Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Delicious Food, ready when you are…

So, let me tell you about some awesome fun my family and I have been having in the past couple of weeks! I was given the opportunity to taste some absolutely fantastic gourmet foods from a new company which is just beginning to spread its wings in Australia. The company is called dish’d and they offer a new and exciting way to experience delicious food from around the world right in the comfort of you own home! Now, as I had the pleasure of finding out, these aren’t just any old pre-prepared frozen meals, they’re the kind of food you find restaurants, prepared by an experience chef who wants to offer something innovative, creative and tantilising!

I was a little worried about how the family would take to this, especially Bryn who has, well, let’s say, an extremely (frustratingly so) discerning palate (in layman’s term, he’s a fussy eater)… So, I ordered a range of side dishes, mains, and desserts, some more recognisable to the kids such as spring rolls and vegie lasagna. As I was going away that week, I scheduled the order for after I got back later, however, dish’d will deliver the following day, so if you are after very fast service, they do that, too. As it turned out, because my order was over $50 (and I was pleasantly surprised by the affordability of the dishes), I discovered I was entitled to $30 worth of free product in addition to my order, as well as free delivery as part of an introductory offer, which was pretty awesome!

The order arrived exactly as per my instructions on the day I asked for and we all crowded around the box to see the goodies. The meals are frozen and delivered in dry ice to retain their nutritional and taste credentials, which means no fear of food spoiling before you eat it!

Over the next few days we tried out a variety of meals, side dishes, and desserts including: Sea Bream and Vegetables; Spinach and Mascarpone pizza; White and Red Quinoa Salad, and the lemoniest Lemon Tart I’ve ever had, YUM!

I was particularly impressed with the sides; Baby baked potatoes, Pearl couscous salad, and the Mediterrean Salad because these meant I (ahem, the Grumpy Old Man, as dinner is his forte) could quickly grill some fish or chicken, and serve with a side dish, which was either defrosted in the fridge while we were out chasing our tails or can quickly be defrosted in the microwave in under 5 minutes – I have to say this is ideal for busy families like mine because a nutritious dinner can be served in 15 minutes from walking through the front door – perfect!

But my all time favourites were the finger foods and desserts. To be able to have those things in the freezer for special occasion – without even having to break my routine to go shopping (and just quietly, I loathe food shopping, especially with kids!) – was marvelous. I felt a somewhat smug sense of self-satisfaction when I was able to serve up a warm wild berry tart with a drizzle of cream to guests who had turned up on speck!

This Wild Blueberry Tart came out of MY oven - thanks to dish'd!

Served with a little drizzle of cream - and a large dollop of smugness...

So, how did the kids like the food? Well, Lukas LOVES the Mozzarella and Mushroom pizza. Erik’s favourite was the Thai Vegetable Green Curry. Ari couldn’t get enough of the Chorizo and Bacon Croquettes, and even Bryn had a favourite – the Potato Spun Vegetable Balls. The Grumpy Old Man loved the Petits Gratins De Crab and for me the standouts were the desserts; particularly the Bacio Gelato, but also Apple Le Carré Feuilleté!

It is safe to say we were all impressed and there was something for everyone’s taste!

Is your mouth watering yet?

Well, I’m not just here to brag about how I got to eat lots of yummy food delivered right to my door… I am offering you the chance to win a $50 vouncher if you live in metro Victoria or New South Wales. For a chance to win this fabulous prize simply answer the following question:

What about dish’d service appeals to you?

Be quick, this competition closes on December 23rd, 2014!

To help you answer this question, have a look at their range, and keep in mind the meals are frozen to lock in nutrition and taste and that they are delivered right to your door the very next day if needed – as a busy mum, who loathes food shopping, that’s very appealing, but there is so much more that appeals as well. Really, have a look at their range on the dish’d site!

I am already being asked when we’ll put in our next order, and with all the business of Christmas and school holidays, I suspect it will be very soon!

Disclaimer: For the purposes of this review I was provided with a voucher to sample a range of products, and a fee for my time writing this review. My opinions are wholly my own.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Create, don't consume...

Around this time every year I fly into a bit of a panic. It's not as bad as it was, say, seven years ago, but it still happens. You see, tomorrow Erik and Lukas go on summer holidays, and then at the end of next week Bryn and Ari join them. The next three weeks will be okay because, well, there's Christmas and then there's New Year's. But then there is January, in particular the first three weeks of January.

