Monday, February 25, 2013

Whine, whine, whine

The week has been.  It is done and I am glad.

I only wish I could find a button on my son that would turn off the whine.  The "Mummy.  Mummy.  Mummy?  Mummy!  MUMMY!!!"  that seems to be almost perpetual at present.  I say to him, "Munchkin, stop whining at me.  I don't like it when you say my name over and over."  The response?  "Michael not whining, Mummy."  Then two minutes later (if I'm lucky!) it starts again.  "Mummy."  You have to read it as Mum-meeeeee.  I ask him what he wants.  I get another "Mummy."  Ugh.  Over it.

I realise he is adjusting to kindy, to study.  We all are.  I'm trying to be gracious and patient and understanding.  And I know that at least some of this is just an age-and-stage thing.  But sometimes, it's all just a bit much.  Sometimes I really just want to break down and sob and howl and whine alongside my son. Holding it all together and being the sane, reasonable, loving one slips gradually from my grasp.

On Sunday afternoon I marshaled my reluctant husband  into bedtime duties.  It was someone else's turn to deal with the tears, the tantrums, the kicking of the feet, the screaming, and the whining.  I was done.  Over-done.  Like a baked potato that's been left in the oven so long it's grown a nice thick second skin of charcoal, that was me.  I left Boyo in charge and retreated to the garden, spray bottle in hand.  Seeing as I shouldn't, couldn't, and really didn't want to knock some sense into my son, I figured I'd do battle with the jasmine instead.  Probably should have chosen a fight I know I will win, seeing as I seem to be losing so many lately.  Never mind, my enemy has been subjected to it's third spraying in as many  months.  I am very slowly making ground.  Little by little the bright green leaves are shriveling, and turning brown and crumbly where once the green tendrils ran rampant over everything.

The solitude did me good.
I remembered that the week really hasn't been that bad.  It just felt like it because we have an overtired boy who is getting used to not spending all his days with his parents.  He also still has a cough and runny nose, so naturally the emotions are fragile.

It would help if he could sleep till six thirty each morning.  We've been playing bed-yo-yo lately.  Munchkin appears beside me.  Mummy takes him back to bed.  It's usually around 5-6am.  He goes quite willingly to bed, but then reappears fifteen minutes later.  Mummy pries her eyelids open and wishes he would just go away.  He does not.  We repeat the process.  But I caught on this morning.  As I tucked him back into bed at 5:40am, I informed my son (happily snuggling under the quilt - he'd woken because he was cold), that I would lock his door today because he had to stay in bed and go back to sleep.  I had to wake him up at 7:30am.  He was quite reluctant to get up.  As of Sunday he also owns an alarm clock (photos next week perhaps).  It is red.  It has a rather piercing alarm.  I now need to teach him that he can't get out of bed till the alarm goes.  And that he is under no circumstances whatsoever to touch it.  Don't want to be woken at 1am or something now do we!?

Study is going well.  Kindy too.  Mummy just needs to find a little more emotional equilibrium   So does Munchkin.  Daddy seems to be surviving, but then he's not had to spend quite so much time with Munchkin this week.  Grin.  Daddy is a little preoccupied with Maths at present.  But then I guess that is to be expected when it's a very tough paper in a high-level Diploma.  We needed the cricket this weekend.

I hope you've had a good week.

Our other highlights:
Some interesting footwear choices (these are mine, not his - not that his feet are that much smaller than mine!)

A new bib to keep tshirts dry.

Baking.  Finally managed some good chocolate chip biscuits (my third attempt!).

Ate the first of our Golden Delicious apples in a scrummy dessert.
Second lot of silverbeet seedlings dug up by over-zealous blackbirds in my parent's garden.  I don't mind them digging for worms but could they PLEASE leave my seedlings IN THE GROUND?!  This plant has been replanted at least twice already and was too far gone by the time I discovered it this time round.  They've even managed it with sticks placed around all the seedlings.  What am I supposed to do?  Our chooks have almost no greens, and we need to get something in the ground soon, ready for winter harvesting.

My garden at home is growing really well and I am loving it.  

Taking Shape

It's taking shape quite nicely.  I'm working from the inside, outwards and enjoying being able to potter along as I please.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Good Week

It’s been a pretty good week.

Study?  Check.  Going well.  Much better than last week.  Whew. 

Kindy?  Check.  Two six hour days.  Two afternoon sleeps (WAHOO!).  One set of wet clothes (water and sandpit, who can resist such a combination?!).  One very tired boy.  Who now has a cold cum chest infection.  Groan.  One follow-up eye appointment and the conclusion there’s not much use in trying glasses.  Some exercises to do instead.  And the realisation that I have been struggling with this self-same issue intermittently for the past ten years.  It would have been helpful for someone to suggest exercises at any time during the previous three eye checkups!

We did our last blueberry pick this year.  Munchkin picked and collected in his own bucket!  This is the first time he’s managed to leave the blueberry patch with blueberries (other than a tummy-full of course).  Rather proud Mummy.

We've also been eating quite a few passionfruit.  At $1-2 each from local shops we feel rather privileged to have a ‘free’ supply from my parents place.  Delightfully delicious.  Even this funny flat one, that grew wedged between two fence palings.   

We bought some new (secondhand) puzzles.  A number one, and a lower-case alphabet one seeing that this helps Munchkin’s current interest in both.  They are both nice big floor puzzles.  Fabulous.  And in the process we were given an amazing machines floor puzzle too!  It is a little well-worn which is why it was given not sold, but we are certainly not complaining about that.  Such a blessing!  Thanks God!

 We had a visit to the library.  This was in fact to get several books Mummy needs for study, but of course we also came out with over ten books for Munchkin.  Some very cool titles.  I even brought home one that is far above Munchkin’s interest and understanding because I knew Boyo would find it funny.  Yup, he did.  Grin. 

