.  Munchkin gets up to see Daddy off.  Mummy no longer has her breakfast, Bible and knitting time of peace in the mornings.  So afternoons are now even more important.
Suddenly, I don’t have to cram a full week’s worth of socialising and ‘to-doing’ into three days. But also equally suddenly, I am responsible for being nice to a two and a half year old for long periods of time. He sees his daddy for a few minutes morning and night on weekdays, but otherwise I am it. Plus I have to do that without a car at least two of those days, and from 7am Friday through till 11am Saturday. I need to work on maintaining better quality parenting when tired, lonely, bored, and harassed by a toddler. Which basically means I just need to maintain better parenting. I do wonder sometimes if I am doing okay at this. I’m supposed to be ‘an expert’ in early childhood, right? Huh. Whatever. I’m as much in the dark about the inner workings of my toddler as any other mother down the street.
Tiredness has hit me like a train. Seriously, it is not yet 8pm and I want bed. Desperately. But I have back trouble. The sort acquired from carrying a tall boy to near full-term, then lugging him around afterwards with my tiny 160cm, 45kg frame. Back never was terribly strong to start with, now it is a bit, ah, munted for want of a better word. So I can’t seem to sleep for longer to catch up when I need it (which would be every.single.day at the moment). I am telling myself I should have expected this exhaustion. After all, I’ve about three years of not stopping to account for. And now, in many ways, I’ve stopped. I’m reading a book. Two in fact. Two very good books, which is even better! And trying to motivate myself to tackle the sewing pile. Which means tackling the garage (to clear the desk in there so I can have the sewing machine out for more than an hour at a stretch without having to move every single thing again when the boy gets up). But I really hurt my back last week. Like, to the point I was crying in bed one night, and Boyo stayed home from work the following. It is okay now, I just strained a muscle. But it’s still a bit fragile so the thought of moving boxes and furniture, when I have a tired back and an even more tired brain is just a little beyond me today. So I’m putting it off. Which I really shouldn’t. After all, I am sewing for myself. So it will be worth getting it finished. But the books require less of me just now, so I’m procrastinating.
I had two lovely friends cancel social engagements this week. Too busy. It’s that time of year, they tell me. I had to stop and mentally appraise that. Because while I do know it is heading to Christmas and end of year, and things are busy for many folks, I forget. This is the quietest my life has been in years. And probably the quietest it will be for several more to come. We don’t have work socials. I worked for private clients, and now I work for no one (other than my amazing mother!). Boyo hasn’t had work functions (his supermarket occasionally puts on food but it is all but gone by the time night shift starts). I’m an extramural student so no end-of-year things there either. And we keep Christmas pretty low-key. I feel tired enough at the end of a normal year without adding too much Christmas hype to that. And this year I’m particularly glad I don’t have a mile-long shopping list or piles of food to prepare. Simple. That suits me well just now.
I definitely could get used to this life of stay-at-home Mum. I guess it’s a good thing that it’s only for another eight and a half weeks. Otherwise it would be really, really hard to give up when study starts again. Instead, I will savour this time. Savour the time to slow down a little, the time to play with cars and brrrm round the room for ages with a small boy delighting in the attention. I will try not to be bored. I will try to see enough people to fill my talking-tank up each week (it is scary how much it needs!). And I will TRY to get some more sleep! The feelings are mixed. But that’s not a bad thing.
Amy

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"It's a time for giving, a time for getting...

Christmas is love, Christmas is peace, a time for hating and fighting to cease."

At least, that's what Christmas is all about according to Cliff.  Yup, aired out my new Christmas CD today.  I figure that it is December, so Christmas really isn't that far away.  We even put up our trees, nativity and lights today.  Munchkin thought it was a blast!


I so want Christmas to be a time of wonder, excitement and mystery for him.  I want him to wake each Christmas morning with a buzz of excitement!  I remember how hard it was going to sleep on Christmas Eve each year, the fun of special gifts and special food on Christmas Day.  I want all that for Munchkin.

