Tuesday, January 29, 2013

At the end of Mum and Dad's street...

...it looks like this:

But this is a pretty standard view when there's a heavy downpour for a few days there. I remember it looking like that lots of times when I was little.

It's sounding like most of Brisbane has escaped flooding this time. Maybe just a few streets have gone under.

God is good.

Drying out

The rain and wind finally ended last night. We seemed to get a bit of tail end rain and wind activity here after everyone else was saying the rain had stopped where they were.

It's really quite still here now, which feels a bit strange after two days of being blown around.

Now for a few days of full on humidity, when what we really need is some dry breezes to make the house feel less damp.

It seems like the ex-cyclone is finally about to head out to sea south of Sydney. That's some weather event!

Praying for those who are still facing flooding. It doesn't seem as bad in Brisbane as they first thought. But further north in Bundaberg it is still very bad. I always think river flooding is a cruel thing. By the time the water arrives, the sun is usually shining and there's hardly a cloud in the sky. Flooding makes sense when it's raining, but when the weather's fine it just seems wrong.

Image from here. This is about five minutes' drive from our house. But the water has all gone from that spot this morning!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Still here

It's only raining a little bit here now. Just passing showers now rather than the steady and heavier rain we had all yesterday afternoon and evening.

But the wind is still VERY strong. Last night I could see the glass on our sliding doors bending during the stronger gusts. Freaky. Our power is still on, and no trees have come down here, but our bins are out waiting to get collected and the lids have blown open and some stuff has escaped. We moved the sun lounge from beside our pool into the garage on Saturday night in case it got windy. Lucky we don't have both cars in there otherwise there may not have been room for it.

I am thankful this morning that the detailed flood reports are out for the Brisbane suburbs and my parents' home is on the "unlikely to flood" list. Some lower lying homes in the next street to theirs will probably end up with some water through them though.

Anyway, for an ex-tropical cyclone, I have to say this still feels rather cyclonic....

Photo from here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

There's a bit of wild weather going on here....

It's raining hard outside. It's so windy that the rain is blowing horizontally. Lots of trees bending in the breeze outside. There are tornado warnings out for the rest of the evening. We are up on a hill so it's windy but we're not at risk of any flooding where we are.

They've just issued a flood warning for Brisbane and Ipswich. But they are not expecting it will be as bad as 2011. I'm praying that my parents will be okay. Perhaps there's been a bit more rain in the local creeks near their home this time compared with last time. But the ground isn't as wet as it was before the last flood happened. They only had water to the floorboards last time. I think they will be okay, although knowing what their anxiety levels are like, I'm pretty sure they'll head for higher ground. Last time they went to my brother's place until the danger was past. He's moved into a lower lying place since then, though. His new house didn't flood in 2011 but some of his backyard was underwater.

The weather seems to be moving pretty quickly to the south, which is good news (although not for our friends in the northern rivers and mid north coast of NSW). At least the rain will be gone from here after the next few hours. There are flood warnings all the way down to the Hunter now.

Who would have thought a week ago that a little old category one cyclone in the Gulf of Carpentaria could wreak so much havoc all the way down the Queensland coast?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This is a real conversation that happened in our garage yesterday

Context:  An awful morning. It's been raining off and on during the night. Dog poo discovered on front deck (they don't seem to like pooing on wet grass). Big plans of movies with the older boys and a trip to Officeworks to buy some work supplies for me because the two little kids are at child care for the day. They leave for child care with their father. The second car blows up as I am about to drive out with the two older ones to the final lesson of the 8 year old's swimming intensive program. I realise that with five minutes to go before swimming class starts that we are not going to make it. Call Chris and ask if he can bring the other car home from work so we can do all our previously mentioned jobs and get to swimming. Call swimming pool to see if 8 year old can go to a later class. Burning smell coming from second car as I re-enter garage. Chris arrives home in the silver bus.

We are discussing who will call the NRMA and wait at home with the blown up car (which eventually needed towing), and who will take the kids to swimming.

Me:  "I just can't DO this anymore...."  (accompanied by loud sobbing).

Chris:  "Well, it's called LIFE. You just have to do it."

Yep. That sums it up pretty well actually.

And we did survive the day. My blogging buddy Deb has a great regular Friday post called Thank God it's Friday, where we can thank God for the many blessings He provides for us. Yesterday, I was very thankful that not every day is as awful as that one was.