Munchkin has been loving hiding in Mummy and Daddy’s bed.  It is, of course, always better with company!  He doesn’t seem to mind the heavy feather duvet that both his parents find a little over-warm. 

We’ve spent a fair few hours playing in the conservatory with cars and garlic stalks after I stored away our dried garlic.

Munchkin and Mummy went to his swimming lesson this week. Bit of a disaster really.  He cried for well over half the class.  Not a normal Munchkin reaction…at least not one that lasts that long.  But he did rally in the end and enjoy going down the slide into the pool.  I am attributing the tears to not feeling well and being a bit overwhelmed after preschool this week.  He had a runny nose at that point.  The cough and wheeze developed yesterday.  A kind friend reassured me that her youngster has spent at least one or two swimming lessons in tears, usually followed by a lesson in which they love every moment.  I am not alone.  Other parents are not wondering what is wrong with my child.  They are cringing in empathy!  Grin.

We had the huge blessing of a flying visit from one of my brothers, in town for exams.  He loved seeing Munchkin playing with toys he himself grew up with, and was duly appreciative of Boyo’s bacon and egg pie for dinner.  We really enjoyed talking politics, economics, and more with my dad and bro once Munchy-baby was in bed.  A bit sad he has gone already, as we don’t know when we will next get to catch up in person.

We visited Mamma and Poppa and had a lovely time playing with playdough, reading books, and driving things down their back ramp and around the yard.

Look at these amazing marigolds in Mamma's garden!  Wow!

We’ve had several ‘treat free’ weeks.  Background:  Munchkin has been toileting for a year now, but when we changed from potty to loo we found he no longer wanted to do number twos.  Not exciting.  So Boyo resorted to bribery.  Genius.  Munchkin was very excited to receive his ‘little treat’ on each event, as he doesn’t get them otherwise (they were a small jellybean).  But we didn’t want the ‘I need a treat to perform’ habit to stick.  Grin.  So when that batch of jellybeans ran out Munchkin was allowed to choose a new one, either dried apricots or chocolate coated sultanas.  He went with the apricots.  He just loves them and they are not a standard food in our house at present.  Then when they ran out we simply haven’t replaced them.  We did lead him into it by saying they were nearly run out, etc and if he’d really rebelled apricots probably would have mysteriously reappeared, but the toileting is going just fine with praise and high fives, and the Munchkin has only asked a few times for his apricots and doesn’t seem unduly worried when informed that they ran out.

So that’s the good news.  But on the other side of things, we’ve had two wet beds in three days this week.  You’d think that a boy who had such terrific bladder control would manage a day sleep without a nappy.  Nope.  He falls into such a deep sleep, poor boy has to be woken from a puddle after a couple of hours.  I’ve gone back to nappies.  It’s just not worth the stress of changing sheets and mattress protector several times a week and my poor baby waking feeling all wet and smelly and yuck.  I guess one day he will be ready and until then I just need to wait it out.  Sigh.  I was so hoping for a nappy-free winter.

Munchkin has had a few ‘outside baths’ this week with the weather being warmer.  He also had an impromptu shower when the garden was watered!  Lots of fun!

My boys have had their therapy this afternoon (Sunday), a good occupier for a hot day with a sick boy.  First some cricket, then some car racing on tv.  Munchkin was much more interested in the racing.  He’s now racing his own cars up and down the lounge while Daddy sits on the floor watching the rest of the racing and Munchkin at once.  Apparently there is now a racing digger involved.  Gotta love it!


Linking in with Elizabeth's Sunday Snippets.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Taste of Indo

My delightful sister-in-law taught me to make an Indonesian dish when we went to my brother's wedding last year.  She's an incredible cook, and makes heaps of authentic Indo food.  No surprise when you consider she is Indonesian!

I asked her specifically if she could show me a really simple dish that I could make at home.  So she taught me Beef Rendang, with a side of stir-fried veges, mushrooms, and prawns.  Mmm, yum.  It was enjoyed by all our family (Boyo had a mushroom free version).  We were also introduced to crunchy fried onions as a delicious topping for any Indo dish.  I must say that they do add a certain pizzazz to the dish, and I've even found them at a local Indian supplier here.

The only problem has been sourcing the Rendang paste once I returned to NZ.  While Sis had several options at her local supermarket, most of mine have none.  I have scoured local Asian stores and supermarkets and found one brand.  We tried but didn't like it.  It didn't taste nearly as nice as the one we had in Oz.  I nearly gave up.  Then one day I was browsing through the gluten free section at my local New World.  I can't even remember what I was looking for, but look what I found?!!

It's made with natural ingredients - the ones you'd use if you crafted the curry paste yourself.  And it is tasty. Very tasty.  Not too expensive.  Using a packet sauce like this does make it a more expensive meal than our average one would be, but it also turns it into a really quick and easy one, so I'm more than happy to compromise on that.

As I didn't have any beef available (I want that for my Thai curry later in the month!), I decided to be really adventurous and use chicken.  The back of the packet says you can use chicken or seafood, and I think I remember being told by my sis-in-law that you can use other meat if you want.

Very easy.
Cut one onion.  Fry.  Add the curry paste (for our tastes we will probably use 3/4 of the packet next time - we are not used to spicy food!).
Add meat and coat (I actually added the 5 chicken drumsticks with the onions to seal the meat - it can take up to a kg of meat, I had lots of sauce leftover from this one so next time I'd do maybe 8 chicken drums and have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.  Even better!).
Add a tin of coconut milk and simmer.
When it's nearly cooked swizzle a bit of kekap manis (Indo sweet soy sauce) around, and add a tiny bit of salt, before continuing to simmer.  This is my sister's special addition, not mentioned on the packet.  Grin.
**I can't believe I have lived for thirty years without even knowing about the existence of kekap manis!!!!  It is SO good!
You can serve the main meat dish just like this, with rice and a side of stir-fried veges.
Or be lazy like I was and add some veges near the end of the cooking time instead of doing separate veges.  My sister-in-law suggested beans and broccoli.  Just long enough to heat them through.  I used frozen beans and peas with some sliced carrots.  The carrots went in a bit earlier to soften them up.  Then I threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes just before it was time to eat.

