Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Xmas to all..

Christmas Eve in Australia...  It's 38 degrees C (ie HOT!), I'm sitting here in tank top and shorts sweltering...

We had "christmas lunch" with Pete's side of the family yesterday - the kids spent most of the day in the pool.

We'll open family presents tonight, Billy and I will watch some of the broadcast Carols by Candlelight while making Christmas crackers to go on the table at my Mum & Dad's tomorrow.  I have some Xmas sweets to make but I'll wait until it's cooler. 

Then we'll read Twas the Night before Christmas and attempt to get Billy to sleep sometime this side of midnight, before the big man arrives. 

To all my friends who take the time to read my blog - especially those who comment - Merry Xmas to all... and to all a Good Night!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gluten free cooking

This is my first foray into gluten-free cooking.

Banana bread

Choc-chip muffins
I've been off wheat and sugar about 80-90% of the time since mid-July.  In that time I've lost 5kg - the really stubborn 5kg that I've never been able to lose no matter what I did.  I'm pretty sure I now weigh less than I've done for about 20 years!  While I'm off wheat, I feel better, sleep better, have more energy. 

Up until now I've just done without wheat things like bread rather than finding GF substitutes.  But sometimes I feel like a piece of toast or a slice of cake - and when I do give in, my stomach complains and I find it hard to stop again.  It's surprising how addictive wheat can be..

Billy also has some tummy issues that I'm suspecting may be related to wheat.  He doesn't eat a lot of bread, but he eats quite a lot of pasta.  He'd eat it 3 meals a day if I let him!

So I've started trying out substitutes.  The first brand of GF wraps I tried were disgusting, the second were at least edible :)  I've got some GF bread in the freezer but I haven't tried it yet.  I mixed the GF pasta in half & half with Billy's normal pasta and he didn't notice a difference.

I bought pre-mixed GF flour and made the recipes above.  The choc-chip muffin recipe was a normal one and I just substitued the flours.  They were a bit dry - not sure if it was the recipe or the flour.  The banana bread recipe was on the back of the GF flour packet and is delicious!  (So good I've had to cut it up and put it in the freezer so I don't eat too much!)

I haven't told anyone else they're eating GF baking, because I know they'd immediately turn their noses up.  They've both been quite happy with the results though :)

Stay tuned..

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homeschooling Monthly Memories - Nov 2012

Hmmm, somehow I seem to have missed recording what we did for some of November - but I know we were busy!  My camera is playing up so photos are in short supply. 

Cubs 'Curriculum':
  • Billy completed his local history badge.
  • One of the dads brought along some frames from his bee hive one night and showed the kids how they extracted the honey.  I'd never seen it done before, so I was equally as interested as they were!  (In truth, maybe more so!)  The kids all got to take home a sample of honey.

Intentional Learning:

Creative Arts

    • Drama classes - they've been doing clowning this term.  Some of the exercises I've seen them do involve impromptu acts - for eg they choose a dress up item, create a clown persona around that and then have to be interviewed about their clown character.  Amazing stuff :)
    • Billy has also has his keyboard out, teaching himself Jingle Bells and creating music for his videos

    • Australian history
      • We finished reading Daughter of the Regiment by Jackie French
      • We read Valley of Gold by Jackie French 
      • Billy researched the Gold Rush for his history badge, as well as researching some local history
    • He followed the US election.
    • He watched lots of Brain Pop movies - I'm not sure what they were all about but I know some were about the American Indians

    • He watched Cyberchase episodes
    • He played Times Attack and we did more on the times tables from the Awesome Arithmetricks book

    Science & Technology

      • He's been doing more Java programming in Minecraft
      • We watched a BTN Health special - discussing diabetes, vision and how sunscreen works

      • He's continuing Italian lessons - clothing, vegetables and time.


      • He's taken part in archery and martial arts

      As well as plenty of time spent hanging out with friends and family, cooking etc.

      Wednesday, November 21, 2012

      RWA Writing competitions

      The Romance Writers of Australia run a full-on competition season with contests for published and unpublished authors, in all styles of romance. 

      Now that I've finished my novel, I've been busy editing it - it's as time-consuming as writing the thing in the first place!  I have a couple of wonderful critique partners who give me advice and feedback as I go, but competitions are a great way to get your work out there anonymously for feedback.

      So far this year I've entered an American contest - the Emily (first 3,000 words), and the STALI (Single Title and Loving It) for the first 5,000 words.  I haven't had word back about the Emily yet - to be honest, I'm not expecting much because my story is quite Australian, but I thought I'd put it out there and see how it did.  A couple of days ago I got my results for the STALI and while I didn't come close to finalling, I got some great feedback - and a wonderful comment that I'll look back on whenever I doubt my writing!