But more than that, I find my heart echoing the sentiments of Frugal Trenches.  She wrote recently, "I want for my children a life where they are content with what they have, where they don’t need to follow the herd in the idea of what “normal” is, where they are happy to give and live a life poured out in all the ways that matter. Where their souls believe in the most important things: gentleness, compassion, faith, hope and love. Where their lens of life is focused on people, not things."


So I've been thinking about conspiring again.  Wonder what on earth I'm going on about?  Watch the cool You-Tube clip below...



Advent Conspiracy.  A conspiracy to return to the roots of Christmas, to focus on Jesus and on giving the way he gave...with compassion, love, and determination.  To give our time, to give ourselves.  Even the Wise Men gave of themselves, travelling great distances to bring their gifts and bowing their knee before a peasant girl's baby (incidentally, I heard once that their gifts may well have been the means of Jesus' and his family's survival in Egypt - being an Israelite, Joseph may not have been able to work as a carpenter there, so they might have sold those incredibly valuable gifts in order to survive until it was safe to return to Israel - interesting thought, that even these kingly gifts were perhaps carefully selected to fulfill a very important purpose.  But I digress...).

Conspiring.  To spend less, and give more.  Through this conspiracy, this bypassing of some of the commercial hype of Christmas, thousands of people have received clean water.  Diseases from dirty drinking water are the single greatest killer of children worldwide.  And as followers of Jesus, remembering that he came to be our 'Living Water,' what better gift could we give at Christmas?!  We still give to our loved ones, just a little less stuff that's all.  We might give them something a little smaller, perhaps something we made, or some of our time.  And instead we give to people who may otherwise never know what Christmas is about.  As Jesus said he came for the sick, the hurt, the lonely, the downtrodden, I think He would be really proud of us doing something like this.

So yes, I am a fan of Advent Conspiracy, although I've done it for years without realising it had a name!

This year, we are getting a family gift.  We don't give presents in our family at Christmas.  This is a tradition from my family, and one I actually really love.  I feel so less pressured at Christmas, without a mile long list of 'to buys'.  But it can feel a bit flat, not getting a single gift at Christmas...all that's left is the food, and I'm trying to curtail our gluttony a little there too.  So I'm working on some Christmas traditions.  Like making our Christmas cake the week before.  Giving a family photo to our extended family (that's our Christmas gift to them).  Telling the Christmas story.  Having our Christmas stockings.  Wrapping Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.  And having a family gift.  Didn't manage one last year (read: things were a bit tight).  This year though, we are getting one.  We're getting some Virtues Cards.  They are a set of cards with 'virtues' on them (surprise, surprise!).  The idea is that this is something we can use at the dinner table each night.  We can each take a turn to choose a virtue, telling how either we or someone we were with that day showed that virtue.  I'm really looking forward to it being a way to each share about our day.

I think Christmas is just like any other thing in our lives.  There's room for compromise.  There's negotiation over what is most important, and less so to us.  I didn't buy candy canes this year (saving that till Munchkin is older, as they have a beautiful story to go with them).  But I did buy special lollies and drinks for the Christmas stockings (Boyo wants at least some junk food for Christmas!).  I bought some cut Champagne ham from the deli and popped it into the freezer, rather than a whole ham that we will be eating almost non-stop for a week and a half!  But I did buy some little candles on special.  Decorations always make food seem more special.  We are still celebrating, just trying to do it without eating to the point of near-popping, and accumulating more things in our wee house. 

We are celebrating the biggest giver our world has ever seen and will ever see!  Jesus.

How are you celebrating this year?  Have you thought about doing something for someone else this Christmas time?

Amy





Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Harmless Daily Addiction

Most of the time, I manage to come across as a fairly sane, balanced person.  Well, at least I like to think I do.  But every now and then, people look at me like I must have sprouted wings, horns, or some other bodily apparition.  A fairl high percentage of these instances happen to be when I am holding knitting needles.  So I'm guessing that a thirty-one year old doing knitting in public is considered a little unusual.  Granny would have been so proud.  I am, after all, quite proud of myself.  While I could never claim to be a gifted knitter, I am quite competent at squares.  I can knit nice neat, tidy squares, row after row after row...