It was delicious.  Rendang will definitely be on next month's menu.  The only question is, beef or chicken?


My Latest Project

You know me.  I have to have a project on the go.  Okay, okay, so that's a major understatement. I  usually have multiple projects in various states of half-completion.  But I am at least better these days at eventually finishing what I started.  And learning not to attempt things such as quilts, dolls clothes, or anything else I am unlikely to finish!  Hehe.

Having finished my skirts, I launched myself straight into another sewing project.  The timing might not be the best, considering I also started study again recently.  But I figured I could always do a little bit here, and a little bit there.  After all, sewing is a bit like that anyway.

They are bags.   Drawstring bags.  I found some fabric off-cuts for a grand total of $4.  I'm able to make 9 bags and still have half the yellow fabric left over.  Wahoo.  I've made a pattern for them myself (and feeling really clever - here's hoping it does all work out!).  The idea is that they are just a little bit bigger than a 1B5 exercise book.  I had thought I'd make them as shoulder bags, but Mum  had the oh-so-brilliant idea of making them drawstring.  Really simple sewing.  No silly handles to worry about.  And the added benefit that the kids receiving these bags would probably get much more use out of something that does up.  They are for my Operation Christmas Child boxes you see.  My Mother-in-law met someone recently who helped deliver boxes, and commented on how little these kids often have to store their belongings in.  So I figured a simple drawstring bag would go a long way to helping them keep their precious gifts safe.  You can imagine my delight when I found such cheap, and lovely fabric to make them.

So far, they've been cut out.  Munchkin supervised.  The side seams were sewn up.  Then overlocked at Mum's.  My next step is to fold and iron the top casing for the drawstring, then I can sew it, and pop some ties in.  A nice simple, straightforward project.  Very fulfilling and satisfying.  If this goes well, I might end up making Munchkin a swimming bag on a similar principle at some point (I had one as a kid my mum made for me that I was prodigiously proud of!).

I'm just amazed at how good it feels to be gaining more experience with my sewing.


Corn Corn and More Corn

Have I ever told you how much I love fresh corn?  No?


Mmmm.  The crisp, juicy sweetness that is a fresh corn cob.  Slathered with butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Oh my, oh my.  Lunch.  Dinner.  Afternoon tea.  Whenever the time of day, it's delicious.  Munchkin is already well initiated into the rites of sweet corn on the cob.  He can munch his way happily through half a cob and still do justice to the rest of his dinner.  Boyo isn't quite so keen, he doesn't like the bits in his teeth.  I've tried teaching him my high-level corn-cob-eating technique that results in very little corn-in-teeth.  But he hasn't got it.  Oh well, we all still like corn regardless.

But I've always found it a bit hard to manage technically.  How do you take a humongous cob of corn and cut it into something more manageable?  I used to avoid the issue.  Serve up a whole cob each.  Boyo had no issues.  His would disappear along with whatever else was for dinner.  But I'd either eat my corn and not have room for anything else, or eat the rest and be uninterested in my corn.  Such a waste.

But when I tried to cut them, my frustration levels were almost unbearable.

Last summer, Mum came to my rescue.  It's really very easy to cut corn she tells me. I am a little skeptical.  But interested enough to listen.  The trick is to get the knife right into that cob.  Here I'd been wrestling and wrangling my corn cobs nearly to death trying to cut them.  There'd be mushed corn all over the place before I finally came away triumphant with a bit of corn in each hand.  Way easy, says Mum.  Use a nice sharp knife.  Check.  My big one is best for that.  Good strong tip, nice maneuverability, and sharp to boot.  Stab that cob.  Right down deep.  Now wriggle the knife around a bit, gradually cutting through the cob.  You don't have to go all the way around.  Just a little, till there's enough movement to give a little twist of the knife blade and wa-lah, two bits of very neatly cut corn.  Very few splatters of mangled corn.  Very little effort.  Very little frustration.  Quick and easy.  Ah.  I am now a very happy corn-cob-eating girl.   Now,  if I could just find a bit more room in my already over-full freezer, I'd be cutting corn by the bucket load to freeze.  We did that in Townsville - it comes up so much nicer than the store-bought frozen cobs.  But alas, my freezer is full.  As it contains a whole lot of blueberries, I probably shouldn't complain.  Instead, we might just eat some more corn for dinner tonight.  Yum, yum, yummy.

Have you enjoyed some fresh corn this summer?


Number Cards

After success with our Letter Cards, I decided to whip up some numbers ones.  These are very basic, just a written number and some shapes, drawn with yellow pen.  But then they don't need to win any artistry awards, do they?  Just as long as they help Munchkin learn to recognise his number names.  I mostly used shapes for the pictures, as we haven't  really covered any except circles so far.  May as well make them serve a double purpose!


Snakes without Ladders?

I finished another blanket strip last you think it looks a little like a snake all curled up, waiting to strike?  That's what the photo made me think of.

I've now started crocheting strips to squares, working from the middle out...learning from experience I take photos of the order of each successive strip to be put together (the red stripes go in the middle of these two strips - can you see the pink bit of paper with my instructions?!).

I'm loving the multicoloured yarn I'm using to crochet it all together.  It's an acrylic, a bit of a concession on my part.

