Monthly Archives: May 2007

Looking for ways to give

After Group of Four finished the unit on our sponsor children we wanted to think of some ways to give of our abundance to those who did not have as much as us. We tried to think of a project which would not require the children to ask others to sponsor them or buy from them. Although we are still looking for ways and opportunities for our families to give to others we did get involved in a couple things during the last two weeks. Last Thursday we visited a down town mission here in our city. We arrived late morning in time to serve the cookies we had made to those who were there. The children were able to serve and chat for a while to the lunch time gathering.

One of the volunteers then took us on a tour of the premises explaining to all of us exactly what goes on at the mission. He explained the hours of operation and what was offered when they were open. It is not a mission which provides accommodation but is open daily serving snacks, lunches or Thursday night dinner. They also provide computer access and assistance, classes, counseling, clothing, laundry coupons and visits. They keep a stock of non-perishable food and other necessities to give away where needed. Our guide was fabulous, keeping up an English accent for the children (in order to sound like a tour guide), covering the reasons why a mission is needed very sensitively and talking about the opportunities to serve Christ in serving others.

This unit and this field trip has got me thinking about what I can be doing for the “poor who are always with us”. I have been blessed with so much. Perhaps we will be able to go back to the mission down town and get involved there, I’m not sure, but I am praying about it. The family who lined up the visit for us have been involved there on an occasional basis, making and serving food, as well as playing music at the Thursday night dinners.

After we left there we wandered around at the tulip festival for a while snapping photos and enjoying the sunshine.

Do you cook by the book?

I am a recipe follower, many of my friends are not recipe followers. I believe they use recipes for baking, but when it comes to making dinner they just do what they think will work (and it does). Seeing that I have been cooking meals ever since my parents left home when I was 21, you would think I would have a huge repertoire by now. Why is it then, that I can often only think of three things to cook? By Thursday my mind is blank.

Towards the end of last year I was inspired by Tonia to use a meal plan again. I have tried keeping to a meal plan before but never one which included the weekends, so this time I have made up several meal plans covering Monday to Sunday. I found that when I started it went very well. I made my grocery lists from the meal plan and I spent less and we wasted very little. In order to make up my meal plans I browsed through recipe books (we have quite a lot) and picked favourites, tried and true, and a few new ones that looked interesting.

We have many recipe books, and there are a few favourites I get out just about every week. For Indian food I like Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. For Italian, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking is well, essential, actually. I will also make a stir-fry each week and maybe a stew in the slow cooker, although it’s BBQ season now so the slow cooker will probably have a rest. I do have plenty of places to go for ideas but I still get stuck. This is where the meal plan is great. Just lately, however, I haven’t been sticking to a meal plan and cooking dinner is a challenge again. So I need to return to thinking up a week’s worth of meals and then shopping accordingly. The hard part will be done, I’ll just have to cook them!

Last night’s dinner was from Marcella’s Kitchen:

Conchiglie con Peperonie Verdi, Rossi e Gialla alla Panna

40g butter
1tbs vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped not too finely
2 medium green peppers (capsicum) diced into 1cm cubes
2 medium red peppers diced into 1cm cubes
2 medium yellow peppers diced into 1cm cubes (I used 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange)
black pepper in a grinder
150ml double cream ( I used 2 tbs because that’s what I had; it was fine)
450g conchiglie (pasta shells)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
50g freshly grated parmesan

  1. In a 25-30cm saute pan put the butter, oil and chopped onion and turn the heat to medium. Saute the onion until it becomes coloured a pale gold.
  2. Add all the diced peppers, turn up the heat to medium high, and cook until tender, turning them from time to time.
  3. Add the salt and generous grindings of pepper, stir well, add the cream, and turn up the heat to high. Cook until the cream is reduced by half.
  4. Drop the pasta into a saucepan of abundant boiling salted water. Cook until it is barely tender but firm to the bite. Drain and toss immediately in a warm bowl with the peppers and cream and all their pan juices. Sprinkle with parsley and grated cheese, toss again and serve at once.

Another way to get over the “I can’t think of any thing to cook” syndrome (which is the culinary equivalent of the “I don’t have a thing to wear” syndrome) is to cook with a friend. And that is what I did for tonight’s dinner. Chicken Pot Pie, made this afternoon, two cooks, half the work, twice the enjoyment!

Dragonflies and Sharks

Tonight B6 and A10 started their soccer season. B6 is in the Dragonflies and they had a convincing win over the Fireflies. I think the game lived up to B6’s expectations; he has been very excited about playing his first team sport. A10’s team the Sharks were not able to defeat the Stingrays but did show some understanding of playing as a team.

Last week our softball team had a practice in preparation for our first game tomorrow. It was obvious at the time that I had not swung a bat or caught a ball since last season and it was also painfully obvious the next day when it hurt to lift my arm above my shoulder!

That time of year

It is the time of year when some things are winding down and others are starting up; it can be rather busy. This year looks like being no exception. I was talking to an Australian friend at Christmas and she mentioned how nice it must be to end the school year in June and not in December when everything gets crazy and busy. I have found that everything gets quite busy twice a year. There are Christmas plays, recitals and visits, parties and specials services in December. In May and June there are end of year recitals, concerts and parties while trying to finish the school work and fit summer sport in too.

Our violin commitments are not over yet, there are three more concerts with the necessary rehearsals preceding them. There are two tv spots promoting a fundraiser, auditions and then a retreat for the performance group introducing next year’s music.

Next week softball starts for Andrew and I, soccer for B and A and then before soccer finishes, tennis lessons for L,A and B. Swimming lessons continue for a month yet also. It is very nice to be contemplating all this time outside, but not the logistics of getting everyone to the right field at the right time, fed and clothed appropriately!

A pirate tale

When B turned 6 he started receiving an allowance. We explained that we would like him to learn to save for things, be generous and make wise purchases. When he was shopping for a gift for a friend a few weeks ago he saw something he very much wanted to own. After showing me the foam sword yesterday I think he was a little surprised when I said yes, he could buy it. I did explain that I didn’t think it was worth the price but I thought he would have fun with it.

I paid for it on the understanding that he would give me the money when he got home. Sadly, once back at home he could not find his money anywhere. The sword was placed in my room for safe keeping until he could find his cash! I wanted him to realise that having money is a responsibility and he should keep his in a safe place and remember where that place is. At bed time the money was still missing and he was a sad boy. Not, as I thought, because he couldn’t have his new sword, but because he was already having misgivings about his purchase. There was a different sword which he believed would be much more fun. I didn’t display much sympathy I’m afraid.

Having exhausted all the possible places in his room where a money box might be hiding I sent him down to the playroom to sort and search the toy box. No luck, but A10 saved the day by finding it in the dress ups. I was paid. He took possession of his sword and then the fun began(yes, it seems he can have some fun with his sword after all). At dinner time a pirate joined us complete with headscarf, ear ring and sword. My favourite part was not the costume though, it was the titles. He talked non-stop during dinner and had an answer for everything. His ship is the Black-eyed Tooth , his captain the Black-eyed Blood , his sword is Skeleton Claw and his name: Skinny. He even had the story ready, in a nutshell, if we wanted to know how he got his name. And he kept asking for rum!