And frankly, that's about all I am interested in doing.  I have a half-finished cardigan for Munchkin lurking around my house.  I will finish it before next winter, I promise.  It's just that I really hate having to decifer a pattern and THINK about my knitting while I knit.  For me, knitting is all about 'down time.'  Me time.  Thinking space.  Or not thinking space, depending on my mood.  So squares suit me.  Plus of course I love to give and this is one way I can give.

So this year, I delivered yet another multicoloured blanket to Operation Cover Up.  In exchange I was given a DVD Operation Mobilisation created about their work (including delivering the knitted blankets).  I was horrified at how little so many folks have living in countries like Moldova, the Ukraine, Albania, and Romania.  I couldn't imagine being in the position of not ever being able to save enough money to buy a jersey, or a new duvet.  I have a multitude of blankets and duvets, one for each occassion almost.  So I was, once again, impressed with how valuable this knitting is.  It might only change one person's life.  But what a difference it might make for them!

Here's the 2012 blanket being finished off.  With my expert lay-out helper, of course!

And finished.  With my critiquing committee giving it the seal of approval.



And delivered...plus the inspiring contributions of others.  My special delivery assistant was helping with this one.  Munchkin is going to think it is completely normal and natural to rock up to a room full of mostly retirees, blankets and jerseys once a year!



And of course, the day after I delivered it, I started the next blanket.  After all, I managed to wool on sale at Spotlight again, earlier in the year so I am all stocked up and ready to knit (and I seem to recall that there was a movie on tv, and I absolutely HATE having nothing to do in the ad breaks, grin!).


I've done quite a few squares lately.  It's been progressing quickly, as I've had mornings free lately!  Horray.  Sadly no longer so.  But they were rather nice, while they lasted.


I'm doing a random mix of squares again this year, but interspersed with narrower strips, first one seen here.  Haven't decided how many I will do yet.


Like my 'scarf?'
Amy



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Recent Happenings

There's been lots going on in our little corner of the world lately.  Nothing terribly earth-shattering mind you (if you don't count Boyo starting more-than-full-time work that is!).

Top of the list would have to be Munchkin's new "Big Bed."

We have actually bought him one of those 'cabin beds' that are a metre off the ground.  But then Mummy had reservations about how safe he would be in it...he is tall for sure (my son is A METRE tall already!!!!!), but he's still little, if you know what I mean.  As the cabin bed was Mummy's idea to start with, she had to come up with a solution.  Found.  $30 bed base from friend's garage sale.  Bonus?  The money spent is helping said friend wend his way to Cambodia on a short-term missions trip to a project we now support.  Thumbs up all round.  Bed base was duly installed in conservatory for preliminary investigations.  Much climbing, jumping (!!), and book reading ensued.  Bedtime stories had to be out in the conservatory, complete with blanket and pillow.  Our boy is a total blanket boy.  He just loves them.  The problem is that he sleeps HOT.  Just like his daddy (only Daddy isn't so crazed over blankets).  So I frequently find the Munchy baby sound asleep, covered in sweat, because he fell asleep right in under his blankets.

Big Bed is now in bedroom.  It has been for a few weeks, it has just taken me this long to catch up with all my photo sorting and editing!  Munchkin really likes it.  It does help that Mummy found him a very cool plane duvet cover on sale for his double feather duvet (he has a likewise cool star one from Mamma and Poppa for his single winter duvet).  Mummy did of course underestimate how hot this boy sleeps, so the feather duvet (which she thinks is just right for sleeping under now!), is way, way, way too hot for Munchy.  Have added 'very light, very thin cotton duvet inner' to list.  In meantime (read: this summer as things are a bit tight), using assortment of small blankets and such from cot.  Munchy does not care.  We just fold the plane duvet back each sleep time, and pop the assorted blankets on top of the cupboard when not in use.  Big Bed will be replaced with 'Big BIG Bed' in due course.  Not sure when.  We want the storage it supplies the smaller bedroom, but will wait till we think Munchkin can get in, out, and stay put safely in it!