Still working on Munchkin's cardigan.  I'm now working on the front edges and collar.  With slow progress, and much debating with my wonderful Mother-in-law who is helping make sense of the pattern, adjust to my longer size, and provide various technical support not limited to unpicking, restitching, how to tidy buttonholes, and more.  Along with moral support and company of course.  The little owl was her handiwork, a gift for Munchkin put together while sitting with me knitting.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is There a Goosebump On Me?

I was talking with Boyo earlier before heading out for my evening walk (a new routine I am still getting used to). 
I asked, "Should I wear leggings?"  I figured my spouse would direct me well, seeing as he'd just been out himself.  "Yes," he said.  Then, "No."  Ah, not really helpful my love.  Apparently it is for me to decide. 
I ended up deciding no.  I remembered that the last few times I've walked, even though sometimes I might feel a little cool while out there as soon as I came home I'd be warm as toast.  Warmer in fact, and need to strip off layers.  So I decided that it won't hurt me to be cold for half an hour.  Boyo laughed.  But seriously, I have finally worked out that I'm so worried about being cold, so used to being cold, so much expecting I will feel cold, that as soon as I feel even one lone goosebump I whip out my cardigan.  And then take it off again.  And put it on, and take it off.  Because of course it really is too warm and I just got a lone goosebump or two because the breeze is slightly (ever so minutely) cool.
So tonight I was brave, and went without my leggings.  It was cool, but not overly so.  I enjoyed the brisk air, and as I was walking the whole time I didn't really get cold. I did, however, have my headband on.  Feeling a little cool for half an hour I can handle.  Having earache for the rest of the evening I cannot. 
I feel a little jealous of Boyo.  He said earlier tonight that he hardly ever gets goosebumps and I know he practically never has had earache.  Me, on the other hand, can get earache on a summer's night from the lightest breeze.  I can have goosebumps for half an average day.  Even in summer.  This week, I've had goosebumps at least two mornings.  Maybe more.  I forget.  Suffice to say that funny little me goes around wearing a tshirt and pretty skirt, but with leggings underneath and at least one (sometimes two!!!) cardigans on top till lunchtime.  At which point the sun enters my house, my bloodstream, and my limbs and I suddenly start to feel a little stuffy and overheated.  Off come the leggings and cardigan.  Out go the windows.  And suddenly you can tell that it truly is a summer day. 
We won't talk about winter.  I am dreading winter already.  I chose a typical "Amy" photo for my study profile today.  I'm wearing a waterproof jacket, carrying an umbrella (and Munchkin on my back - it was awhile ago!), and wearing a wooly hat.  How typical.  That reminds me.  I need to get new fingerless  gloves before Autumn.  There's no way I want to wait until winter.  I wore out two pairs last year.  Literally wore them out.  Some nights I sleep in them.  Most nights I sleep in a wooly hat.  Arrgh.  I said we weren't going to talk about winter.  Remember?!

I'm going to revel in my short sleeves and skirt now for half an hour or thereabouts.  That's probably about how long until the warmth from my walk wears off and I decide to toss a blanket over my knees.

ps - here's that photo.  At least I don't let being cold stop me from getting outside, even if I do sometimes look like an Eskimo.  Grin.

Monday, February 11, 2013

This Could Take Awhile

Getting used to studying again could take awhile.  The realization has dawned upon me gradually over the past week. I am having to realise that I simply can't just do whatever I want when Munchkin is in bed.  That includes having a nap, doing a few 'odd jobs' here and there, or whatever else.  I need to study.  At least at present, while we are still settling him into kindy.  But we are getting there, and all still talking to each other so I guess we are doing well.  Smile.

So what did we get up to last week?

Argued with Studylink, WINZ, and IRD.  All on the same day.  Terrible.  Stressful.  Awful.  Horrible.  I am looking forward to the day we no longer need a student allowance or other income support.  But also grateful that we live in a country that does have some measures to assist us while we study.  If we lived elsewhere, it's likely we'd never leave the position we are now in, working and studying at night school or something for decades.  So I'm grateful. I just hate this time of year.  Every year we get issues with figures not being right, etc.  Every. Single. Year.  Something different each year.  But all stressful.  Thankfully, this time round we might have 'won' at least two of our three battles.  Thank God.  It appears someone (who I have, I admit, been calling a moron for the better part of the past few days!), managed to input our data with me as a full-time student who didn't qualify for a student allowance.  When actually I'm a part-time student.  This makes quite a big difference.  Hopefully it is now sorted out.  IRD, I am not so sure about...but we can at least live with that reduction in income.  I must also add here that I spoke with not one, but TWO incredibly lovely girls at Studylink who were appropriately sympathetic to our plight and competently sorted out the issues for us.  VERY THANKFUL.  Just waiting for the official letter in the post before we do a jig of happiness and relief.

Started study.  Ordered lots of books.  Picture books and chapter books.  Not my usual study resources, but a delightful change!  One of my papers is Children's Literature, so I get to read some old favourites and hopefully find some new ones too.

First morning at kindy then first morning alone at kindy.  (Disclaimer:  When I refer to ‘kindy’ or ‘preschool’ I’m talking about early childhood care – in NZ kindergarten is typically for 3-4 year olds, sessional in nature, with fully qualified staff and good learning focus around a free play philosophy where teachers come alongside children and talk and learn with them as they play or work on projects.  Preschool is early childhood too, more likely to be full or part-day and starting from as young as a few months old.  Munchkin’s going to a preschool.  We can choose the hours, but it has mostly qualified staff, and a lovely learning environment that is mostly free play with some short mat times, meals, and feeding of the preschool animals.)

We all survived.  Munchkin, however, was wiped out by just three hours at kindy.  Argghhh.  Making adjustments to kindy days to try and get them separated so we don't get major tantys from overtired boy!  Also making sure that kindy days have quick and easy dinners, early bedtimes, and hopefully that will all help a lot.

