Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

30 May 2010

The Year of the Roast - 30th May 2010

I imagine I'll stop blogging about food at some stage but we had another roast this evening.  Roast beef this time.

It was easy.  It was no stress at all.  Hooray! The meat was slightly overcooked.  The vegies, while cooked, weren't golden and crunchy on the outside.  But it was delicious and on the table at the right time.

Things to think about for next time...
  1. The vegies need to go in for a bit longer - probably the last hour.
  2. When the recipe says to add a glass of white wine with the meat, don't think that because it's beef you can substitute white with red because if you do, your vegetables will have red wine coloured bottoms.  (Mine look like they are burnt on the bottom but no, it's the red wine.  Tasted fine but it's not a good look.)
  3. The carrots need to be a bit more chunky.  Carrots don't shrink when you do them in the microwave but they do when roasted.

28 May 2010

Vegie War Addendum

I was reminded today that there was one other stage to winning the vegie war and it happened long before a carrot stick ever hit the dinner plate earlier this year.

As previously mentioned, there was a time when the list of acceptable dinner food items for one family member dwindled down to white carbs (bread, rice, pasta) and meat.  And for a time, dinnertime was a pretty sad event in our house.  We not only had a food problem but also a behaviour problem - tantrums getting to the table, tantrums at the table, banishment from the table...

To get on top of sad dinner times I instituted a set menu which went something like this...

Monday - pasta
Tuesday - pizza
Wednesday - meat and veg
Thursday - stirfy with rice
Friday - fish and chips
Saturday - burritos
Sunday - homemade hamburgers

There was enough there to fill a fussy eater's plate without too much trauma and sitting in the middle of the table at most meals was a big bowl of salad that the rest of us used to supplement our meals.  We'd not gone three weeks when both boys started to notice a pattern occurring.

Dinner times became predictable and safe.  We stayed with this routine for about two months and the dinner wars stopped.  Gradually I broadened out the menu again with the general behaviour back under control. 

And that set the scene for taking on the vegie war. 

25 May 2010

Tuesday 25th May 2010

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39

24 May 2010

How I Won the Vegie War - Part Two

So as I mentioned here, one summer's evening we sat down to yet another dinner with salad, as you do during summer, and I hit the wall.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.

And that was the key.  I hit the wall and I was ready to take on the battle.  It's a bit like toilet training which has everything to do with parental readiness to take it on rather than child readiness to see it happen.  It's all about having sufficient strength to have a go and see it through.  And that night I thought to myself, "This child cannot live through Australian summers and not eat salad."

And so we put a piece of carrot on his plate and insisted (nicely, but firmly) that before he eat anything else, he try the carrot.  Eventually he put it in his mouth and sucked it, like an icy pole. Vegetable matter had passed his lips and that was  good enough for day one.

Day two.  Dinner.  Carrot on plate.  It needed to go into his mouth before anything else.  Carrot sucked.  Onto the rest of dinner.

Day three.  Dinner.  Carrot on plate.  Time to take a bite.  Before he ate anything else.  He took a nibble.  A mouse couldn't have taken a smaller bite.  That was good enough for a first bite.

Day four.  Dinner.  Carrot on plate.  A bigger bite.

Day five.  Dinner.  Carrot on plate.  A dinosaur bite.

Day six.  Dinner.  Carrot on plate.  The whole carrot stick.

And then for the rest of the fortnight - a carrot stick before he ate anything else at dinner time.  We did it for a whole fortnight because we figured it was going to be like introducing a baby to new foods - that we would need to present the same food for many days in a row and once it was accepted, then we would move onto something else.

During the second fortnight we added a cherry tomato to the carrot.  Both had to be eaten before anything else on the plate.

We made faster progress with the tomato because he knew the system.  And then we added a slice of cucumber and then a piece of capsicum.  And then we just increased the quantities and threw in the occasional lettuce leaf.

After many weeks, when we were really tired of salad and the weather was cooling down, we moved on to cooked vegies.  This pretty much co-incided with the night I cooked the famous lamb roast.  I just put a bit of everything on his plate, including peas, and he ate the lot without  protest.  And he can now do meat and three veg like a trooper!

It is probably a bit premature to say that I have won this war.  We have nights when we still have to put the food in his mouth.  He baulks at raw tomato - I think there may be a genuine dislike there but I am not ready to cut him any slack just yet, in case he thinks he can transfer that slack to other items on his plate.  During our training we borrowed extensively from a quote from Kent and Barbara Hughes - "We are not asking you to like this food.  We are just asking you to eat it."   But he will sit at a family meal and eat what we all eat - including a full range of raw and cooked vegetables - with some help.  And this will just keep getting easier and better. 