We can never afford to get afford to get away, and so we spend January at home. I will most likely be working, which gets me out of the house, but the rest of the guys will be at home niggling one another. It can truly be a sucky time. Mostly, the kids want to play computer games. I get that, it passes the time, it's a form of escapism, and frankly, if they could do it without squabbling, I'd be tempted to let them while away summer days going on virtual quests.

But, you see, there's the rub, they really aren't able to play the games without fighting over controllers (we have four, and they STILL fight over them), or squabbling about which games to play, or someone demanding to left ALONE to play (as if that would ever happen in our household).

So, every year I panic about what to do with the kids.

We've had games tournaments, but haven't done that in a couple of years now, maybe this year is the year to revive that tradition>

One thing I have talked to the boys about with regard to this summer is that I don't want them to simply consume all summer. I don't want them to just sit and watch tv, or read books (only two children are likely to do this) or play computer games. I want them CREATE something this year, more specifically I want them to create something others can somehow enjoy. Yes, they can create quests on a server, or a you tube channel, if they MUST use technology. Or they can create artwork to exhibit/sell, or they can create music or stories, but they must create something.

Erik thinks this will be easy as he has a whole slew of work to do for his upcoming Studio Art subject next year. Lukas hasn't commented on my demand. Bryn is thinking he'll do a you tube channel teaching other kids how to get through levels on a game (hmmm, I'll be watching this one carefully). Ari, like Lukas, hasn't said anything about it, but the concept of creating anything but trouble might be beyond him, right now. I can see I may have to work with him.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Levelling out...

Okay, so let's see. I got back from Wellington on Wednesday evening last week. I felt completely outside my head on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Like seriously, I wasn't gone that long, but it took me nearly as long to settle once I got back. Part of the reason for that is that Bryn had left for camp the morning of the day I returned, so I didn't have my family back in one place until Friday night.

On Saturday I went to the Swedish Church Christmas Fair in Toorak with mum. It has grown so much over the past decade. We barely knew anyone, but it was marvellous all the same. We had Danish pølser (hotdogs) and frikadeller (meatball on black bread with onion). Listened to Scandinavian Christmas music, and of course, bought scandinavian Christmas decos!

I loved these lights and had to have them! Also on the table you can see a candle holder consisting of four connected, red-painted wood hearts, a little 'nisse' (christmas elf) with a long beard and his nose sticking out from under a red santa cap, and a Christmas candle calendar (you burn it for a about an hour a day, every day leading up to the 23 and when the last number is burned away, it's Christmas!).

On Sunday we comprehensively cleaned the house - I washed the floor for the first time since we moved in, eek! And we put up all the Christmas decorations and the tree. It looks lovely in the house now. Only when that was done did I really feel like I had settled back in at home.

On Sunday, I wrote a great long list of everything I need to do for the nest couple of weeks. I have to start organising the trip to Iceland already. I have sent off all my paper work to my aunt in Iceland to try and arrange a change of name, so I can apply for an Icelandic passport. I have to get quotes for flights etc. and then make bookings, it is very exciting but considering the amount of energy and time I expended on preparing for this conference, I'm keen to try and streamline things a bit more for the research trip.

Today I've been working on the revisions for the peer reviewed paper (due Friday), they aren't big revisions at all, but somewhat confusing as I feel I'm being asked to repeat myself. I think maybe I need to try and be clearer. 

This week will be all about churning out some creative work. I've very excited to be back to this bit of the thesis, I love this bit, I feel most at home in this bit - like most practice-led researchers, I dare say.

I also need to do some follow up work from the conference - which seems like a million years ago now, so best not let those things linger too long!

I'm so glad to be back. I hadn't realised how much the conference had taken out of me until Sunday when I started to feel more myself again. It is one thing to go to a conference and present a paper (something I find absolutely thrilling and invigorating, by the way, I am completely at home in front of a lecture theatre audience - this is so absolutely what I want to do), but it's a whole other thing to travel when you have a vision impairment, and worse than that, agoraphobia. I did really well, if I say so myself. I was actually kind of shocked at how many people travelled with their partners, their siblings, their children, or who were staying with friends and family. There is nothing wrong with that, but I was being quite hard on myself for being anxious about it and it turned out that being anxious and wanting to bring a 'security blanket' is very much the norm. One night, in Wellington, having asked people what they were doing for dinner and finding everyone had plans with people they had brought with them, or family/friends they were staying with, I ended up going out on the town by myself! I went and found a lovely little *quiet* restaurant and had a lovely dinner and then went back to my room and watched a movie. I was so proud of myself for just doing it anyway, on my own.