A tree fell down across our walkway entry in a bit of wind.  Not a lot of wind, but the other half had collapsed awhile back so this half was probably feeling a bit on the wobbly side!  Quite exciting having to squeeze past it.  Boyo even managed with his bike...we do have an alternative route but there's a lot of steps and it takes longer so we just maneuvered our way around.  

from the top

from the bottom

I had to give up morning walks when I realised it really is getting too dark at six am to be out and about alone.   Sigh.  I'd only been doing it for a week or two anyways and now I have to find a new routine already.

My view on my last early morning walk, from the top of our walkway access

Made Two Ingredient Cookies.  Twice.  And ate them all.  Twice.  Not just me!  Me, and Munchkin, and Boyo.  This could become my new addiction.  It is easier, faster, and better for me than chocolate pudding.  Grin.

Went to the park as a family.  Munchkin was disappointed the model trains weren't running, but not too much.  Walking along the top of the hill with Daddy where they are making a new track was pretty exciting.  And he loves playing on the big playground too.

Munchkin had his first ever swimming lesson.  His grandmother is taking him.  Apparently they had a blast after he got past the 'this is a new place so I'm going to cling to you like a limpet' phase.  

Had my eyes tested.  Apparently there's nothing really wrong with them.  They haven't deteriorated in the past three years.  So WHY am I getting blurry vision?  Ah, apparently that might be my eye 'fusion' - or the ability of the two eyes to hold focus together on things.  Mine wobble about a bit.  Probably always have to be honest, but I'm really noticing it at present.  They tried a prism thing but it didn't help enough.  I'm going back after a day of studying to see if the same technique has any benefits when my eyes are really tired.  Otherwise, I'm going to see if my dad's monitor is as blurry as my laptop one when plugged in...apparently if it is, that means my graphics card is dud, if it isn't that means my screen is dud.  All helpful (thanks to my brother-in-law for the info!), as if it is just the screen we can buy a cheap one to use until we find funds for a new laptop.  Other suggestions were to use some artificial tears (did you know that when you look at a computer you don't blink often enough, so that means your eyes dry out?  Neither did I!), split up my study into smaller segments (yeah, right), and get more sleep.  Ugh.  We are trying.  Very trying, as my husband would say.



Linking in with Elizabeth.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Insuring for the Unthinkable

Boyo and I are currently in the process of updating our life insurance.

We've had term life cover for about seven years now, and realised recently that we are probably  under-covered for our current circumstances.  These being:  we have a preschooler, we have no house of our own, and it turns out that the insurance we thought we had with some super policies don't apply to us!

So we've been looking at increasing it.

Not a bright idea for a time like this, you might think.  I would probably have to agree.  On the surface it doesn't necessarily make sense.  I've known friends to cancel things like life or car insurance when income has dropped.  And having found out this week that our income has significantly dropped from what we anticipated (by significantly, I mean to the point we are wondering how on earth we can possibly cull and/or find the needed funds to survive another year of study!), you might think we would be culling back our life insurance rather than increasing it.  And it is tempting to do that.  After all, the likelihood is that we'll never need it anyway, right?  Well, I personally am pretty cautious about making claims like that.  I've had too many friends not have third party car insurance, and then have an expensive accident and had to pay large amounts of money for damage done to the other car...and it took years to pay off.  I'm too much of a planner and thinker (okay, and worrier) to just decide that it's not a problem we'll ever face.  I know that the last thing I want to be worrying about if something should ever happen to Boyo is how to pay the bills.

But the next big question is, how much is enough?  And does that depend on what you earn, who earns it, who will be left needing to use?

Here's how we worked it out:

We currently live on around $800NZ in the hand a week (less really as we have less income for the twelve weeks of summer, but anyway, $800 is a good figure).
It is unlikely we'd be earning more than that should one of us pass away unexpectedly in the next few years.  In either career, we'll be starting in that wage bracket, when we do start earning full-time again (have to graduate first!).

We took that amount, $40,000 over a  year, and multipled it by three.  $120,000.  That's to give the remaining partner up to three years of living expenses.  Enough time to finish qualifying, have Munchkin at school age, and time to make some big decisions. 

Then we added $180,000 to that towards a house purchase.  We wanted to do enough to purchase a house outright.  In our area that's around $280,000 to $350,000 for a basic house.  That's a bit more than we can afford the premiums for at present.  So we compromised.  $180,000 as a deposit would mean a mortgage that can be managed on $40,000 a year.  Payments around $250 a week.  We wanted to know that it wouldn't be significantly more than our current rent, as we know we can manage to pay that on the kind of income we'd probably be earning.

$300,000 cover on each of our lives.

We chose to have the cover the same for both of us because regardless of whether it is a primary income earner or a stay-at-home mum who is gone, when you have young children they'd really need their other parent around a lot, particularly during the first year.  So if something happens to me, I want to know that Boyo could stop work to look after Munchkin.  I'd hate to think he'd have to go into daycare or something because Boyo was struggling to pay the bills as a suddenly single parent.

The cost?  We're insured with Fidelity Life, a good quality Kiwi insurance company.  Their premiums will be $45.22 a month for term life cover (that means we don't get a lump sum at the end of the term, but it keeps the premiums really low).  I can live with that.  I hope we never, ever, ever have to use it, but I still feel so much better knowing it's there, just in case.

The other thing with insurance, wills, and stuff like that is that you need to reassess it frequently.  Boyo and I have agreed that we would reassess our life insurance if we move to another area.  The amount we currently have might work okay here in Tauranga, but in Auckland we'd need more to own a house.  We'll also look at it again once Munchkin is at school, or once we own a house. 