Next campaign?  Operation Fruit.

21 May 2010

How I Won the Vegie War - Part One

I don't usually write posts about our boys.  They get mentioned in passing but that's about it.  But I thought I would make an exception here and record how we won the vegie war with our youngest in the hope that it may be of encouragement to others who may be experiencing similar battles, just as a conversation that took place over at the lovely Jean's blog here and here and here gave me hope and good courage to press on.

When N was a baby he devoured bowls full of mushed up vegies like the best of babies.  And then he moved onto sticks of steamed vegies at the finger food stage.  His favourite was to suck on cooked broccoli.  He was a seasoned vegetable eater.  Then ever so gradually he started to become selective, rejecting various vegies.  I almost didn't notice it at first and then when it really caught my attention I didn't overly worry because he was still eating some vegies and fruit. Their tastes do trail off, after all, and then pick again a little further down the track.

Gradually fruit dropped off the menu. 

In time I realised that I had a real problem on my hands and at that moment in life, I didn't have the personal strength to take on that particular battle.  Eventually it became a huge problem.  Over time he went from eating a full range of fruit and vegies through to eating none.  He subsisted on carbs (pasta, bread and rice) and meat. He would drink juice - and for a while I tricked him into drinking V8 juice, which he wolfed down, until older brother showed him the carrots on the side of the box...

In the year or two that followed I tried EVERYTHING.  Vegies hidden in bolognese sauce - which eventually led to the rejection of bolognese sauce too and he just ate his pasta plain.  Cute pictures made out of vegies on his plate.  Kebabs.  Yummy dips with vegetable sticks.  Growing carrots. Zucchini slice, carrot cake and banana muffins.  Bribes of chocolate.  No snacks between meals. 

We even did the boot camp thing.  He had breakfast and then for morning tea was offered a miniscule piece of carrot and apple with the promise of delectable, delicious offerings after that, and if not eaten, nothing else until it was eaten.  Executed kindly and fairly.  He had no snack.  No lunch.  No afternoon tea.  No dinner.  Off to bed. We started the new again with breakfast and then the same routine.  Over three days he demonstrated his capacity to stage a hunger strike.

He became so adept at rejecting vegetables that one day,when we were having fried rice, I hid a piece of carrot the size of a grain of rice in a spoonful of rice and within three seconds of it being in his mouth, his vegetable radar had detected it and his little fingers were in his mouth successfully extracting that tiny piece carrot from the rice.  This little guy was hard core!

I received great comfort from a couple of commenters on Jean's blog, one who said there was a great deal of nutrition to be derived from peanut paste sandwiches and cups of milo, and the other who suggested waiting until the child in question turned four and was more rational - to then tackle it as an obedience issue rather than a toddler training issue.  This was very welcomed advice that gave me considerable hope.

So imagine my surprise and complete astonishment when on his fourth birthday we didn't awaken to a completely rational child ready to be reasoned with on the virtues of fruit and vegetable consumption.

And then one evening in January, as we sat down to yet another summer dinner that involved salad, child in question now four years and five months old, I hit the wall.

To be continued.

18 May 2010

Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes

I have just finished re-reading Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes.  One of the reasons I picked it up again was to locate the aforementioned quote - a quote that has served me well.  Circumstances had us move churches six times during the last ten years.  This quote has rebuked me when I have been tempted to personal laziness when in churches with great children's programmes, given me good courage when we were in churches with little or nothing for children and in all seasons, has challenged my thinking and spurred me on as I think about the nature of Christian parenting.

I didn't just hunt for the quote though and leave it at that.  I read the book right through because it's a great book.   It's not a parenting guide as such.  It's more a grab bag of good, solid ideas for godly parenting.  Some of the things they mention are not culturally relevant and some things I just wouldn't choose to do.  But lots of the Hughes' suggestions are terrific and truly helpful. 

One of the suggestions that really took my notice this time around was one to do with food!  In the chapter on building up strong family traditions they talk about meals on special occasions.

We have come to realise that consistency, not innovation for innovations' sake, is important.  So we have established tradition entrees: turkey at Thanksgiving, tamales and enchiladas on Christmas Eve, prime rib at Christmas, and lamb at Easter.  Predictable aromas, especially as they are associated with regular family celebration, enhance the anticipation of the event and more importantly build a sense of continuity and security-which is so important in this changing world.  (p. 51)

I really like this idea.  Building up traditions not just by the events themselves but through the senses.  We do it visually with decorations and music at Christmas and the sense of taste gets the big ticket at Easter with all that chocolate, but I do love this idea of appealing to the sense of smell as well.  I do this with fruit mince pies at Christmas - they certainly fill the house with a particular aroma, even if the children can't bear to eat them just yet.  (Which, I might add, is not a bad thing, because it leaves more for the grown ups!)  But now that I have some headspace to be thinking about cooking, it is worth thinking about extending this to other times of celebration during the year.