Munchkin has been a little, ah, volatile since being in his Big Bed.  Some days he goes straight to sleep.  Others there is a Jack-in-the-Box appearing act from the bedroom multiple times before he finally sucumbs.  Does not help that he can open doors.  Are considering a latch for outside of bedroom door (no, we are not terrible parents, just a bit desperate!  Only for use when he refuses to sleep so he is restricted to playing in his room for at least long enough for Mummy to eat lunch...this we figure is preferable to having a yelling match).  Incidentally, recently had landlord install locks on bathroom and toilet doors.  Yay!  And considering one for inside of our bedroom door (there being a few times you just don't want to be interrupted unannounced by your toddler - he can be surprisingly quiet and we get lured into thinking he went to sleep only to have him emerge with a collection of books, a soft toy and various other objects purloined from his bedroom - are now tying toy cupboard shut with scarf each sleep time but there's still a few things left to play with!).  He always emerges looking so very chuffed with himself!  Till we tell him to go back to bed, which is usually when the tears start.  Or the protestations that he needs the toilet (again!).

Other recent happenings include Munchkin having an 'outside bath' as he called it.  It was morning, and sunny for the first time in ages.  It started with a bucket of water, then we decided to get out his bath tub and swimming gear.  Great fun!  And yes, this is actually his bath tub.  We don't have a bath, so this sits in the wet-area shower.


We also made pikelets a couple of weeks ago.  Scrummy!  My dad taught me when I was young, so naturally this is something I need to pass on to my son.  It was really funny, as I let Munchkin put the jam on himself.  He's never done that before, and I think knife-holding and buttering skills are going to take a bit of time.  A bit of frustration over trying to cut a pikelet in half.  But otherwise a rip-roaring success.  Keeps asking for pikelets at any rate!



And then there was the tent.  I was reminded by Elizabeth's post of the virtues of a good tent so promptly made one the following day.  It was enjoyed, though it didn't come with cars so therefore was discarded after awhile for the car mat in the conservatory!



Then there's the lion we made at Kids Church when I looked after the little tots a few weeks back (Daniel in the lion's den - Munchkin really liked his).

A BBQ with friends - complete with toasting marshmellows and a ride behind a quad bike.



Organsing the making of over 80 Christmas cards.  There is now a large pile of cards on my desk, ready to be posted out to Cambodia tomorrow!  Lots of cutting, glueing, emailing makers and writers, checking names off lists, and praying that these cards will encourage and bless the families they are going to!

And finally the Cherry Choc slice I made for the card-making night.  Recipe courtesy of my mother-in-law who has some fabulous easy-peasy baking things.  This is her personal variation for a Christmassy theme with green peppermint icing and glaze cherries on top.  Really quite more-ish.

What have you been up to lately?
Amy


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Drink Your Greens

We’ve all been told to eat our greens at one point or another. Everyone knows that leafy green vegetables are one of the foods we are meant to eat more of. But why is it that the foods we are ‘meant’ to eat just aren’t particularly appealing. I mean, have you ever heard someone yearning after a bowlful of lentils, beans, or spinach??? Nup. Just chocolate, sugar, fat, or practically anything else that is actually rather bad for our poor bodies.  It sucks.  Sigh.

So how do we do it? How can we include more greens in our diet without feeling like we’re on some self-sacrificing distasteful purge of a diet?

While NZ health guidelines suggest 5 servings of fruit and vege a day as a minimum, ideally we should be consuming AT LEAST 2-3 CUPS of fresh, leafy green veges every single day, preferably raw. That’s not including fruit or root vegetables, or anything that comes from a tin!  I don’t know about you, but I heard that and felt my heart plummet. How was I EVER to manage that? I struggle to eat quarter of a cup each day, in summer salads.
Green smoothies!
I went to a workshop about green smoothies a few months back and am hooked!  I now own two books on Green Smoothies, and make them every week.  This post is for my mother-in-law who requested the recipe.  Here you are, Maxine!  Hope you enjoy.

I love Green Smoothies. So easy, and so tasty. Seriously good stuff.