      I've just held my breath and sent off the first 10,000 words for the next contest - the Emerald.  If I'm lucky enough to get through to the 2nd round of it, I'd have to send my full manuscript in, so I'm now very busy head-down, tail-up trying to get the rest of it edited by mid-Jan.  Even if I don't get through to the 2nd round, having a deadline will make me get it edited anyway :)

      Do you need a deadline to get things done?  Or are you an internally-motivated person?

      Sunday, November 11, 2012

      Back into the garden

      It's been a couple of years since I've tried to grow a vege garden.  I had some bad years where everything died, I got busy, ran out of time, so I gave up.  I have lots of excuses - just ask me :) 

      Anyway, some friends inspired (read shamed!) me into starting again.  So I'm starting small with a few veges in containers. 

      Hopefully this time I can keep it going and gradually expand.

      Tomatoes and basil (grown from seed)

      Strawberries - we've already had a couple of berries off it - yum!

      Tomatoes (grown from a seedling)

      Peas and snow peas

      Thursday, November 08, 2012

      Peter Pan

      Some photos that my niece took of the Peter Pan production.  It went fantastically well - a few dramas behind the scenes some nights, but apparently they weren't noticed by the audience.  I was so privileged to be a part of it in a crew capacity - the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes is staggering!

      The play was set in the grounds of the historic Tocal Homestead - you could go early and picnic on the lawn.

      The front verandah became the Darling's nursery

      Jealous Tinkerbell!

      'Flying' away - amazing puppetry

      The Lost Boys of Neverland

      Villainous Captain Hook

      Oh no, the Wendy-bird has been shot!

      Billy (in the furry orange vest) was Curly - one of the Lost Boys

      The Mermaid's Lagoon (with the Neverbird in the background)

      Michael, John and Wendy with the Lost Boys

      Peter Pan scares pirates Smee and Starkey while they are kidnapping Tiger Lily

      A cunning plan by Hook

      Interrupted by Peter Pan

      Lost Boys beg Peter to let them go and live with the Darlings

      Tink dying - 'Children of the world, if you believe in fairies, clap your hands!'

      Hook tries to recruit John as a pirate about the ship

      The Pirate ship & mermaids

      Startled pirates

      Starkey walks the plank

      Listening for the Cock-a-doodle-do

      'It's Hook or me this time'

      Tink, Peter & Narrators

      Impromptu cast photo after closing night - there were about 60 people in the cast ranging from 5yo - adults.

      Monday, November 05, 2012

      Offline October

      Offline October is over.  I'll be honest and say that some days I spent more than an hour online - particularly days when I was tired and didn't want to think.

      What it has achieved though is being more mindful of the time that I've been online.  And also prioritising the time so that it's spent making real connections with people rather than mindlessly surfing and getting caught up in dramas about people I don't know.

      I've (hopefully) been more responsive to personal emails. I've made steady progress on my editing, and gotten critiques back to my critique partners more quickly.  I was also able to read more books - which is definitely a good thing :)

      I've spent more time in the garden, and kept up with the housework more.  I even managed to do some decluttering!

      So all in all, it was a useful exercise and one I should repeat on a regular basis!!

      Wednesday, October 31, 2012

      Homeschooling Monthly Memories - Oct 2012

      This month has been totally dominated by Peter Pan - with rehearsals 2-3 times / week.  The performance has started - they had 3 successful performances last week, with 3 more to finish it off this week.  It's been fantastic, and while part of me will be thankful to get back into routine, a big part of me will miss it!

      Cubs 'Curriculum':
      • Billy has only made it along to one Cubs night this month due to rehearsals.  One of the dads brought along some 3 and 4 day old chickens for the kids to hold.

      Intentional Learning:

      Creative Arts

      • Rehearsals, drama class and Peter Pan performance.  Need I say more!  They've been performing to about 180 people per night..
      • Wrote a Minecraft parody song to the tune of Moves Like Jagger
      Some of the Lost Boys back stage - Billy is in the furry orange vest.  More photos coming once I get them from my niece.

      • Australian history
        • We're reading Daughter of the Regiment by Jackie French
        • We went to the Murrurrundi Frontier Day - we caught an old train there, dressed in period costume (B was a bushranger) and watched a 'robbery' of a Cobb & Co coach

        • We attended an excursion to the Morpeth Museum where they took part in a mock trial and looked at (and in some cases could interact with) historical exhibits

      • Watching Behind the News for current affairs information.
      • Watched a BTN special on Animals and the Environment
      • He's been keeping up with information about Hurricane Sandy as he has friends in that part of America

      • He watched Brain Pop movies on the Beatles, Mayans, Aztecs, Eleanor Roosevelt, Conquistadors (that's just what I know of - he's been watching them by himself)

      • He watched a Cyberchase episodes on predicting from data, interpreting changes in line graphs and time/distance/speed
      • He's been playing a computer game called 5th grade adventures with maths puzzles
      • He learnt to play chequers

      Science & Technology

      • We watched Backyard Science TV shows
      • Played the Totally Gross science board game with a friend
      • He got the circuit kit out for another run
      • He watched a BTN Special on Innovations
      • He's been helping me in the garden
      • BrainPop - videos he's watched have included - dyslexia, fire, Ada Lovelace, Hurricane Sandy, invertebrates, ecosystems (plus more - I've lost track!)