We are still waiting for news on how much the car repairs will cost. I don't think a burning smell is good. They think the clutch may have gone....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I'm going back to work

I've been in a slight state of denial about this. I think perhaps I may have drastically under-estimated the amount of preparation that might be required.

If I was the sort of person who was really good at winging it, I think I'd feel a bit more comfortable. Over the last few years,  I've certainly improved in my ability to jump in and do something without having it planned to the tiniest detail. I think that happens when you have children. Nothing much is predictable with kids so you just learn to go with the flow a bit more.

But there are a lot of unknowns about this job. It's all a bit experimental. I'll be going into a school for a short period of time (six weeks) to provide an occupational therapy service to kids in Year 1 and 2 with mild to moderate learning and motor skill difficulties. So far, so good. I've long thought that the services I provide in an office block a long way away from the school environment where the kids spend the majority of their week are not particularly relevant. The hard part is that I'll be doing this as a clinical educator. This means I'll be taking a group of four Occupational Therapy students with me into the school and the service will be provided by them, under my guidance. This is where it can get a bit tricky. I've worked in a University student clinic previously. A lot depends on the competence of the students. If they're not much good or not very organised, things can go bad very quickly.

And the school I'm going into is a school where I don't know anyone. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. It's good to know that I'm not going to be running into the kids (and their parents, that's usually the harder part) we'll be working with when I head out to the shops. But that means I'm going to have to build some relationships with the staff pretty quickly. I get to start when school goes back next week. The occupational therapy students don't start until the following week. That gives me two days to meet the relevant teachers, get started on building a relationship with them, and talk to them about how they would like us to work within their classrooms before the OT students turn up on the following Monday. This would all feel much easier if the school kids weren't all starting the new school year, and the teachers weren't having to get to know them at the same time as they are getting to know us. We are due to do another one of these short term contracts later in the year (a ten week block with fourth year students for that one) and I really think the timing of that one will be a lot better since the school year will be in full swing, the teachers will know the kids quite well and things will generally be far more settled and organised.

So there are a multitude of relationships to be negotiated here. There are two other therapists job sharing this position with me (one I know already, the other I've only met once), I need to get to know the staff at Community Health who are providing funds for the placement, and the project co-ordinator who is based in yet another organisation. So far, she seems to be a bit absent-minded when it comes to remembering to organise stuff for us. Not ideal.

It all looks a bit overwhelming at this point in time for little old introverted me, which might be why I've had my head in the sand for a few weeks about it happening.

I need to concentrate on the positives. The money I earn will be helpful for paying for the multitude of extracurricular activities that my kids are doing. The school seem encouraging of us coming in to do this. The Learning Support Teacher is very friendly and supportive. Hopefully that reflects what the other school staff are like as well. I will be able to be flexible and accommodating of what they want. Anything is better than nothing since these kids wouldn't be accessing a service anywhere else, so whatever we provide will be useful. I'd also like to be optimistic and think that the OT students won't behave like selfish Gen Y's, but that one's still a bit up in the air.

And I need to pray that it will all come together and that I will feel a sense of peace rather than a sense of frustration when things take longer than I'd like them to. This is a situation when I can't be in control of everything. But if I can remember that God has things in His control then perhaps I won't feel as anxious about it all.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Recent comments" has died

Blogger is telling me there are errors in it that cannot be fixed. Thanks for that, Blogger.

So I had a look at some of the other gadgets on offer to see what I could fill in the space with, and I found The Daily Puppy. Hope you find it entertaining. And I hope that it works.

The University at which I work has just rebranded itself

And in the process, it has acquired a new tagline:

At "S.C." University .....  "It's all about U."

I don't like it much. It all looks a bit self-centred to me.

Sadly, from my previous personal experience of some of the students there, it appears that they are already well acquainted with the philosophy of University being all about them. Forget everyone else, it's all about ME!

As if they (or we!) needed reminding....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

All this time on blogger....

....and I have only just worked out how to use all the customisation options.

Be prepared for a few changes.

Although I do have a bit of work to do.

Ah....gotta love a bit of procrastination....

Peaches with raspberry coulis

I borrowed this rather luscious cookbook from the library a few weeks ago before I decided I had to clean up my diet.