Green Smoothies are both healthy and easy.
They have highly accessible nutrients as blending is almost like a specialised pre-chewing mechanism
They are full of fibre too, which is where juicing can let us down (we need fibre to help pick up free radicals and toxins in our bodies)
As for easy, you simply throw everything in a blender, then enjoy the results! You can store unused smoothie in the fridge for up to three days and it’s nutrition level keeps really well (just stir before serving as it can separate and discolour a bit on top). I am now sending Boyo off to work with one of those portable thermos tea cups full of smoothie each day! Smoothies are versatile eating. They can be swallowed on the run or sipped with friends at a tea party. And if you get bored of one flavour, you simply choose another mix of fruit to try something new.

Now you are probably feeling a little bit worried about eating something that tastes like grass. I was. But I’ve managed to come up with a slightly ‘toned down’ recipe that still means we eat greens, but really enjoy the experience. My husband and son both eat them. Munchkin slurps and slurps and slurps. Boyo will happily have one a day. We certainly aren’t anywhere near our 2-3 cups of greens a day each, but we are eating much more than we ever did before, and feeling better for it. Now we haven’t suddenly become specimens of amazing health. But we do seem more healthy than before, so we’re happy with that. I’m sure we all want good health, but for most of us that still has to fit within the bounds of work, children, budget, likes and dislikes, and so on, so Green Smoothies is one part of our diet that helps. I’m blending them up about five days out of seven and we each have as big a glass as we want for morning or afternoon tea. We went away recently, and after five days away I really, really wanted a Green Smoothie. Seriously wanted one. I bought a fruit smoothie, but it just wasn’t the same. I got home, bought some fruit, found some weeds and blended away. Bliss.


How to make a Green Smoothie:
You need a blender, some water, some soft fruit, and some leafy greens
To make 1.5litres (which nearly fills my Sunbeam blender) use the following recipe (halve it for less):
2 cups water
2 cups loose leafy green veges, rinsed and cut into small pieces (i.e. 3-5cm – remove chunky stems)
2 bananas, peeled and cut into two pieces
2-4 other pieces of fruit or 2cups of berries

A Green Smoothie in process earlier this week.

Prepare everything first. Put water and greens in blender (remember the lid!). Blend. Once the greens look pulverised, gradually add the fruit while it continues to blend, starting with the hardest first (i.e. frozen berries). You can stop and start your blender, but it will slosh all over the lid each time you restart it, so I usually keep mine going. Once you can’t see or hear any bits of fruit sloshing round, turn it off and serve or chill.

A not-so-green-looking one!
Optional extras:
A little freshly grated root ginger
A sprig of herbs from your garden, such as mint or lemon balm
1 Tablespoon of Chia seed (soak it in your 2 cups of water overnight then tip it all in the blender) – this beautiful speckled grey seed is an ancient grain having a renaissance. Incredibly high in protein and omega three (the highest plant form of it in fact!). Grown by the Aztecs and Mayans it was nearly lost to us as the Spanish sought to wipe out every association to their culture. Gluten free, high in antioxidants, iron, calcium, and potassium, chia seeds really do pack a serious punch! You can sprinkle them over foods, add them to baking, or into a smoothie. The best way to use them is to soak them overnight in some water, then add the seedy gel to food the following day. I get mine at the bulk bins at our local Pak N Save.
Chia seed!
You don’t need yoghurt, eggs, or anything other than greens, fruit and water. This is a really good combination for our digestion, so I haven’t messed with it at all. When I want a protein boost, I add chia seed.
There are many different plants you can use for your smoothies and the more variety we have on a seasonal basis, the better our nutrition as each plant will give us different nutrients. Heck, even different coloured lettuce varieties have different nutrient spectrums.

Possible greens from the garden:
Lettuce (but not iceberg – not really many nutrients in there)
Spinach
Silverbeet
Kale
Mizuna/Tatsoi/Pak Choy (and other Asian greens)
Miners Lettuce
Corn Salad
Celery

Buckwheat and Rye/Oats/Wheat (a green manure in our garden at present that I figured I may as well eat too!)
Pink Russian Kale (milder than you might think)

Weeds you might have hanging around:
Puha
Dandelion
Chickweed
Clover

Fruit:
Soft is best. Ripe fruit will make your smoothie sweeter so try to get it ripe before you need to use it (I’ve noticed crunchy pears do work but aren’t as tasty as soft ones)
Berries are brilliant, especially if you don’t want the kids (or hubby) to notice there are green things in there!
Kiwifruit, pear, banana, mangoes, apricots, etc. You can also include oranges and lemons, but we’ve found the smoothie doesn’t taste good the following day – use it straight away.
You don't have to peel and core, but we do as our fruit isn't organic and our blender not high powered.