      • He watched a BrainPop movie about dialogue 
      • Learnt about indefinite articles
      • Did an exercise on exposition - including pronouns, adjectival phrases and verbs

      • He's learning Italian with some other homeschoolers - so far they've learnt greetings, asking and answering how are you, numbers and how old are you.  He's really enjoying the lessons.


      • He's taken part in archery and martial arts, as well as a game of ten-pin bowling with friends

      As well as plenty of time spent hanging out with friends and family, cooking etc.

      Wednesday, October 17, 2012

      JuJitsu Seminar

      Over the weekend I attended the Australian JuJitsu Association national seminar in Sydney.

      The dojo wasn't what I was expecting - it was like a giant igloo shaped marquee had landed in the carpark at the Sydney Olympic complex at Homebush.  There was one big mat inside - I was expecting different rooms or something.  We were split into 3 groups depending on belt level - there were over 140 participants on the first day - so it got quite crowded on the mat at times when people were doing throws etc :)  Our Defendo group had about 40 people there (adults and kids over 12) so we made the numbers swell!

      On both days, we had 6 x 45 minute sessions with instructors from different clubs all around Australia.  The brain hurt by the end of it - so did the body!  We did a lot of wrist locks and arm locks, some grappling work, knife defense work, nerve control (I have the most spectacular bruise on my inner thigh from that!).  I honestly can't remember what else - hopefully it will come back to me when I'm at training again!

      This was at the end of day 1 - I'm at the back somewhere.

      As well as the seminar itself, it was a valuable weekend spending social time with members of our Defendo group.  We had shared apartments, so got to know our roomies a bit better in the down time.  We also went out for dinner on both Friday and Saturday nights which let us chat and 'bond' outside of class.

      It was a great weekend and I'm hoping to do it all again next year :)

      Tuesday, October 09, 2012

      Italian lessons

      I had the opportunity to start something today that I've wanted to do for years - learn Italian.  One of our homeschool mums who is fluent in Italian (and passionate about anything Italian) has offered beginner classes, and both Billy and I are going along.

      Today we learnt greetings, how to ask someone's name and how to tell them our name.

      My brain hurts though - it's hard to learn new stuff when you get old :)

      Tuesday, October 02, 2012

      Homeschooling Monthly Memories - September 2012

      Another busy month.  We had our re-registration visit from the NSW Board of Studies and were successfully renewed for another 2 years.

      Cubs 'Curriculum':
      • Billy attended a district wide Cuboree (approx 600 kids in attendance) which had a Medieval theme.  Activities included water activities, old-fashioned games, chariot racing, flying fox & rock-climbing, crafts etc.

      Intentional Learning:

      Creative Arts

      • Rehearsals have been full on for Peter Pan (Billy is playing Curly, a Lost Boy) with several rehearsals each week. 
      • His drama class gave an end of term performance that they'd written themselves
      • He's been learning more about special effects with Sony Vegas video editing software and a green screen.
      • Australian history

        • We continued our reading of Thomas Appleby - Convict Boy by Jackie French

      • He watched Brain Pop movies on the WWII, Queen Elizabeth I, 9/11 and the US Constitution


      • He watched a school show called 'Maths Shorts' covering Phi and Fibonacci numbers
      • He watched a Cyberchase episode on budgeting 
      • He watched a Brainpop movie on stocks and shares
      • We discovered an awesome addictive app called DragonBox with teaches algebra using puzzles
      • We watched a documentary on the history of numbers called The Story of One
      • He's been doing hands-on maths with measuring while cooking

      Science & Technology

      • We watched Backyard Science TV show
      • He did some Java Minecraft mod programming
      • He watched a Happy Scientist video on how to tell the gender of a skeleton
      • It was Natural Disaster month on BrainPop - videos he's watched (and done the quiz) have included - tides, ageing, tectonic plates, ozone layer, winds, Neptune, hurricanes, the heart, digital animation, computer history and computer viruses.

      • He watched a BrainPop movie about plagiarism 
      • He wrote a thank you letter and we discussed how it should be set out
      • We've been playing a never-ending game of Scrabble!



      • Billy watched a TV show called My Great Big Adventure about finding our identity
      • He's taken part in archery and martial arts

      As well as plenty of time spent hanging out with friends and family