Thursday, September 30, 2010

Still alive...

Call off the intervention, search party, missing persons report. 

I'm still alive.

I'm here.

The kids are home on school holidays = difficult to get anything done.

I'm trying to unravel the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal System to complete my next assignment = brain melting.

Josh's birthday was yesterday = shopping for presents, birthday party, general festivities.

Before that, Alana had a ballet eisteddfod on Sunday and Monday = costumes, hairdos, makeup, spending all day in a school hall watching kids dance.

Please send coffee, chocolate and wine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Feel Good Friday - nearly finished uni and another cute puppy pic

Ooops! It's Friday morning and I haven't thought at all about this week's Feel Good Friday post. So you're not exactly getting a carefully prepared and composed piece of prose. However, I do have things to feel good about today, and I'd love to share them with you.

In just a little over two weeks, I will be finished all the course work for my Masters of  Education.


Oh yeah!

I'm so looking forward to actually having my qualification. It will mean that I'll be eligible for Associate membership of ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association), which is a criteria that appears in lots of advertisements for jobs in libraries. I'm keen to get my foot in the door of a library to begin my career in the world of information services.

I have really enjoyed my study, but this last semester has been extremely difficult. I've had the heaviest course load of the whole degree, and two of the most difficult subjects to study at the same time. It's definitely been a struggle.

The weather is becoming "springish" around here.

Love spring!

Warmer weather means I was able to take Lucy for a walk along the waterfront the other day.

It was her first time in the water, and she loved it! I can't wait to take her to the beach, or out on the boat!

Now it's your turn.

1. Write a post on your blog titled "Feel Good Friday". Make it uplifting, or funny, or cute...basically anything that makes you (and hopefully your readers) feel good.

2. Make sure you mention my blog "a reader's random ramblings" somewhere in the post and include a link to my blog if you can. (I'm working on a button for future weeks, but for now you'll just have to copy and paste the URL.)

3. Use the Linky below to link your post to mine so that all my followers can visit your blog and read your Feel Good Friday post. Make sure you use the URL of your post, not just the home page of your blog.

4. Visit the other participants, read their posts, and FEEL GOOD!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Family favourite - Crispy Chicken Tacos

With all this talk about traditional American dishes, I've been thinking about Mexican food. (Just go with me people!) My family love my Crispy Chicken Tacos. I'm not trying to tell you that they're authentic Mexican, and I do have the help of Old El Paso.

I'd love to hear from people that do actually eat traditional Mexican food. What do you think of my version?

First I take some chicken breast (about 500g for my family), and dice it up small.

Now comes the magic of the Old El Paso! In the box is some "crispy crumb". That's the bit that everyone in the family loves so much.

I put the chicken and the crispy crumb in a clip-lock bag and shake it so the chicken is all evenly coated.

Then I make my own version of guacamole. It has avocado, sour cream and "Mexican seasoning". I know it's not what you'd call authentic, but we like it!

Now I chop up some vegies. This is what passes for a healthy family meal at my place because for some reason my kids prefer raw vegies to cooked. Salads - yes, cooked vegies - no. Makes it a lot easier to feed them in summer than in winter.




Also we need plenty of cheese. This is the pre-grated stuff I buy in a bag at the supermarket. We go through a lot of cheese in my family.

Now let's take another look inside the Old El Paso box. Sweet chilli sauce - yum! We'll use that to top our tacos later.

Now to go with our tacos, I make an entree (starter) that I call Nachos. First we need some corn chips. I buy cheesy ones because I think that plain corn chips are a crime against humanity.

I have these cute little ramekins that I make individual serves of nachos in for each of us. No fighting over the corn chips! I top the corn chips with cheese then throw them under the griller for a few minutes.

I'll show you how I finish them off soon!

Also in the Old El Paso box are some mini soft tortillas. LOOOOOVE tortillas. Can't abide hard taco shells. I think they're just like a big plain corn chip - crime against humanity.

Finally, after all the preparation, I'm ready to cook the chicken. I fry it up and try to get it nice and brown and make sure that most of the crispy crumbs stay on the chicken. My family love those crispy crumbs so much that they will eat them straight out of the frypan!

Each ramekin of nachos gets a few pieces of crispy chicken on top, some more cheese, and another blast under the griller.

Here's how I eat my nachos - topped with guacamole, sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. Yummy!

Here's how I like to eat my tacos: first a generous smear of guacamole, then a few pieces of crispy chicken.

Then, a generous serve of vegies, and topped with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.