Fortunately, not all the recipes are loaded with sugar and fat (although most of them are, so I will just have to dream about eating those ones).

But there is a fantastic and super-easy recipe in it for peaches with raspberry coulis. We made it for dessert tonight.

All you have to do is blitz up in the food processor 250g of raspberries (I used frozen ones) with around a tablespoon of sugar (you could probably use a little less if you're trying to cut down) and the juice of two oranges and half a lemon.

Strain the mixture into a serving bowl (a white bowl or a clear bowl lets you see the gorgeous colours of the fruit really well), or if you don't care about having little raspberry seeds in the sauce, don't bother with this step. Stir in a punnet of blueberries and three or four perfectly ripe peaches, stones removed and cut into 2cm wedges. I used up a few spare raspberries that were in the fridge as well. Serve at room temperature but you can pop it in the fridge for a bit if you want to make it before dinner. It's so quick to make that it's easy enough to whip up afterwards.

Obviously it works better with the free-stone variety of peaches because it's really easy to get the stones out.

I guess you could put some vanilla ice-cream on it if you weren't worried about consuming too much sugar. But it is pretty yummy on its own. It really didn't need any accompaniment. And a healthy choice too. Peaches and berries are both really good low GI foods.

A big winner all around here. The kids loved it. Everyone wanted seconds. I even had a teeny weeny second spoonful myself.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I think the First Dog on the Moon could be my new hero

Someone commented that the last panel in this cartoon should be made into a T-shirt. I think I would seriously consider buying one if they did that.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I just entered a competition

It's through our private health fund. To win a weekend away at this resort. It's just north of Cairns. Some of the reviews of it online aren't particularly glowing, but hey, if it's a prize and you don't have to pay for stuff ($500 towards flights is included in the deal) then I don't think I'll be complaining.

You could choose from a few options for prizes in this competition. Being a health fund, it's a competition where the prizes are for improving your health and well-being. You could choose from a gym membership (the "get fit" option), a year's worth of weekly fruit and vegie box deliveries (the "eat well" option) and the weekend away (the "de-stress" option).

I'm trying to work out why you would choose either of the other two options when you could have a free holiday. Perhaps I'm not quite as committed to this diet and exercise thing as I thought I was?

I was going to check to see if I could enter in all three categories. But if I'm allowed to do that, I'll have to come up with another two catchy little 25 word or less reasons why I want the gym membership and the fruit boxes.

It would be really cool to win something. We could even go and visit Andrew and Simone at their new church while we were there if we won.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Diet and exercise progress

I've found a lovely steep hill to climb that is just around the corner from our house. A handy discovery.

I've walked up it nearly every day now. One day there was a large dog sitting halfway up so I didn't go up that day. I wasn't going to put in all that effort getting there only to have a dog jump on me and knock me back down. Yesterday, I took a different walking route but it didn't have a hill so I didn't feel like it needed as much effort to do. So this morning I went back to the hill again.

I was really excited because today I made it up without stopping (all the other times I've had to stop at least twice).

And I can now hold the plank position for 30 seconds. I'm trying to get up to a minute.

This afternoon, we are going to take the dogs for a walk. The park at the bottom of the big hill is an off leash dog exercise area. So after we walk the dogs, Chris will pack them and the two little kids (the two big kids are visiting grandparents this week) into the car and drive home.

And I will tackle walking up the hill for a second time today.

The diet is going okay. I'm trying to concentrate on eating more low GI foods so I feel fuller for longer. And reducing my portion sizes. This is where my struggle lies. I may have to do a bit less baking for a while. Today I made some sugarless chocolate blueberry muffins. They weren't bad. But you could tell they were sugarless. Without the blueberries they would have been very dull indeed.

I've noticed I'm feeling more energetic since the morning walks started. And eating the right kind of food always helps me to feel better too. My goal is to get into a good routine now so it doesn't all fall into a big heap when I go back to work in a couple of weeks.

I really don't like tax time

I wish you could just magically get the refund and the Family Tax Benefit reconciliation money without having to go through sorting out all the paperwork and going to see the accountant.

I know I will be happy in a couple of weeks when the money turns up, but for now, it's just a pain.*

That is all.

*When my husband comes in and reads this later, he is going to say to me, "But you didn't sort out the paperwork. I did that." To which I will reply, "It was traumatic enough just watching you do it."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The "E" word

Exercise, that is.