But the days and days of being socially 'on' took its toll, and that is why it took so long to find my feet once I was back home again. I think it will be easier next time. This same conference will be in Melbourne next year, so that's very much familiar territory for me, so no biggie. It's nice to back into the domestic routine again though - even though Christmas holidays start this week for the bigger boys, and next week for the smaller ones.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Holding back the tears ~ aka. The 19th AAWP Conference...

So, here I am on the second day of the big conference. It has been amazing. Mostly just because there are other people in the world just like me! You know the old trope of the lonely writer, well, that's probably not true for everyone, not strictly true. I have many friends and acquaintances, good friends, people I feel lucky to know (you guys know who you are, I think). Having said that, none of them are writers trying to break into the academy. Some of my acquaintances are, and hopefully we'll be able to form friendships as time passes, but even so, these are not people I see all the time, and being acquaintances, I'm only just getting to know them, and them me, so it is hard to know how they are experiencing the entire three ring circus that is pursuing one's creative writing impetus, but also attempting to be recognised as a scholar, and even more so a pedagog.

But here, at this conference, I've found others like me, which the same thoughts and feelings, and fears, and even tears.

I've been so inspired hearing what others are working on, and I have been told I have inspired others as well, which is really lovely (and, as always unexpected, today someone singled me out in a room, and I thought she was talking to the person next to me, because I couldn't believe anyone would be inspired by my work, hahaha)!

This morning I attended a panel on being a sessional tutor, and one of the delegates cried when expressing her frustration at not being able to find any security in the academy. She, like me, has only ever wanted to teach creative writing, and like me she is in her 40s, and like me, she has children, and like her I just wanted to cry because I feel her fear. There were no words of reassurance than there would be any security in any of our futures. In fact, we were encouraged to have no fantasies of security in the academy, because even those with a semblance of security, only have that security provisionally. We were encouraged to know what we ultimately wanted to and go for that. We were encouraged to support one another - which can be so difficult in what is often a dog-eat-dog environment. We were encouraged to stand together, and I volunteered to take part in an effort to set recommendations for improving the conditions of sessionals in creative writing. So, there was hope, in action.

80% of the panel from this morning, including some of my favourite academics, mostly because of their generosity and their dedication to making the academy a friendly, inclusive place for Candidates! I want to be like these guys!

The second panel I attended today was on failure and creativity, that was actually far for upbeat than  had expected it to be, and I felt a new resilience in the knowledge that all writers fail, but we can choose how and why we fail, as a matter of practice and/or perception.

The third session I attended this conference (after two yesterday, one of which I presented in), was on various forms of reality hopping, and it was very inspiring to hear about different kinds of writing which hop across reality, either in time, or form or language. This session has seeded some inspiration for writing.

I have come back to my room now, and skipped a keynote speech and a book launch because we have the conference dinner at 8pm tonight, and I am already feeling quite exhausted. It has been such an emotional roller coaster today.

I have other stuff to say on travelling on my own (and how I'm not actually dying, and I may even be enjoying it, just a little bit...), but I'm going to leave that for another time because right now, I just want to have a coffee and a lay down!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How NOT to keep a hyperactive six year old on an even keel...

Arius Von Barius has been driving his father and I right up the wall, across the ceiling and down around the bend for the past couple of weeks. Like fools, we could not figure out why... I finally figured it out this morning... In the past three weeks, he's moved house, fractured his arm, fallen in love with his cousin who lives in Denmark (and who went home and did not take him with her!), and had a visit from his grandad, who he usually only sees maybe once or twice a year.

Cuddles with his cousin.

That's a whole lot of excitement for a six year old who is prone to spin off axis over an unexpected sports day at school.

His teachers have (gently) complained about him being extremely distracted in class, not being able to focus on a task for more than a couple of minutes at a time, or sit still for any length of time. At the same time, they say he's been yawning and almost dropping off in class. There were some rather strong suggestions we try to get him to bed a bit earlier (Earlier than 5.30pm? When is he supposed to eat, exactly?).

It would be nice if life was predictable all the time, or if everyone took change in their stride, but neither of these phenomena are realistic. In fact, with me going away for a few days next weekend (and I've never been away that long without him), and him starting swimming at school (which will completely upset the school time table), there isn't much hope of predictability or easy transitions in Ari's near future.

So, how will we all cope? Here is the plan (drawn from my many years of experience, and a little head scratching and resource relocating)...