You may be concerned that I won't be able to fold my taco and get it in my mouth! Please don't worry, all the vegies smush up easily and I just stuff it in - but you won't be seeing a photo of that!

I'd love your feedback on my crispy chicken tacos. Does your family like Mexican? How do you make your tacos? What about Nachos?

Any recipes gratefully received and I promise I'll document any attempts that I make!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Channelling the Pioneer Woman

Do you know what? I have a totally awesome sister! When I arrived at her place for dinner last night, she had a surprise for me...a copy of Ree Drummond's book The Pioneer Woman Cooks.


You may not remember, but a little while ago I was waxing lyrical about Ree Drummond's blog, especially the step-by-step recipes that she posts. Read about it here.

And you know how imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Well here is where I posted one of my favourite recipes, inspired by the style of Ree's recipes on her blog.

So it's safe to say that I was excited and happy to receive the surprise present. And now I have a fantastic idea for a little project for me once I'm finished with all my assignments for uni. I'm going to cook a wonderful 'Pioneer Woman' feast for the next time my sis and her family come to my place for dinner!


I've been browsing through the book, and I want to try and stick with a theme. I'm no expert on American cuisine, my knowledge has mainly been gathered from reading books set in various U.S. cities. So I have a very stereotyped view of what dishes belong to different areas.

Say New Orleans, and I think Cajun and catfish. Say 'the South', and I think fried chicken, iced tea and grits (even though I don't even know what grits are!). So as I look through the book, I'm trying to pick dishes that seem to say the same thing to me. But I could be totally wrong, and pick things that real Americans would never put together!

So far, here are the recipes that are catching my eye:

PW's Potato Skins (they have bacon, cheese and sour cream, and Ree suggests that I may have to field a few marriage proposals when I serve them).

Buttermilk Biscuits (like grits, these are something that we just don't have in Australia - except that what we call biscuits is what Americans call cookies).

Macaroni and Cheese (yes, we have this in Australia, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't have become such an iconic dish if it wasn't a bit different when done by a home cook).

Cornbread (we don't have this in Australia either, and it just sounds so quintessentially American to me).

Chicken-fried Steak (this just screams 'the South' to me - I imagine Sookie Stackhouse eating it).

Fried Chicken (ditto the above).

Cheese Grits (With great excitement, I checked the recipe so I could finally find out what grits are. Imagine my frustration when I note that the main ingredient is...grits! I think it's similar to polenta???)

Now this is just a small selection of the savoury dishes in Ree's gorgeous cookbook. What do you think of my choices?

As for sweets, I'm thinking either Mocha Brownies (brownies seem quintessentially American to me) or Red Velvet Cake (because I'm always hearing about it, but I've never eaten it).

So what do you think? Have you cooked or eaten any of these dishes, or ones like them? What dishes make you think of America, or of specific cities or areas of the U.S?

I'd love your feedback and ideas, and if anyone wants to send me recipes, then go for it!

I promise that I'll post pictures when I cook anything from the book, or any other recipes that you send me.

I can't wait to get started! Just a couple more weeks of writing fancy academic papers for my M Ed., and then the 'Pioneer Woman' extravaganza can begin.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Feel Good Friday - the cute puppy edition

Lucy had a tough week last week. She was booked in on Monday (6th September) for her "special operation" i.e. desexing. The vet rang to tell me that she had responded badly to the sedative and would need IV fluids and medication to bring her heart rate and blood pressure back up into the land of the living.

Then during the op, the vet discovered that some of Lucy's anatomy was not exactly as it should be. This, coupled with the bad reaction to the sedative, led the vet to think that Lucy might have some congenital health issues, and recommended a blood test.

Blood tests back, it turns out that Lucy is healthy except for a couple of results that could mean that her liver is not functioning properly. Either that, or she just needs to eat a bit more and put on some weight.

So, you can imagine how relieved we all are that she has bounced back to her usual energetic self, is eating drinking, weeing and poo-ing just as she should! We've increased her food a bit, but she just seems to leave it behind if she doesn't want it, so that doesn't seem to be working so well :) We'll repeat the blood test in a few weeks to see how she's travelling.

I take Lucy for a walk every day. Her favourite things are: chasing leaves that are being blown in the wind, chasing ants and bees because they look interesting, smelling things, picking up rubbish in her mouth and carrying it along, drinking from the street gutter if there has been some rain, and digging in mud (also if there has been some rain).

Here is a cute pic of her licking her dirty face after some enjoyable mud-digging.

Yes, that is someone else's driveway in the pic, we were on our walk around the neighbourhood and this particular house had some mud - irresistable. I am a bit of a permissive doggy-mum!