We also looked at the option of having life insurance on Munchkin.  My parents did for me, mostly to pay for burial costs should the unthinkable happen.  But Fidelity Life doesn't offer it until kids are ten.

Now to finalise the paperwork.

Do you have life insurance?  How did you decide how much to insure for?  If you don't and you have a young family, do it now.  It's important.  Don't leave them hanging, love them through your planning.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Burlap Bag's TWO Ingredient Cookies

My Mother-in-law sent me the link to these TWO ingredient cookies earlier this week, along with rave reviews!

As I had two slightly over-ripe bananas on my bench, and hate eating ripe bananas, I thought I would give it a go.  I figured it’s a quick, easy recipe for Munchkin to help with and sample.  Grin.  Usually we get problems with things taking too long to either mix or cook (or both!) before his attention has gone, or he really desperately wants to eat whatever we are making. 

The idea with this recipe is to use oats and banana and then pop in a little bit of whatever you feel like.  I got quite carried away reading all the comments on The Burlap Bag’s post…people were adding vanilla, walnuts, pecans, craisins, maple syrup, spices, all sorts really!  I managed to be very self-controlled and only added a LITTLE extras as the tutorial warned that too many will stop the biscuits sticking!

I made it with:
2 medium sized, quite ripe bananas
1 c rolled oats
1T each of sultanas, choc chips, and coconut
½ t cinnamon



I added around 1T more of oats to get a good consistency.

Blob and squish (blob with wooden spoon and finger, use finger to pat into a more ‘cookie’ shape).

Cook.  I did ours at 170degrees Celsius, for just under fifteen minutes.  I think I have a hot oven so am learning to watch closely and check my biscuit ‘bums’ as last time I tried cooking choc chip biscuits I had to throw out over half as their bottoms were charcoaled!

Eat.  Lots.  And lots.

Munchkin thought they were fabulous.  Boyo has yet to give his verdict.  I quite like them.  Making them again, I’d probably add a pinch of salt.  They were quite sweet without needing any extra sugar, seeing as there was banana, sultanas and our cheap, sweet choc chips!  They were super easy to mix, super easy to cook, and super easy to eat.  Pretty healthy as far as baking goes too.  Very healthy in fact. 

So while this might prove to be a boring cookie if  you were to make it with just the two base ingredients, the real charm lies in it's versatility.  Don't have any chocolate chips?  No worries.  Chop up those few remaining dates instead.  Simply choose what you do have in the cupboard.  It's a great way of using up those 'little bits' we can so easily end up with in our pantries because there's not enough to use in anything.

My only caution?  Don’t make these if you don’t like the taste of banana.  If you like banana, then go and make some NOW.  And eat them all!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Goodbye, Baby

Today I left my baby with strangers.
He was fine.
I was, ah, emotional. But okay. I had my little moment as I drove home, wondering if he’d be okay, wishing I didn’t have to leave him. But then I thanked God that he is nearly three, and a happy, well adjusted boy for all that. I am SO grateful that I wasn’t having to leave my six month old at daycare, that this moment came when he was ready for it. Ready. Not forced, even though it’s happened now because of my study needs. It still fits his needs and wants. He likes his preschool, and he’s going to have a great time. Reassuring when I can sometimes feel like this degree gives him the short end of the deal. I’m really, honestly, truly blown away at how this whole thing has been orchestrated. It certainly wasn’t by any of my doing. Being able to have last year off study was exactly what I and my family needed right at that time. But going back to study is also just the right thing for the right time now.
I’ve also figured out some of the emotions. The issue is not so much that I’m leaving my boy. It’s that I’ve had to leave him with people who really don’t know him yet. They don’t know what he likes or dislikes (even though I did write them a one-page tome on Munchkin’s personality!). They don’t know how to settle him when he is upset. I kind of feel like that’s my special place in his life. Mummy knows what word he is trying to say, Mummy has the right cuddles when he is upset, Mummy is there when needed. So today it was hard to relinquish some of that to his teachers. Wonderful, loving, talented teachers, but still comparative strangers. But of course, they won’t remain strangers. Give us a few weeks. That’s the thing, we’ve had to rush into this a bit more than I would naturally be inclined to. Study again. Sigh. But it’s okay. The boy is resilient and friendly. He will be okay. So will his mother (so I tell myself).
I’m definitely glad he will be staying for two full days, rather than having to do this every week day morning! Lots of travel, as our centre is fifteen-twenty minutes drive away. Now I realise that’s not far really, just further than many others we could have chosen (but didn’t ‘cos they aren’t nearly as good!). It just means I lose up to two hours each day in the drop off/pick up run between the driving, shoes, settling in, etc. I got an hour and fifty minutes to study while he was at kindy today. Got a good amount done, but will definitely be needing more next week.

The other thing I think has been making this all more glaringly obvious, this ‘losing my baby’ feeling, is that Munchkin is our only child. If we had another child at home, perhaps I wouldn’t notice quite so much that he is growing up far too quickly? I’m not sure, but maybe? There’d still be the baby cuddles, the cooing and bouncing, the learning to walk and talk. For us, that phase is now completely over. It’s been over for awhile, I just didn’t consciously realise and let it go. I’m doing that now. I’m realising that I now no longer have a baby. He’s not even a toddler really. He’s a preschooler. Oh my, my big preschooler!
I took photos. He sat, resigned. Tolerant. Yup, I’m already getting the tolerant look. He let me photograph, but was really just wanting to know what he was allowed to eat from his lunch on the way to kindy (Mummy having realised that morning tea at 10am is a LONG time to wait for a small boy who had breakfast between 6:30-7:30am).
He’s now sound asleep, wiped out from the day. And that was with a sleep at lunchtime. Ugh. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to next week when sleep might not be a happening thing with all the goings on and interesting stuff at kindy!
But I’m glad that we’ve done it. Glad that we chose well, glad that we were able to wait this long before he had to go to preschool (it is a complete miracle when you think of the study/work juggle the past couple of years and I am truly grateful).


