Monday, July 29, 2013

How to care in times of crisis

Meredith posted an excellent summary of an article called "How not to say the wrong thing".  It's basically works on a series of rings from the person in the centre of the crisis outwards.  The principle is "Comfort in, dump out".  Read Meredith's explanation - too good not to share!  It just might help me NOT to put my foot in my mouth next time.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today, I'm thankful for the birthday we had in our household this week.  As we watched the Royal Couple enjoy their firstborn, we were celebrating the youngest of our own tribe.  And I am thankful he is here and safe and sound.  And I'm thankful for God bringing us safely through that final pregnancy.  On the night he was born, I remember telling the nurses this was "the happiest day of my life".  Admittedly, I was enjoying quite a morphine high that night.  But it was still true - I was so thankful that he was safely here and that all of the pregnancy drama was over for us.  And years on, I'm still thankful for that day and for all he is growing up to be.  Even the not-so-delightful moments.

 You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Do nine-year olds diet?

Last week, we were in a line of traffic behind a bus with a big weight-loss ad.  This prompted my nine-year old to tell me about a girl in their class who "wants to lose heaps of weight".  I kept it casual and said, "You know it's great to think about eating healthy food and exercising to keep well.  You do lots of healthy exercising and Mum works hard at cooking you guys good meals so you don't need to worry about what you eat."  The conversation moved on.

Nine years old.  I thought we had a bit more time.  It looks like the time is now.

I don't want for a minute to discourage parents who are tackling a weight problem their children might have developed.  Childhood obesity has long-term health ramifications.  I don't know much about this child's situation but if her parents are taking good nutritional advice to help her get a healthier lifestyle, well, good on them.

But of course in today's world you get anxious as soon as you start to hear young girls discussing body size and diets.  And here is the twin peril - a society who has so lost touch with healthy food and portion size that we have children who are struggling with their health because of obesity and a society so obsessed with being thin that we have children who are choosing not to eat.

And here we are as parents trying to land somewhere in the middle and find a balance between promoting healthy food and not making our kids paranoid about every bite they take.  We all start out thrilled when they begin to feed well and progress to solids without dramas.  We love to feed our little ones and we are thrilled when our early culinary adventures meet with success.  But then at some point, we have to begin to think about limits to food:  "No, it's nearly dinner time.  You need to wait," or "You've already had a lot of treats today.  Let's choose something else."  And I find it hard sometime to work out when it's right to do the most natural thing in the world - feed my child - and when I need to say "no" or "not yet" in order to teach them to think through food choices and quantities.

Adding to this complex balancing act is the difficulty of working out what food is healthy anymore.  Ideally, we cook our own food from fresh ingredients.  In reality, most of us rely on packaged food at least some of the time.  Words like "lite", "fat-free" or "natural" jostle for our attention on the supermarket shelves but have been proven to be virtually meaningless when it comes to making a healthy food choice.  And, sure, we can read the fine print on the side of the packet, but I have no idea how much salt is okay in 100 grams and even the RDI doesn't really help.  If it's 34% of my daily intake should I have it or not?  What will the other foods I eat today contain?  If I was able to say something like, "An apple pie I bake at home will have 20% of my daily salt intake per slice and an apple pie I buy frozen from the supermarket will have 60% of my daily salt intake per slice" then I'd know where I am.  But as it is, I just have all these numbers and no idea how to make sense of them.  I guess the answer is to rely on stuff you make yourself as much as possible.

Here's a really good illustration of how confusing "healthy" food claims are in our supermarkets:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Carrots and fighter pilots


When I was growing up, it was a commonly accepted fact (amongst mothers especially) that eating carrots would improve your eyesight, perhaps even help you to see better at night.  Most of us never questioned this pearl of motherly insight.
However, it owes its origin, not to nutritional science, but to Britain's RAF during WWII.  In case you don't know the story, Britain's fighter pilots were the first to use radar to locate and shoot down enemy planes.  They didn't want the Germans to know about their secret weapon and so they needed a plausible explanation for why their pilots were suddenly so accurate at night time. Thus they circulated a tale that it was because their pilots were eating a special diet high in carrots that they were able to see so well at night.  The information campaign was so successful that many people still believe it today, unaware of it's origin.
Now I was taught this interesting bit of information somewhere in a History course at uni.  In case you think I'm just making it all up (because your mother always told you it was true), here's a couple of sources that confirm it.  This one, this one, this one and this one.
Just so you know.  Not that I have anything against carrots.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

IKEA flat-packed shelters for refugees

In partnership with UNHCR, IKEA has designed flat-packed shelters in an effort to improve the lives of those living in refugee camps.  The UN is currently trialling them in Somalia.


On gratefulness

This post from Pray For Ian is a gently written but serious reminder about the way we talk about disability and suffering and the comparisons we are tempted to make whenever we are "grateful".

Read Larissa's post here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

After a long week...

maybe this is what I need to perk me back up: a snail facial.  At $100 US, I reckon I could find a few in the backyard and set up my own salon.