Last week, I was forced to confront my need to get back to some sort of exercise and healthy eating plan. I went to buy petrol one evening and as I was paying for it, the two women behind the till started chatting to me about how awful it was to be pregnant in the summer heat. One of them was pregnant, although not obviously so (she showed me her little bump). I've been pregnant over summer previously, so I expressed some sort of agreement with what they were saying. Then the other woman asked me when I was due.

I now know that it is only nice being asked when you're due when you are actually pregnant.

I then had to confess that what (apparently) looked like a pregnant tummy was actually just what was left over from when Rowan was born. It was kind of funny seeing them back pedal. I tried to be civil rather than look too offended. As I was walking out, I heard them start talking to each other about how embarrassing that was.

Yes, indeed it was. And not just for you two. The only good thing was that no one else was in the petrol station paying at the time so at least there wasn't anyone else around to hear that little exchange.

So, having just finished breastfeeding (a time when historically my weight has tended to balloon out a bit) I have now decided that it's about time to lose those four or five kilos that need to go. I tend to carry weight around my tummy, which is bad from a health perspective. With my history of gestational diabetes I am going to need to start eating properly to minimise my risk of developing full blown diabetes later on.

In the five days since that sad evening, I have been out for an early morning walk four times. Each time I've walked I've included at least one steep hill climb. I am trying to work out when I can fit in a swim as well. I don't think the swim will be too helpful for weight loss since I'm a pretty lazy swimmer, but I enjoy the coolness of the water and the fact that I can shut just about everything else out when I am swimming. And it makes me feel like I am doing something.

It's also time to rediscover all the low GI foods I learned to embrace when I was pregnant. Yesterday I bought a calorie counter book (this one) and a guide to low GI food shopping (this one).

And a set of scales. We've never had one in our house until now. But it's time to get serious. I needed to know what I was dealing with. My starting weight wasn't as bad as I expected. I said to myself I'd be happy with anything under 70kg. I was 69.5kg. Just within the healthy weight range. But only just. It's the waist circumference that's the big problem though. I'm sitting at around 95cm with that one. Anything over 88cm indicates a greatly increased risk of health problems.

Time to get moving. And to reduce portion sizes and yummy desserts.

I am also going to master planking to work on those tummy muscles (if you're unfamiliar with the exercise version of planking, check out the above image). I think I managed to hold it for about three seconds today.

Sorry to subject you all to this kind of detail. This won't be turning into Karen's Weight Loss Blog or anything like that. But I thought it might help me to be accountable....

C.B.R.P. update

Still hanging in there on the Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Only just. I've missed a few days. I have been getting caught up in some of my other books (and Mad Men DVDs and televised tennis matches). I need to remind myself which book is the most important one.

Anyway, I just finished Exodus a couple of days ago. They've just finished building the Tabernacle. I have to be honest and say I did just skip over a lot of the finer details in those passages. But what I found amazing considering that whole bit about building the Tabernacle is how much detail God gave the Israelites about how he wanted things set up. So much order and detail in all of it. I guess from that we take it that God really does care about the finest details of our lives and the way in which we worship him.

So now it's onward into Leviticus I go. I'm trying not to think that it's going to be a hard slog.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wading into the toaster minefield

We're in the market for a new toaster. After 18 years of faithful service, the four slice Sunbeam is slowly dying. One side of the element has stopped working so toasting takes twice as long because we need to turn the bread over to get it toasted on the other side.

I'm guessing that whatever we get next isn't going to have that kind of lifespan. Unless we want to pay a ridiculous amount of money for it. I've been looking online. There are toasters out there that cost over $300. Yes, you read that right. $300. I don't care what kind of warranty comes with that. It's a toaster, people. $300 is far too much to spend on a toaster.

Our budget is more like $60-$80. We probably do need a four slice model with our family of hungry children to feed. I can't find many that have positive reviews in this price range.

So I'm asking my blogging buddies. Is anyone out there in love with their toaster and happy to share what they own and why it's so good?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dessert for the heatwave....lemon and mint granita

(image from here).

It's hot hot hot here right now, and it looks like the heatwave is going to be hanging around here for a while. Mid thirties temperatures are predicted most days over the coming week. Fortunately we are not in the hottest part of the state, but these hot northerly winds aren't much fun anywhere.

