Monthly Archives: November 2013

Anzac Biccies

Icklegen and I barely ventured out of the house on Friday. We awoke to rain and by about 9.30 am the sky had darkened and the thunder had started to rumble. What were we going to do today to keep ourselves busy, I wondered. Well, baking has always been high up on my hit list on bad-weather days. There is something so therapeutic about putting the oven on and creating a delcious, sweet treat to enjoy when it is cold and/or wet outdoors. The question was: would Icklegen buy into my enthusiasm?

I opted for a simple recipe: Anzac biscuits. I’m not hugely into complex cake and biccie recipes actually – give me banana muffins and choc chip cookies over complex toppings, colours and sprinkles any day. I’m sure that will all change for special birthday girl celebrations over the next few years, when I’ll be called upon to create fairy princesses with impossible swirly pink glittery icing and other such flights of fancy.2-P1010022

Anzac biscuits are a relatively new discovery for me. I’d never sampled one before moving out here a few years ago, and boy, had I missed out. They are yummy and so easy to make, too! And given that they contain oats and coconut, they must surely be good for you…

I love the story behind the recipe: it is believed that Anzac biscuits were made and sent to soldiers during WW1 by their loved ones back home. They have a relatively long ‘shelf life’ (they don’t contain egg like a lot of biscuit recipes), so could still be enjoyed when they arrived with the troops overseas. They are now forever associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).

The recipe that I found when I first decided to have a go at baking Anzac biscuits myself was – dare I say it – from a UK site: BBC GoodFood. I don’t know whether it would be classed as a ‘traditional’ recipe, but all the key ingredients are there, and the end result has never disappointed. The biscuits are crunchy on the outside, but still soft and chewy inside – very moreish!

Would they work with a toddler as my sous-chef, though? I decided to gather my ingredients and cooking materials together in advance. I’ve discovered there’s nothing worse than trying to organise myself in the kitchen with Icklegen fluttering around my feet. Step one complete, we donned our aprons, carried a wooden chair into the kitchen so Ickle was at counter-height, and set to work.3-P1010039

Measuring out the ingredients went well. I used the scale at a safe distance from excited little hands, then Icklegen was in charge of pouring into the mixing bowl. We had a few near-misses, notably with the flour, but actually it was me who created the most mess by tipping the open bag of dessicated coconut all over the counter. I also had to prevent Icklegen from plunging her hands into the mixture just after I had added the melted butter and golden syrup. By this stage, she had discovered that this cooking business was fun, and tasty too, and couldn’t keep her hands out of the mixing bowl. Especially as I had thrown in some choc chips that needed using up (this bit definitely not traditional!)

We continued with our great teamwork skills: I spooned the mixture out onto trays and Icklegen patted the biscuits into shape. Then we popped them in the oven for about 8 minutes and hey presto: tasty, homemade biccies for our morning tea. And the realisation for me that cooking can be a rewarding activity with a young toddler.1-P1000998

What is your favourite recipe when your toddler is your sous-chef?

Kangaroos in the Wild

Morisset Hospital is perhaps an unusual destination for a fun weekend excursion with a young toddler; however, its grounds are a paradise for wild kangaroos, and you don’t have to trek through the bush on a dirt track to see them either.j02-P1000962

OK, so it is a slight detour from the main road, and the turnoff is pitted with potholes. But, the actual driveway is relatively smooth and, once you reach the foot of the hill, you can park up at the fence opposite the hospital buildings, hop out of your car, and there they are…masses of kangaroos, all different shapes and sizes, right in front of you. These wonderful marsupials are free to roam in the surrounding bush, but it seems that they enjoy the lush open grassland and shady trees of the hospital grounds and choose to congregate there on a regular basis.03-P1000971

They are no doubt also attracted by the promise of exciting tidbits provided by the various visitors who drop in to see them. Although I personally disagree with feeding wild animals Cheerios (as witnessed on a previous visit – yes, really), or anything else for that matter, the chance to get up close to one of Australia’s native creatures is a special experience.

We so nearly didn’t go this Saturday. The weather forecast was dismal; we set out in the car with black clouds looming ominously on the horizon. And then, 10 minutes into our journey, Icklegen decided to close her eyes for a cheeky morning nap. However, by the time we reached Morisset, the sky was looking much brighter and we had arranged to meet Icklegen’s nana on site, so there was no turning back.