1. Do a big grocery shop to eliminate fast food from the diet. All those additives and preservatives are no good, neither is going to a busy fast food 'restaurant' after a long day at school. What he needs is quiet after school, and a nourishing dinner and a very predictable, early bed time each night - especially once swimming starts, because all the excitement and change and swimming will exhaust him.

2. Lots of attention to detail. That is, make eye contact with him when asking him to do stuff or telling him important stuff (including 'I love you', even when he's being a right, royal pain). Lots of cuddles. A bit more 'in' time - reading a book together, or just having a quiet chat for a few minutes before going to sleep. Debriefing is important for kids!

3. Self-talk. This is for the Grumpy Old Man and me! Remembering to tell ourselves that he is experiencing all the challenging things for him. This is a phase. We will get through this. Losing your temper never helps. Wait until he's in bed, and then treat yourself - a long hot shower, download a favourite tv show or movie, eat chocolate if you have to! This is just another opportunity to teach resilience, by modelling it.

So, that's the plan... Get through the upheaval of the trip and of swimming, and before we know it, it'll be Christmas, and... D'oh - Christmas is not at all overstimulating, right?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Amazing Race...

Yesterday, I participate in a really fun birthday celebration for the partner of a friend of mine. My friend organised for his partner's friends to meet up in the city, where they would be divided into teams and given clues to find destinations and to perform tasks, all leading to the final destination where they would received free unlimited drinks and food for two hours!

My friend and I did a dry run (ahem, walk) for the trail last Monday, in total it was approximately 7 kilometres back and forth around the CBD of Melbourne. Yesterday, I participated as one of the stop points, checking the teams had completed their challenges properly and them giving them an enforced break before sending them off with a new clue.

Everyone had lots of fun!

The teams receive and read the game rules - NO public transport, if you are caught taking public transport it's an immediate disqualification and you must pay a donation of $30 to Vision Australia.

The teams receive their first clue!

I then went to my pit stop destination - can you tell where I am? It was a lovely quiet place to wait, and there was awesome, fast wifi to be had!

The teams arrive and show me they completed their challenges - this one was very innovative, completely all three challenges in one go by photographing themselves a) posing in speedos, b) eating a grape, and c) emulating a film poster.

Some teams had to go back and redo their challenge because they didn't photograph ALL members of the team doing each challenge, but the results were hilarious all the same!

When all the teams had been through my pit stop, I headed to the final destination via Melbourne Central.

I was just in time to see the clock play Waltzing Matilda, so I had to stop and take photos (and get a little choked up, as I always do).

Then it was time for a refreshment while I waited for the others to reach the final destination!

The final destination was Spigas, which is situation in a lovely little lane above Melbourne Central station.

And the winners were... Team Xtreme!!!

Then it was time to party!

Party food, yum, yum!

Party drink!

Oh, and I popped my Tequila cherry, as well!

It was a great event. And I was especially pleased that one of the challenges each team had to complete was to give a homeless person a meal, so four homeless people received a meal yesterday in honour of our friend's birthday, which I thought was a really great thing to make happen!

The race wasn't all love hearts though, I heard one team alerted security to another team at my pit stop, so the second team was stopped by security and asked questions and had their bags searched, just to slow them down... It didn't work though, hahaha, as that team ended up winning anyway!

I tell you, after this last month of moving and preparing for the conference next week, it was brilliant to just do something completely different and to have some fun!

Friday, November 14, 2014

A little bit excited! First, ever, peer review paper comments are in!

The review notes from my very first peer reviewed paper came in on Wednesday. I had been expecting them last Friday, so was a bit worried they hadn't turned up yet. I needn't have worried! As is often the case, the two reviewers didn't agree on everything. In fact, they only agreed 100% on one aspect of my paper, which was it's originality. But hey, I'll take that! The reviews were, none the less, very positive, which was such a thrill for me! 

The guideline for the paper was that if the submitter had not submitted a paper before, they should not submit a paper for peer review (category X), however, I was advised to ignore this directive (ha!). So, I was quite nervous to be 'playing with the big kids', so to speak. However, I didn't shame myself, so it's all good, right? I now have until December 12 to make revisions and resubmit the paper for publication - SO EXCITING!
Reviewer One...

Reviewer Two...

I have no idea who reviewed these people (it's all anonymous, chances are, they have no idea who I am either - though anyone who knows me or my work could probably figure it out quickly, LOL).

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