Hints for successful Green Smoothie enjoyment:
Try a SMALL amount of any new green to start with – some weeds have really strong flavours, others are mild. Chickweed is really mild. I’ve decided I don’t really like puha or dandelion smoothies. A few leaves in with another green is okay, but on their own they pack a powerful punch and I can’t stomach the flavour. As I make smoothies as a way to ENJOY eating greens, taste is a valid consideration! Don’t pick from anywhere that might get herbicide spray (I only pick from the garden of people I know, however tempting the weeds down in the reserve might look!). Pick what you know. Don’t eat what you don’t. Weed out any inedible weeds from your garden, and always double check your stash before you pop it in the blender.
The other great advice for Green Smoothies is variety. Variety really is the spice of life, at least in the leafy green world. The thing is, all greens have very tiny amounts of toxins in them (called alkoloids). This is to stop animals grazing the entire plant (otherwise greens would become extinct, you know!). A little bit of one here, a little bit of another here, and the immune system is built up by their amazing mineral and vitamin base. A large amount of one green over a week or more and you might not feel quite the thing. The alkaloids build up in our bodies over time if we eat the same plants every day. So have spinach for only up to three days, then try lettuce or chickweed for a couple. Then you can go back to spinach again if you want.

Pearadice - my favourite!
I do hope you can get past the ‘green’ of it all, and have a go!  You might be surprised.



Amy

ps - some basic recipes for you if you are the 'give me a proper recipe' person, grin!

Pearadice
1T chia soaked in 2 c water
2 c chickweed
2 ripe pears
2 ripe gold or green kiwifruit
2 bananas

Winter Green
2 c water
2 c raw spinach
small piece root ginger (peeled & grated)
2 c boysenberries
Victoria Boutenko - Green Smoothie Revolution


Blueberry Zing
2c water
2c fresh parsley
1c blueberries
1 orange
Victoria Boutenko - Green Smoothie Revolution

Raspberry Red
2c water
2c kale (cut it up a bit)
2c raspberries (frozen or fresh)
1 ripe pear or apple
2 ripe bananas



Saturday, November 24, 2012

A New Era

Seasons come and go. I like the changing of the seasons, knowing that they are not permanent. I can rely on the fact that even if I HATE the cold of winter, spring is just around the corner. It will come. Sometimes in an early rush, sometimes a gradual awakening after weeks of grinding rain. But spring will come.

Life is made of seasons. Every year has four. And our lives are separated into seasons too. But the thing with life’s seasons is they are not nearly as predictable as those of summer, autumn, spring, and winter. For while every year must have four seasons and only four, a person’s life can have many. Some may be short, lasting just a few weeks. Others long, lasting years and years and years.

Each season comes with its own delights and difficulties. I like snuggling in under my big, thick duvet in winter. But I hate cold fingers and toes. Really hate that (especially the chilblains!). Boyo, on the other hand, just loves the cold. He lives for winter. He waits for it, anticipates it, and heartily enjoys the frosty mornings and crisp air. Boyo wants to move to Queenstown. Ugh. I can’t think of anything worse than living somewhere where it snows. Except living somewhere that has snow all year round. Like Antarctica.

I’ve been thinking about seasons this week, as a season in our lives has just ended and another is now beginning.


Boyo has a job. A full time, 40hours a week job! It came out of the blue, an amazing, incredible, astounding answer to prayer. I laughed and cried for joy, all at once (and in the middle of cleaning someone’s house, no less)! It’s not permanent yet, but we are hoping it will become so. Either way, it’s a great step in the right direction. But with the new job comes some changes, not all of which are easy. Have you ever noticed how an answer to prayer can be a blessing or a trial, and frequently a mix of both at the same time?!? I’m not quite sure how that works, but it does seem to happen an awful lot in my life. The things I really want, I get them and discover that they aren’t quite as straight forward as I thought. Like being married. Having a child. Studying. Starting a ministry.