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today, I'm thankful that things were alright while my husband was interstate for several days this week.  In particular, I'm thankful the oven door broke the day before he left so he could fix it, that I didn't fall out of the tree, that we didn't have any sick kids like we did last time he was away this long, that my children have been above-average in helpfulness this week, that our car is a reliable machine, that I was able to get babysitting for the tricky work-stuff I had to cover on my own and MOST OF ALL that he's coming home today (happy sigh).

 You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kindle without a kindle

Did you know you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks?  You can download Kindle for PC to your laptop (or desktop if you are still old-schooling it).  Then you can happily download those cheap Kindle editions you previously only dreamt of from afar.

Now why didn't anyone tell me about this before last week???

I refuse to believe I'm the last person in the blogosphere to find out (although I admit that's entirely possible) so I blog it in hope of being useful to someone else.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yesterday I was in charge of walking the dog

I don't really want to talk about it.

I may or may not have driven her to the park so that I didn't have to walk her around the block to get there.

I may or may not have managed to have such a bad aim when throwing her favourite fetch toy that it ended up a gumtree.

I may or may not have climbed the tree to try to retrieve the toy.

It was up too high.

I shook the tree - no joy.

I threw sticks at it.  Honey thought I'd finally lost my mind.

It will still be there when my husband next goes to the park to retrieve it.

I may or may not have then driven to a store to buy a plastic specially-designed fetch stick in bright green plastic to make up for losing our best dog toy.

So let's just close this chapter and conclude that dog-exercising is not among my skill-set.

However, though many, many years have past since I last tried it, it turns out I am still an above-average tree-climber.  This is because of the unique combination of a light body-frame and the inability to accurately judge risk.  Just who did I think was going to help me if I'd fallen?  Honey, here's my phone.  Call an ambulance!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who are the bad guys?

I love shows like NCIS, anything that is essentially goodies versus the baddies.  They reaffirm my desire to see evil defeated and the triumph of the good guys.  Of course, I'm one of the good guys.  Right?  Nope.  Not really.

Ben Merkle writes:
 When we think about the narratives of our own lives, we are prone to tell our stories with ourselves as the heroes. Our own personal judgments become the established facts of the case. Our likes and dislikes, our own personal tastes, are all assumed to be the undisputed truth of the matter. And when we have bumps with others, we retell the stories in our minds favoring ourselves, putting ourselves in the most positive light and those with whom we disagree in the most negative. So right now if you asked me about the tensions in my life, I could describe for you the people who are being a pain, those who are giving me the most grief. And I would describe them in terms of how they are currently wronging me. They are currently the villains of the story in which I am the hero. But the funny thing is that most of them, if not all, are Christians just like me. And many of them are probably talking to God, their best friend, about the villains in their stories, namely me. And God is on their side, without ceasing to be on my side. He is infinitely personal.
Read the rest of the post here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today, I'm thankful for a couple of days where I've done pretty much nothing (but washing and making sure the kids didn't eat each other).  I didn't realize how tired I was till I stopped.  Rest is good.  Why do I always forget that?

You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A father loves his daughter

Runner Heath White talks about the journey of loving his daughter, Paisley, who was born with Down Syndrome.

HT Take Your Vitamin Z

Cat food

My Almost-Texan friend has recently had to switch her cat to a diet kibble.  Now before you dog-owners get all judgey-judgey and smirky, let me just remind you that owning a dog is a doddle compared to the rigours of cat-ownership.  They have mind control.

Anyway, in honour of her cat, who has a bit of thing for me (and was very non-judgemental about the recent amount of dog-smell I've brought to our relationship), I post this video from The Checkout.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Courage in the Ordinary

"...the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that that is enough."

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mum guilt and The Cat in The Hat

We all have some parenting fails.  In this helpful article, the mother from The Cat in the Hat faces up to hers.

HT Making It Lovely

Getting things done and eating cake


Interesting insights into being prolific from Joss Whedon (he wrote Buffy and Firefly and just produced Much Ado About Nothing).  He never got around to finishing Allen's GTD.  I like that. Neither have I.  But he's a firm believer in "next actions" - breaking tasks into specific points for action.  Interestingly, rather than an "eat your frog" approach, he's into doing the fun stuff first.  And cake.  I like that too.  Read the article here.

HT Making It Lovely

Monday, July 8, 2013

Forgiveness is free.....or is it?

So we have my brother-in-law and sister-in-law visiting at the moment.  We had an interesting debate this afternoon about forgiveness.  At the Bible college they attend, one of their lecturers is of the opinion that you cannot forgive someone who has not asked for forgiveness.  Forgiveness, the argument goes, is a relational contract.  It is something that involves two people.  You can't just "forgive" someone who has not acknowledged their wrong and or is not ready to accept your forgiveness.

So can you forgive someone who doesn't ask for your forgiveness?  Should that kind of action be known by another term such as "letting go"?  Or can you be gracious to the most undeserving, even if they don't or can't acknowledge their wrong?  What do you think?