So we are trying to avoid use of the stove and oven as much as possible, other than in the later evening when things cool off a bit. And I have been busy making icy treats. I have just made some ice-cubes with bits of fruit frozen into them (strawberries and grapes are good) for afternoon tea rehydration.

And for dessert, lemon and mint granita. This is such an easy dessert to make, although it's not something you can throw together at the last minute. You need to start making this the night before you want to eat it, but that works well because you can put it on the stove after dinner and then freeze it overnight and all of the following day.

This recipe says it makes enough for 8 people, we fed 6 of us with it last night and I think there might be around a third of it left for tonight. I've checked out a few recipes for it online and I like this one the best because once it's made you just put it in the freezer and leave it alone for 24 hours. Some recipes make you scrape it every hour or so, but who can be bothered doing that?

This recipe is also great if you have a flourishing supply of mint in your garden. I've made it without the mint before, but it really does add an extra layer of refreshment if you do include it.

So, here it is:

Lemon and Mint Granita (it's originally from the cookbook Slow Food by chef Jared Ingersoll)

1 litre (4 cups) water
320g (1 1/2 cups) white or caster sugar
1 bunch mint
200mL lemon juice (I made it using the juice from 2 lemons and 1 lime because we had a few limes to use up)
extra shredded mint for garnish

1. Put water and sugar in a saucepan, stir until sugar dissolves and then bring to the boil. Once boiled, remove from heat, add mint and lemon juice and allow to cool completely.

2. Strain liquid through a sieve to remove solids, then taste the syrup (it should taste slightly too sweet or lemony).

3. Pour into a container (I used a loaf tin, this makes it easier to fluff up with a fork when you take it out of the freezer the next day). Freeze for at least 24 hours.

4. Use a fork to fluff up the surface of the granita. Serve in chilled glasses, garnished with extra mint.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Mad Men Season 5!

A very well timed arrival here on Wednesday....I have had it reserved at the library for a few months now.

Just finished watching episode 3. Loving it. I think it's improved with each season.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

And finally, Calvin and Hobbes with thoughts on another new year

I do like Calvin and Hobbes. Anyone else a fan?

New additions to our family

No, we're not having any more babies.

But a few months ago, I blogged about Hank and Gigi, the pugs we looked after for our friends while they were on holidays overseas.

Rosie and Gigi (Rosie in her glasses phase!)

As of yesterday, the dogs are back to live with us permanently. Our friends are going back to the US to live and the dogs are a bit too old (the dogs are siblings from different litters, and are 8 and 7 years old respectively) to safely make the plane trip back with them. So we have adopted them.

We do have one person who's not so excited about them, but most of the little folk here are very pleased about their return. I've caught Rowan trying to lie down in their bed several times already, which has been rather amusing. He only has one really definite word at this stage: "dog," and it is getting a good workout every time the dogs walk in or out of the house.

They are very well trained dogs and have endless patience with toddler fingers heading towards their eyes. I've never been a dog person. I would probably prefer a cat if I'm honest about my pet priorities. But Chris is allergic to cat hair, and he loves dogs, so I think I am going to have to change my thinking and get used to sweeping up dog hair on a very regular basis. They appear deceptively short-haired but they have already shed quite a lot of hair in the 24 hours they have been with us.

New Year's Eve extra entertainment

This year we managed to stay up to see the midnight fireworks. We're really blessed to live in a house in an elevated position where we have an unobstructed view of the fireworks from our front deck (this photo wasn't taken by me...but our view is almost this good!). It's lovely to enjoy the beauty of fireworks without having to leave home. This year, the whole family stayed up for the 9pm show and then it was just Chris and I watching (in our pyjamas) at midnight.

We got a little more to the lovely view than we bargained for this year. As we were sitting there watching, our next door neighbour stepped out her front door in her underwear, I'm guessing so she could get a better look at the firework show too. She made it all the way to where her car was parked in the driveway before she turned around and saw us sitting above her. There really wasn't anywhere else to look, she was right in our line of vision.

Awkward for all of us. But then a little bit funny from our viewpoint.

So she turned around and raced back into her house pretty quickly. She's been out in her front yard a couple of times since then while we've been out on our deck. But she's not making any eye contact.

I hope she'll find it funny sooner or later too. She seems like a pretty good sport usually. Hope we'll be back to saying hello soon.