The kangaroos did not disappoint; we easily counted 100 of them in various groupings on the grass and under the trees. A number of them were close to the fence, including several joeys both inside and out of their mothers’ pouches. We watched them scratch and munch and potter about for a while, then they stood rigidly to attention as a man and his dog walked down the road behind us, before hopping off at great speed into the distance.07-P1000991

Icklegen loved our visit. Not at first, as she was still waking from her slumbers and probably wondering where on earth she had ended up. Then, she started squealing with delight and pointing in great excitement at the kangaroos. We didn’t stay for long; we didn’t need to – it was a short but sweet adventure.06-P1000986

Where is your top spot for observing Australian native animals in the wild?

Melbourne Cup Hat

Tuesday was Melbourne Cup Day, and Icklegen and I had volunteered to take the lead on a suitably-themed craft activity for our weekly playgroup session. Rather amusing really as until moving to Australia a few years ago, I had no idea what the Melbourne Cup was. And believe me, it is a HUGE event!

For those not in the know, it is a 3,200-metre flat race for thoroughbred horses aged 3 years and over. It takes place on the first Tuesday in November at 3 pm at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. It is known as “the race that stops a nation” and with good reason; although the actual race lasts all of a few minutes, the country comes to a standstill for most of the day. Melbourne folk have the day off to celebrate, and people elsewhere take time off work, or slip away for a while, to join in the general merriment.

My first experience of the great occasion was at the Newport Arms, a well-known drinking hole on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. There was a heaving crowd by the time I arrived for lunch and the usual laid-back Aussie beachgoing look was not much in evidence. The ladies especially were dressed in style: fancy frocks, killer heels, sharp accessories and serious make-up were definitely the order of the day. It doesn’t matter that you are not actually at the race; you glam up as if you have been invited to swan around in one of the major pavilions.

So, how appropriate then, to focus on fashion, and not horses, for our toddler Melbourne Cup special. Might as well introduce them early-on to the importance of looking good on the big day! The obvious choice was a headpiece of some sort, so I got Googling and up popped this beauty from the Crayola website: a simple template for little ones to work with, and a great blank canvas for all sorts of designs.P1000936

Icklegen and I had a trial run on the Monday before playgroup to see how things went. I cut out the basic hat shape and then she got busy with colouring in…her hands mainly, although her T-shirt also got a bit of a makeover. I am a big crayon fan (not necessarily Crayola either!), but we have had to ditch those for the time being, as Icklegen has a tendency to eat them. So, it’s colouring pens for us, and Icklegen has discovered that it is far more fun to use these to decorate herself, rather than a boring old piece of paper or card. She did eventually put a few squiggles on the hat, following my lead, and then we got onto the really fun bit: glueing!

We stuck on feathers, beads, metallic shapes, googly eyes and small rolled-up balls of tissue paper. I was glue monitor, and my little assistant chose what she wanted from the tray and pointed to where it should go on her hat. Excellent teamwork, and a fabulous end result, I’m sure you’ll agree!P1000953P1000957P1000955

How do you celebrate the Melbourne Cup?

Love Your Library

When I think of libraries, I generally picture dark fusty rooms with heavy brocade curtains and wooden shelves stacked floor to ceiling with leather-bound tomes. I see academics poring over print for hours on end in utter silence, only to hiss in annoyance should some poor unfortunate, or impertinent, soul interrupt their study.

How different our local library is from this! Swansea Library is modern, airy, light and vibrant. People go there to read, borrow and study, but also to use the Internet and participate in the many events and clubs that are organised on site.P1000802

Icklegen and I only joined a few months ago and we have been regularly ever since. There is a dedicated children’s corner with a healthy selection of books, including board books, which is the stage we are at. We go through the dedicated box picking out the titles we like the look of and getting a feel for what they are about. KIds’ DVDs are also available, although we have found these to be a bit hit and miss: either they don’t seem to work at home, or don’t find favour with my little girl.

In due course, we have plans to attend some of the regular activities for littlies. We like the look of Read & Rhyme Time on Wednesdays @ 10 am for toddlers age 1-3, and also Friday morning Storytime @ 9.30 am which we have been recommended by a couple of local mums. What’s more, these events are free, as are library membership and loans. You don’t get better than that!

I also like to select a novel for myself during our visits, but it is something of a challenge. I barely pause to pick up a book and Icklegen takes off; she loves to run around the library (shock, horror!), and she’s a speedy mover now. More than once she has disappeared down an aisle out of view, which I find pretty alarming. Especially given all the lovely books within easy reach of inquisitive little hands.

My general approach to-date has been to a) catch up with my tot before there are any mishaps, and b) select an aisle – any aisle – and choose a book from that aisle to borrow. I do try and glance at the back covers first to get an idea of the contents, but sometimes I just have to grab and go. I’ve had a few *interesting* reads this way…I obviously need to refine my strategy.

What do you like most about your local library?