Baby will be unhappy and cross

1920s advice for bringing up your own little bundle of joy.... after all, we wouldn't want Baby to be unhappy and cross!
Baby will be unhappy and cross - Page
Baby will be well and happy - Page
Fresh air for the babies - Page

See the full series at Retronaut.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

If I ever get another dog

I'm going to name it Cogito Ergo Sum.  Obviously, Ergo and Sum will be middle names and not used from day to day.  Just when he or she is in trouble or registering at the vet.

Marking Philosophy tests today.  Don't ask how it's going.

Too depressing.

Marriage bureau for rich people

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

Jenny recommended this a little while back and I was found amused to find it staring at me from a shelf at the library the very next time I visited.  And so I brought it home and devoured it in a day.  It centres on Mr Ali and the match-making business he begins in his retirement.  He soon finds himself busy arranging marriages of all castes and religions and being called upon to find solutions for the many knots of family and romance that entangle the other characters.  It's a fun glimpse into some aspects of Indian culture (although somewhat idealized at times) and an enjoyable non-taxing read.  There is a significant nod to Pride and Prejudice in the development of the plot but it has enough of its own unique elements to avoid being hackneyed.  If you enjoyed The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency you'll probably find this to be in the same vein.  Good enough for me to borrow the rest of the series in the coming weeks.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dog grooming

I had to bath the dog today.  She was not impressed.  At. All.  But, Honey, at least I didn't do this.

HT Making It Lovely

Thank God it's Friday

I know that “Thank God it’s Friday’ is usually said in absence of any kind of thankfulness towards the Almighty, but I’d like to do my bit to remedy that.

Today, I'm thankful for my 12-week-old niece (and her parents) coming this afternoon to stay for a few days.  Let the cuteness begin!

 You got anything you’re thankful for today? Join in! Let’s count our blessings for a bit.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Return to Nim's Island

Return to Nim's Island

I took four children to see this recently - ages 9, 7 & 5.  I had my doubts going in but it was fantastic!  The plot is fairly predictable, and it's not going to win an Oscar, but - hey - it's a kids' movie.
Bindi Irwin works really well in the main character's role and I was so pleased with the way her character was portrayed.  You couldn't get a healthier female role-model.  The character is presented as a normal teenaged girl - no stick-thin 22 year-olds playing children, plastered with make-up and elaborate accessorising to be seen.  The main character is fit, healthy, funny, full of initiative and spunk and has a very healthy relationship with her dad.  Yay - high five!
The movie contains limited violence (mostly of the slapstick kind) and no bad language ("shut-up" is the strongest language element).  The absence of sexual innuendo was especially refreshing considering that even kids' films like Toy Story or Cars often contain smutty adult humour.
The environmental themes are not too preachy and don't take over the plot entirely.  The scenery and native animals are beautiful.  Other themes include learning to deal with chaos in life, friendship, trust and love for your family.  So good stuff there to be discussed.
The 5-year old was scared at times by the suspense and the kids being in danger so you'll need to weigh that up if you are taking younger kiddies along.  But for school-aged children, I'd give this five mummy-stars!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

North Korea #2

Looking for a new haircut?  Why not choose one of the 28 state-approved haircuts of North Korea? Something there for everyone.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I'm pretty sure I know what happened to his hair.

HT Take Your Vitamin Z

To the Labor Party with love

For all the men in blue ties and the women who do battle with them.

North Korea

An interesting set of photos about the border area separate North and South Korea.  When South Korean soldiers open the door into the North, they hold hands so they can't get pulled in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mega batch of date muffins

So here's the six-week muffin recipe.  By that I mean that you can make up the mixture and keep a big batch of it in the fridge for up to six weeks and just scoop out a tray of muffins when you need them.  Forgot to you were supposed to bring morning tea?  Not to worry: you have mixture in your fridge!

It comes from this outstanding (but battered and creased) little booklet Muffin Mania.  Thanks to our PNG friends who put me on to this book way back in the 90s.  Only available second-hand now so if you see one grab it quick!  It contains some of my favourite muffin recipes: best-ever banana, muffins that taste like donuts, maple syrup, peanut butter and the surprising chocolate cheesecake muffins (with a cheesecake centre hidden in a chocolate muffin).

This recipe is called "Mrs Buns Bran Muffins" or "Pail Full of Muffins"

This recipe makes 6 doz muffins (I found it made 4 dozen of my generously heaped muffins). The batter may be kept 6 weeks in the refrigerator in a covered jar.

1 cup margarine
3 cup white sugar
3 dsp brown sugar
3 dsp bicarb soda
1 dsp salt
2 cups boiling water
2 cups All Bran (cereal)
5 cups plain flour
2 cups raisins or chopped dates
4 eggs
4 cups bran flakes (I wasn't sure what this was.  I used oat bran and it was fine)
950 mL buttermilk.

Pour water over bran and let stand.

In a very large bowl, cream margarine, sugar and eggs.  Add buttermilk and then bran mixture.  Stir until blended.

Stir flour, soda, salt and add to above mixture.  Mix well.

Add bran flakes and fold in until just moist.  Add raisins or dates.

Chill 1 day before baking.

Bake 180C for 15-20 mins.

They are delicious cut in half with a smidge of butter.  Just saying.