Now it's your turn.

1. Write a post on your blog titled "Feel Good Friday". Make it uplifting, or funny, or cute...basically anything that makes you (and hopefully your readers) feel good.

2. Make sure you mention my blog "a reader's random ramblings" somewhere in the post and include a link to my blog if you can. (I'm working on a button for future weeks, but for now you'll just have to copy and paste the URL.)

3. Use the Linky below to link your post to mine so that all my followers can visit your blog and read your Feel Good Friday post. Make sure you use the URL of your post, not just the home page of your blog.

4. Visit the other participants, read their posts, and FEEL GOOD!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Are we there yet? (Heading towards the end of the year.)

My schedule has been pretty crazy lately. I won't bore you with the details, but I'm desperately racing towards an October 11 deadline for uni. That's the last possible date to get all my coursework in for this semester. Assuming I get everything in on time, and assuming that I pass everything, I will then be finished my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) and be ready to unleash my wondrous talents on the world of libraries!

Of course, I do not live in a vacuum. My family are busy too, and I still have to be mum and wife on occasion. From here to the end of the year, we're on a rollercoaster ride of excitement, the pace ever increasing until Christmas. Thank goodness we've got a week's holiday booked for January!

One of the exciting family things that's been happening is football. Both my boys (hubby and Josh) have been heavily involved in Australian Rules Football this winter. Josh played in the Grand Final on Saturday as part of the Under 12 team for Gosford Tigers. He's been "playing up" in the 12's each week after his Under 10 game, so it was a real honour to be part of the 12's for the big day.

And they won!

Here are some pics of Josh getting his Premiership medal, and the team with the Premiership cup.

So that's me, over and out, for now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TTT - Top Five Hotties


Poor Shannon has been battling Shingles, and needs some cheering up. So she has put the call out to all her blogging sisters, and has designated this week's Table Topics Tuesday to be "top five hotties day". Works for me.

5. Brad Pitt

I know, an oldie but a goodie. He hasn't been named sexiest man alive multiple times for nothing!

4. Alexander Skarsgard

Fans of True Blood need no introduction.

3, 2 and 1. Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley

If you're not watching the Vampire Diaries, then why not???

That's one hot threesome they've got going on ;)

By the way, I think Nina Dobrev is gorgeous, and she reminds me of a young Teri Hatcher. What do you think?

So, my public service is done. I have dutifully delivered five hotties (even if one of them is a girl!) to cheer up Shannon. If you'd like to see more hotties, or participate in Table Topics Tuesdays, then click on the button at the top of this post.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My easy, yummy potato bake

Taking a leaf out of Ree Drummond's book (see this post for more) I've decided to share a recipe with you. It's for my absolutely foolproof, easy-peasy, extra yummy potato bake.

This potato bake is always a hit wherever I go with it. It's the perfect accompaniment for barbeques; steak and sausages, salads, and potato bake hit the spot every time.

WARNING: If you like low fat recipes only, then look away now!

First, thinly slice some potatoes. How many? Well it depends on the dish that you're going to make the potato bake in. You will need three layers of potato, so after you've made the first layer you'll have a better idea.

Layer the potato slices carefully in the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish. Don't leave any gaps! I'm using the biggest baking dish I have, because this potato bake is going to a family BBQ at my brother-in-law's.

Next you'll need some bacon. I use middle rashers because they have a nice strip of fat on them that tastes great, but you can use short cut that is a lot less fatty if you like.

Dice up the bacon and fry it until it's nice and brown. It doesn't really matter if it's crispy or not, because it's going to get all soggy in the potato bake later anyway.

Sprinkle half the bacon over your layer of potato. At the same time, sprinkle over some sliced onions. Slicing onions makes me cry, so I cheat and buy them already sliced in the freezer cabinet at the supermarket. Yes I do.

Now carefully add another layer of potato slices. Overlap the slices slightly, so you can't see any of the bacon and onion.

Sprinkle over the other half of the bacon and some more sliced onion.

Now add the third, and final, layer of potato slices.

On the top, sprinkle over a generous helping of grated cheese. I use pre-shredded tasty cheese that I buy at the supermarket. Yes, I'm that lazy.

Now you need to pour over some cream. I used about 800 mL for this one. It should come about half-way up the dish.

Now bake in a moderate oven for an hour and a half. Voila!

If you don't want yours as dark as mine, make sure that you cover it with foil for part of the cooking time.

Now enjoy, and bask in the compliments that you receive!