In case you’ve been wondering what I was up to those months I wasn’t blogging, I was starting a ministry at my church. And working. A lot. And looking after the boy while his daddy studied. The year has flown past. I still can’t believe that it is nearly December! But then I did spend the first half of the year working over sixteen hours a week, plus looking after Munchkin while Boyo studied. Between us, we either worked or had Polytech six days a week. Things were hectic, shall we say (understatement of the century!). The last half of the year has been a breeze in comparison (I honestly, truly have to credit God with getting me through the first half of this year – I was very close to emotional and physical collapse at least twice – very grateful I made it through and my violin sold which paid for the rest of our trip to my brother’s wedding).

This job of Boyo’s means I am no longer working. I’ve gone from 16+hrs earlier this year, to 8-10hrs/wk a couple of weeks ago, to this week just 2. That in itself is a huge blessing and I’m still trying to get my head around it. It’s surreal! It also presents some new challenges. I get to rest. Finally. I really need it. Study starts 4th of February next year, and I’ve been praying for a break from work before I start study again. Yay! I am enrolled and looking forward to starting again (but not how demanding it is going to be). But while not working is so good, spending a whole week with Munchkin is ah, interesting. Let’s just say he can talk you almost to death. Grin. Boyo commented on it today (Boyo having a majorly tired day today he really noticed the constant chatter). My response? Well, we both come from families of chatterboxes, and we are both talkers ourselves, so what else can we expect?!

Cleaning for two hours with a two and a half year old is a somewhat daunting task. I can’t say that I recommend it. Even if it is his grandmother’s house. I swear, he took every single book out of their bookshelf. There might have been three left. It’s just a shame he didn’t read every single one as it did keep him well occupied. I have learnt though, that it is perfectly acceptable in Munchkin’s world to be strapped into his little highchair at the table with a stash of cars while Mummy cleans. And to allow at least 15 minutes afterwards to read all the books I’ve been begged into promising to read once the cleaning is done!

Friday’s are going to be the hardest. But that is probably because it isn’t just Friday. I will have Michael from 7am Friday till about midday Saturday. You see, Boyo is starting out on a low wage. So he’s keeping his supermarket job to keep the finances afloat. That means he will be out at work from around 7am till 5:45pm Monday to Thursday. Then on Friday he works the morning at his new job, comes home for lunch, and heads to his second job to then work 3pm to 5am. Yes, you did read that right. It is a fifteen hour shift. Our theory is that this is better than working it over two nights as he has been doing, and having to go to his new job on very little sleep on Fridays (as we’ve been waiting three and a half years for this job, we are determined to give it everything we’ve got!). It means that Boyo goes to bed as Munchkin and I get up on Saturday so that also means we don’t get a disturbed night sleep (wahoo – after three years of disturbed sleep from Boyo’s nightfill job I am SO GLAD!!!).

Negotiating car access is interesting. Boyo has been told frequently throughout this year in no uncertain terms that when he got a day job he would not have the car every day. He doesn’t have the toddler, so he doesn’t get the car. We share. Of course, this was assuming he could GET to and from work without a car. Fortunately he can. His (almost unused) bike has been brought out of retirement, oiled, pumped, dusted off, and had lights affixed. The spider webs and praying mantis egg sack were removed from the helmet. Boyo now has a rather sore bottom. And this from one ride to and from work. He was to ride three days a week, but we have renegotiated next week so he only has to ride twice. So I felt sorry for him, okay!

The interesting thing about all this is that I actually feel some regret at the end of our two-student household season. Am I sad that we might finally have some stable income again (no having to find work each summer)? Heck, no! But I am sorry that Munchkin no longer gets his Daddy days each week. He will really miss hanging out with Daddy while I work. And I will miss the solitude of vacuuming alone. Grin. Boyo says he will miss his freedom.

We are poised on the verge of some very exciting opportunities. Looking back and feeling grateful to have made it thus far. Looking forward and wondering how this is all going to pan out.



Amy