The other thing that stood out for me this time throughout the book, with all their suggestions and ideas, is the the Hughes' strong emphasis on prayer.  They dedicate a chapter to the role of prayer in parenting, which includes the list of headings they used to pray for their children - spirituality, character, friends, health, protection, problems, future spouse and praise.  But it is clear that they didn't have a tick box attitude to prayer with regards to their family because every chapter was infused with examples of praying with and for their children - it was underlying all the suggested activities in all their different contexts running through the book.  Regular, specific, sacrificial prayer.

Common sense tells us that the highest priority must be given to prayer if we hope to enhance our children's spiritual development.  Yet this is where so many parents fail to measure up.  Candid conversations have convinced us that many, perhaps most parents' family intercessions are little more than perfunctory nods toward God: 'Lord, bless Kaitlyn.  Keep her safe from harm, and help her to be a good girl and love you.  We thank you for her. Amen.'  This is, of course, an acceptable prayer.  But it isn't much of a prayer.  It lacks specificity, like the generic missionary prayer, 'Bless all the missionaries everywhere. Amen'  - and it is about as effective.  Effective intercession for our chilfren requires that we pray with the mind engaged, in detail, with appropriate earnestness... (p. 60)


I have heard a handful of Christian men and women interviewed at different times - older, godly, wonderful men and women whose children are all grown up and setting their own courses in life now, some well and some not so - who were asked if their was anything they regretted in how they did things with their families.  The universal answer is always, "I wish I had prayed more."  I guess in some respects that this will always be the case but in the context of lives that are naturally busy, it is good to reflect on their wisdom.

Everytime I read Disciplines of a Godly Family (or Disciplines of a Godly Woman, for that matter) I am encouraged and affirmed but I am also rebuked and challenged.  This time around, the challenge is to tighten up my prayer life with respect to our children.

And to cook a lamb roast on Easter Sunday.

17 May 2010

Blogging Question

So, if I turn off comment moderation and trust you to behave yourselves with your comments, does blogger let me know that you have left a comment or do I just have to discover it by constantly checking through all my posts?  See, I like to try to reply to most comments and I'd hate to miss one by accident.

16 May 2010

Cultivating the Soul of your Children

You must never succumb to the thinking that this is the responsibility of the youth group and Sunday school.  True conversion of the heart and soul of your children is your God-given charge.

From Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes, page 64.

11 May 2010

Epiphany defines EPIPHANY as

a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

And I have recently had one.  I mentioned here about being in transition this year from having small children at home to having those children at school and how this year bridges those two states of being with our youngest son at Kindy for two days a week.  It has been surprisingly and unexpectedly difficult, not because I was experiencing the first phase of my nest emptying, but because I have been troubled about deciding what the new normal would look like once both boys are well and truly ensconsed in school life.  Basically, should I return to paid work or not?

After stumbling about for an entire school term wrestling with work options, whether we need or want the extra income, the impact the extra income would have on family life and the impact NOT having the extra income would have and a whole bunch of other stuff, I suddenly came to a decision a little over two weeks ago.  An epiphany.  It now seems so blindingly obvious that I don't know how I could have possibly missed itI've made a decision and it isn't the one I was expecting to make. 

I have decided to stay home.  I am not going back to paid work any time soon.

It's a long story involving several decisions along the do relief teaching, do relief as a teacher's assistant and then to work for a local university as a supervisor of student teachers.  The last option was (and remains) my favourite.  I have been in reasonably frequent email contact with someone at the university in question making all sorts of inquiries and was so close to getting this ball rolling that I had arranged referees. 

And truth be told, it is a job that I would LOVE.

And then I did the maths.  Not the financial maths.  The maths of time.

I would like to try to guard the day my husband has off so that we can have a day off together.  I need to keep a day free to spend time with my mum.  I want to keep teaching Scripture at school.  I want to keep up with the mothers' group I run out of our church.  There are some dear church folk who I want to visit for a cuppa.  There are other friends to see as well.  And I want to be available for listening to kids read at school, preprimary mum's duty, canteen duty...

I just ran out of days.  When I realised this, my initial reaction was, "Oh..."

I came to realise that I had been imagining all the time I would have once our youngest is at school full time.  But his going to school doesn't actually create days.  The days remain the same - just without him in tow.  How could I have missed it?  You should have another read of the definition of "epiphany" at the top of this post now and have a laugh on my account.  Really.  I don't mind.