Monday, February 4, 2013


The week in a nutshell?
Gearing up for study.

Getting our timetables and Kindy hours sorted.  It would help if Polytech would stop changing their schedule! Grr.  Big changes with both of us studying again this year.  We've only ONE WEEK between now and mid November where we are both on holiday at the same time.  You'd think that Tertiary institutions might decide to do something sensible, like follow the primary school calendar.  You'd be wrong.  The whole thing is a little archaic.  Frustrating.  We resort to doing things like asking that our church duties are on the same day (I help out with Munchkin's age group, Boyo does packdown or carparking).  At least that halves the number of Sundays we are committed, so we can occasionally use a Sunday to visit grandparents or finish assignments. I'm still waiting on my papers being available online...apparently today (Monday) is the day.  Then I can order a physical copy and see about any other study books I may need. 

But life is not all study.  Especially with a two and a half year old in the house.  In other news…

We copied Button.  With a Munchkin twist.

Then we looked at buttons.

Made more cards.

Picked blueberries.

Had haircuts.  Mine at a hairdressers, Munchkin’s at the Mummy hairdressing academy with assistance from Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends – but I completely forgot to take photos of the process!  Here is an attempt this morning.

Paid the bills and bought the food.

Mixed enough flour for bread loaves for this month into two new bins bought for the purpose (hoping this saves us time and helps me not buy either too much or too little flour as I am rather prone to do).

Watered the garden and prayed for rain soon.  Even watered some of the lawn as between the dryness and guinea pigs it’s not looking so flash just now!

Munchkin had sleepovers with his grandparents.  They went to the grand opening of his Preschool!

Meanwhile, Mummy and Daddy celebrated nine years of marriage.
Walked round the Mount and had Copenhagen icecreams.
Played two different boardgames with two different sets of friends.  It’s nice to be able to go out without worrying over whether Munchkin will sleep at someone else’s house.  Settlers of Catan and 7 Wonders, if you are wondering.  Really enjoy both.  I'd love to buy them.  Yup, trying to work out how that can work.  I grew up playing board games and doing puzzles with my family, and have many great memories of it, so I'd love to have the same for our family now.  It's nice to have something you can do when people come for dinner.  We've also played Coloretto and Ticket to Ride in recent months...friends of ours being mad keen on board games, they teach us a new game each time we have a meal with them!  They also happen to be terrific teachers (which makes the process all that more enjoyable!), and own Seriously Board, the bestest ever board game shop!

On that note, I am being requested to read stories.  B for Baby is apparently involved.  Woof, too.  Better go and see what book has been selected then get onto the vacuuming!


Linking in with Sunday Snippets.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Night O Knitting

I am just on the computer to sort a few photos.
Write a quick blog post (well, at least I always think it will be a 'quick one' - even though they rarely ever are!).

Then I'm heading to my comfy chair.  My polarfleece blanket.  Even though it really is a bit warm for that.  I just need a moment of peace and quiet.  It's been a pretty busy weekend at the end of a busy week and I'm feeling all rather stressed about the myriad of study/childcare/study/etc issues currently before us with the start of the study year.  Some empty brain space is what I need.

I'm going to knit my latest blanket addition, and watch a dvd.  I am currently wavering between Pride and Prejudice (BBC mini series) and Mamma Mia.  The blanket hasn't had much attention lately, with Munchkin's cardigan needing lots of work, but I've picked it up again recently and am really enjoying just knitting straight rows with almost no counting.  And definitely no pearling.  My poor hand really needs a rest from pearl knitting.

Here's the last batch of blanket squares I made...

I hope you are having a likewise quiet and peaceful evening!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Secret Weapon

We keep a tight budget around here.  Partly from necessity.  As students, we have to plan carefully to keep things ticking over financially.  But it is partly also from choice.  We have big dreams.  Really big dreams.  And we realise that big dreams don't just fall from the sky (usually, at any rate).  They require work.  And money, invariably.  So we are trying to at least keep afloat during these lean study years, and not go backwards.

The biggest ongoing area that requires near constant oversight is, of course, our grocery budget.

My secret weapon?


This is an artform somewhere between guessing and estimating.  Quite useful for helping gauge whether the money you have left in the month will or will not allow you to buy those tins of Watties spaghetti on special (we only ever buy it at $1/tin and this is the week!) without running the household supplies so low you have to eat toast with peas on top for dinner the last two nights before shopping day.  Okay, so that is an exaggeration, but you get my drift.  The absolute hardest thing I find about grocery shopping is making sure we don't run out of money before next month (we budget monthly).

So this week was our 'big shop' week, being the beginning of the month.  Once the groceries were away, I sat down with the leftover money and my shopping list...which invariably still has a few things left on it.  Shopping between five different stores and buying many items when they are on special only helps save us a lot of money and make our money go further, but it does mean I have to keep closer track on what is left still to get.  I took $40 for each of the remaining weeks this month and popped that into their little cash bags.  That way I hopefully will still have $40 for fruit and veges in week four, rather than accidentally spending it all next week!  Then I guesstimated how much the other items I still wanted to buy would cost.

Here's my guesstimating for the rest of the main shop...

I just round up or close to what I think an item will cost.  Tomato sauce is about $3, a tin of tuna around $2.50, carrots might be $3 for a kilo or just helps me work out whether I've got roughly enough money or whether I need to cull the list.  This is helpful.  Very helpful.  If I do this, I'm much less likely to have the embarrassment of having to return something at the checkout because I don't have enough cash on me, or the annoyance of having to breach the eftpos card and overspend.

Got many of those items today.  So far, looking good.  Might leave the pumpkin till another week.  Having to buy eggs because the chooks seem to be moulting and going off the lay.  Never mind.  I still love them.  Grin.


The Tastes of Summer

I love summer.  Mostly because I love summer food.  That and not being cold all day, every day!
Winter food is basic, it's all about comfort.  I do love winter food, don't get me wrong (okay, okay so maybe I just love good food!).  There's nothing like a delicious soup to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold winters day.  But summer.  Ah, summer.  Berries.  Stone fruit.  Sweet delights ripened by the summer sun.

We've been back visiting our roadside stall on Totara Street this year.  Amazing Hawkes Bay fruit, at cheap-as prices.  Drip down your arm nectarines for $3/kg.  Soft and fragrant peaches for $4/kg.  Omega and Black Doris plums.  Oh my goodness.  Bliss.  These red fleshed plums are about the only sorts I like, and you pretty much never come across them in the shops.  And this week?  New season Royal Gala apples from Gisborne.  Still a little light on flavour, but crisp and sweet none the less.

We picked our first blueberries of the summer this week.  I really like blueberries.  I really, really, really like picking blueberries.  There's something in my nature that just loves harvesting.  Gazing at a heavily laden bush, feeling the warm fruit in my fingers, picking the best, darkest, softest, melt-in-your-mouthest blueberries!  Munchkin likes blueberry picking too.  But he has yet to learn to keep any in his bucket!  Boyo is not so keen.  It tends to get a bit hot for him out there in the blueberry patch.  Plus, he doesn't have that near-compulsive need to get 'that last one' or 'that other last one' or 'just a few more' like I do.  Grin.  You get the idea?  This compulsive thing can be a bit difficult when it is time to go home.  But I do pick really well.  I like to be efficient, and I like to get good quality fruit.

I'd carefully saved some money the past couple of months so we had enough to pick blueberries.  It's the only way we can afford them.  At $10/kg to pick your own, they are still some of the most expensive fruit we ever buy.  But totally worth it.  Packed full of antioxidants and other good stuff, easy to prepare and eat, and delicious.  I now have 20 cups of blueberries stashed in my freezer.  20 little zip lock bags ready for smoothies, blueberry and apple crumble, porridge, or just frozen snacking (Munchkin is particularly fond of eating things directly from the freezer - he has a knack of turning up when we are getting peas or corn out for dinner and insisting on a few!).

The other delight this summer?
Tomatoes!  We actually have TOMATOES!  From our GARDEN!  You wonder at my excitement, but seriously, the past few years we've had disease after disease with the toms.  It is so nice to finally have enough to eat my fill.  No rationing.  No supermarket substitutes.  Just chock-full of tangy sweetness cherry tomatoes.  The absolute best ones are the Black Cherry Tomatoes.  They aren't really black, just this funny murky maroon colour.  The layers of organic matter and sulfate of potash fertilizer have paid off this summer.  Bonanza tomatoes all over the vines.  Now I just need to remember to water often enough for them to survive.  And try to avoid stink beetles which have recently taken up residence.  Ugh.  I don't expect we will have enough tomatoes to do anything other than eat them.  I didn't plant extra bushes.  I don't have the time for bottling or sauce making.  I already did my sauce making dash this year.  So it will be tomatoes on toast, tomatoes in casserole, tomatoes for breakfast, and afternoon snacks, and dinner.  Yay!  I am rather partial to tomatoes.

What's your favourite summer food?

Nine is a Great Number

I love the number nine.

It’s been growing on me gradually over the years.

Nine is the favourite number of my favourite person.

And nine is the number of years we have now been married.

Thank you, Boyo, for everything.  I’m so grateful to have you to walk with through this journey called life.  We have a great marriage, and I’m proud to be your wife.  I’m so proud that we didn’t give up when things were really tough, that we didn’t walk away.  We stuck it out, worked it through, and are better for it today.  I love you.

Thank you for those countless times you listen to me chatter (and chatter and chatter) when you really don’t want to.  Thank you for letting me cry and just hugging me till it gets better.  Thank you for rising to the challenge of being a fabulous Dad.  One of my greatest delights in life is listening to you play with Munchkin, read to Munchkin, make Munchkin laugh, talk with Munchkin…be Munchkin’s Daddy.  I love that he asks pretty much every time we get home, “Daddy home, Mummy?”  Even when it drives me nearly to distraction having to explain yet again that Daddy is at work, or Daddy is at Polytech, or Daddy is still sleeping. 

You have so many dreams, and I love that about you.  I love that you don’t want to be average.  Keep going after your dreams, present them to God and take action on them.  Learn all you can, become all you can.  And one day you will get to do some of these things you dream of.  I’m looking forward to that. 

Thank you for letting me influence you.  It’s so easy to live in the same house, yet still be two separate people.  I love that you have become more ‘green’ by association, and that you encourage me and work with me to manage our money well.  I love that you are my sounding board for ideas, thoughts, frustrations, hopes, dreams, everything.  That’s got to be one of the best ever things about our relationship – that we can talk with each other about pretty much anything.

You are my optimist on a cloudy day.  (I mean that figuratively, Mr Black and White, Mr can-read-the-weather-with-uncanny-ability!).  You balance out my realism and my drive with your optimism and relaxed outlook on life.

Thank you for helping around the house more lately.  I know it’s not easy, changing your routines and expectations, but while I’m not so sure about that saying that sex starts in the kitchen, I do know that a happy wife definitely equals a happy home!  When you help me with things, I know that you really care about our home, about us.

My weather man.

My walking calculator.

My best friend.

My hero.

My love.

I love you, and I hope we get to spend another ninety nine years perfecting this thing called marriage.