Couldn't I just squeeze the student supervision into a few afternoons?  Well, yes.  But then my week would be so tightly programmed that there would be no slack in the week.  And that's not good for anyone, especially my household, because I just don't manage stress as well as I used to and anyway, it is good to have some room to move for the sake of spontaneity and crisis.

The big question I asked myself in that original post was, "How as a Christian do I best use the time now given to me to serve God, my family and my community, bearing in mind my own capacities and circumstances?"  Thanks to some beautiful people praying for me, some profound advice, some special conversations with some very caring people and my husband, who fits all of those categories and also showed enormous patience with me as I kept making major, life-changing decisions and then changing my mind on a weekly basis for a while there, and thanks be to God, I now know the answer to this question.

I have decided to stay home.  I am not going back to paid work any time soon.  And I am good with that.

09 May 2010

Mini marble cupcakes

Made from scratch.  Not a Betty Crocker box in sight.  For afternoon tea later on today.

Happy Mother's Day.

05 May 2010

Meredith - Masterchef for the Month of May

Woolworths, one of our supermarket chains, puts out a food magazine once a month called "Good Taste", mainly featuring recipes.  Each month they have four members of the public who serve as their Reader Taste Team.

Towards the end of January,when I was feeling rested and relaxed and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...around about the same time of the year I started this blog a year before...there's something about the end of January that makes me do reckless things...I sent "Good Taste" an email offering them my services.

A few weeks later when school had started and life was in full swing they replied to my email, asked me if I still wanted to play, attached four recipes and several feedback forms and gave me two weeks to complete my assignment.  They would then select a few pithy statements from my vast feedback and publish them with my photo next to the recipes. 

And I am in this month's edition!!!

So I did a Sweet Potato,Zzucchini and Chickpea Tagine (p.47) and the very delicious Rice Noodles with Chicken and Peanuts (p. 38), both of which were great.  But the favourites were Greek Meatballs and Pasta (p. 50) and Pears in Parchment (p.93) which were delicious AND amazingly easy.

The Greek meatballs were made by getting a 120gm jar of antipasto mix (which is hardly any at all - my jar ended up with about three olives, some small pieces of fetta, some capsicum, a little piece of artichoke and a small amount of sundried tomato), dicing it all up very finely (almost mincing it really), running it through 500gm of lamb mince and then forming it into meatballs.  I did this stage the night before so the antipasto flavours permeated through the mince wonderfully.  Then it was just a matter of cooking the meatballs in a frying pan (and yes, they held together despite no eggs and breadcrumbs) in a little olive oil and then throwing in a jar of tomato passata to be heated through.  And then mixing in cooked pasta. 

Meredith was quoted as saying, "The meatballs in this dish are easy peasy and the antipasto enriches the flavours.  It's great with a Greek salad."  As you can see, I am a very high tech food critic!!

The other lovely dish was Pears in Parchment.   This is so easy and so beautiful that it may just become my new signature dish.  You put a slice of lemon in the centre of a 30cm x 30cm piece of baking paper.  Place a pear on top of the lemon, having poked a few holes in it with a skewer (that little suggestion didn't make it in the recipe but my experiment with a second lot found that this stage met with good results) and then sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar around it.  Place half a vanilla bean, split lengthways, with the pear and tie it all up with string to be baked in a preheated 180 degree C oven for about 45 minutes.  Serve with thickened cream.

Said Meredith, "We all loved unwrapping our own dessert at the table.  Don't skip the cream - it ties all the flavours together."

Now, in addition to this being a fun thing to do (ie. one of those mad things you sign up for at the end of the long summer holiday when invincibility is as close to a reality as it will ever be in the space of a year) and the opportunity to have lots of people over for meals, you also receive a prize for your efforts.  Sometimes the prizes are not all that exciting but for May the prize was this...

It is a FANTASTIC Kenwood handmixer that comes with other attachments including a bread hook and a whisk.  It's a considerable step up from my old faithful Black and Decker hand mixer.  So, fifteen minutes of fame, four new recipes, name in print and a new appliance.  Not bad for a mad moment in January.

02 May 2010

Inspiration for the Family

Sometimes when we look through the family album and come to an early family photo, we become reflective.  The photograph is a testament to the potential of every Christian family.  Each child is an eternal soul who came into existence because of the love of his or her parents, something that could never happen to angels no matter how great their love.  Each child is utterly original.  Each has an eternal capacity for God.  At the heart of every Christian family lies the hope that their children will come to know Christ early and will go on to full lives of service.

The opening paragraph to Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes.