Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's for Dinner? Beef & Beer Casserole

I love cooking so much. It’s one of my very favourite activities. I love amazing-smelling food, and I adore feeding my loved ones – even moreso when they enjoy it! Unfortunately, I don’t get to do it properly as much as I’d like because my fatigue knocks me down halfway through. So I rely on low-effort, high-reward recipes a lot of the time.

I love this recipe. It’s rich, it’s full of goodies and the beef just falls apart. I used to do it in a casserole dish in my over, per the original recipe, but I love my slow-cookers like a recently separated appendage. We have two, because I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of either when B and I moved in together, so if motivation strikes me I can get 2-3 meals done at once.

And yes, I realise it’s early in the year for casseroles, but I was wanting some comfort food!!
The original recipe can be found here, but mine is tweaked as such:
Gravy or Casserole Beef (the recipe says 750g, but I tend to use closer to 1kg)
Any casserole-ish vegetables you can get your hands on, chopped appropriately
(for me, this is generally leek, carrot, cauliflower, zucchini, corn, mushrooms, celery)
2 crushed garlic cloves (or 2tsp minced)
2tbsp plain flour
2 dried bay leaves
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or a sprinkle of the dry stuff)
375ml lager beer  (I’ve found James Boag’s Classic really good)
1 ½ Cups beef stock
Note: The original recipe calls for bacon, but I don’t use this as it makes it too rich for my kids, and potatoes, but I serve it on mash so I don’t put spuds in it.

To put it together, first brown off all the beef in a frying pan in batches and let the batches drain on some paper towel. I’ve found if you dry the beef off a bit after cooking, it actually cooks a lot better, and goes tender and fally-aparty. Yes, I know that’s not a thing, but it makes sense to me.
Once your beef is brown and dry and smelling awesome, dump everything in your slow cooker. I tend to put stock powder and boiling water straight in to facilitate my own laziness, but each to their own.
Give everything a quick stir. If you’re in a hurry, give it an hour on high before dropping it down to low. Otherwise, leave it go on low all day until the sauce is thick and the beef is tender. 

This dish is such a favourite in my house, as soon as O sees me bring out the beer she turns into an excited puppy. As I mentioned, it’s best served with mash. I make mine really creamy with lots of butter, and the whole family flips for this dish.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Diddy

A pretty crappy picture (taken of the original using my phone), but here's my beautiful baby at 12 weeks.

Linking up with:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

...and I'll pout if I want to

I’m turning 24 on Friday. I’m finally ready to admit to the fact that I’m turning 24, though my body (and anyone brave enough to hazard a guess at my age) tends to think I’m closer to 30. This is due to my child and 35-year-old husband, I think. Certain factors in my life have conspired to ensure I feel and appear older than my years. That, however, is not the point. Yep, I’m afraid I’m going to have a little birthday pout.
I wish I looked this cute when I pouted. I'd do it much more often.
Sadly, I cannot rock a gingham dress.
Image Source
Every year, I go into my birthday with no expectations. This has been the case since I was 14 and my parents chose the day of my birthday celebration to tell us that Mum was moving out. Since then, birthdays have always been a bit meh. I don’t actually remember my 16th, my 18th was memorable because my 2 best friends chose to leave my small party to hook up with the pizza boy, my 20th I had a 10-day old baby and severe sleep deprivation, my 21st both O and I had gastro and ended up in the emergency room. So most of the ‘landmark’ birthdays have passed without much in the way of excitement and I’ve learnt a valuable lesson about having no expectations.

Last year, I managed to shoot myself in the foot a little bit. I’m shocking for saying the very earnest ‘I don’t want anything, darling. Just spending time with you is enough.’ Ladies, I’m here to tell you men actually believe this!! And men: STOP BELIEVING THIS! Women love shiny things. We love feeling special and getting presents. Especially as Mummies. We spend our whole year celebrating everyone else. We do all the Easter bunny-ing, the Santa-ing, we buy all the birthday presents and plan all the parties. We cook every special meal for every event from birthdays to getting an award at weekly assembly. And we do it all without minimum complaint. 

There is one day a year that is all ours. And no matter how much we protest, we love the thought of a special cuddle in the morning where someone special whispers ‘Happy Birthday’ in our ear, then fetches our kids and has the frantic, covert ‘remember to say Happy Birthday Mummy’ conversation. We love the idea that someone other than us might organise a special cake, maybe with a single candle (anyone who lights an inferno on my birthday cake risks getting strangled) and handing us a special wrapped present, or a card – especially one our precious babies have handmade and written themselves. At the end of the day, the present isn’t actually the point. The fact that our precious family thought about us and got us something to express that thought is all-important. 

Last year, B and I had only been seeing one another a few weeks, and he took me deathly seriously when I said ‘no presents’. I ended up cooking dinner for myself, him, my housemate and a friend. I bought myself a cake from Woolworths, and another friend of mine came over for Midori cocktails. It was fun, incredibly relaxed and I ended the day happy. But if B had ignored my protestations, I would have felt that little bit special, and beyond flattered at being the person he thought of enough to buy something for. Even a silly $2 store gift. I love that shit. 
Last year's birthday cocktails. Amazeballs.

Let it be noted, I got myself my very first tattoo for my last birthday. No-one else got me anything, but I felt hardcore!
Tara the BAMF. Never again attempting a selfie of the back of my own neck.

It really is the thought that counts, unless the thought is ‘nope, this woman may do so much for me during the year, but she said no fuss, so no fuss it is!’ 
This year, if you heart me, keep your fingers crossed that B finds some way to make me feel a little special and spoilt.

Why yes, I DO Blog on Tuesdays with Essentially Jess, how kind of you to ask!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Birthday Party Planning Hell

Every year, I put myself through it. Every year I swear I won’t do it again then sometime around October O starts using it as leverage or I bring it up as bribery and I’m back in Birthday Party Planning Hell.
Me whenever I realise it's time for party planning.
Image Source

This year, O’s realisation that she was due a birthday party came tandem to the start of wedding planning back in September. She heard the word ‘January’ and something in her mind went ‘wait a sec, that sounds familiar...why do I know that word? Wait – BIRTHDAY’ and out of her mouth came ‘Mummy I’m having a birthday party this year.’ No please can I, no I would really like. O tells me what things she will be involved in, because asking leaves room for Mummy to say no. She’s a tiny evil genius.
Don't let the face fool you. She's a tiny dictator.

Though her birthday actually falls on the 20th, this was 1 week and 1 day after the wedding, so knowing not much recuperation time would present itself, I arranged family celebrations for the actual day, and her party with kinder friends and mothers who are not family and therefore free to judge me and my house of bedlam until the following Sunday, the 27th. Knowing that this was the day after Australia Day, and the day before the public holiday Monday, I felt OK knowing people would be coming on a Sunday afternoon, and I’d have B to myself all day Saturday to help with cleaning and setup. Genius, Tara. (note: this did not happen. Nor did help with post party cleanup Monday. We watched Fast & Furious movies ALL DAY)
So much better than post-party cleanup.

Of course, as we all know, the bedrest mandate came, and so I haven’t been in any position to do the things one would expect during party prep. Clean, shop, devise games, give a crap. I managed a trip to the discount store Wednesday before to get plates, cups, banners (which weren’t used) and party-bag fixings. I hate putting lollies in a goodie bag, so I bought badges, swirly straws, fairy wands, glittery tattoos and other treats, then tossed in a Chupa Chup each, because I had them anyway (yes, I’m a sugar fiend. Judge not!)

Then I crashed. I spent the next two days lying on the couch, aware that cleaning and planning needed to happen, but secure in the knowledge that our inflatable pool and extensive Disney movie collection would provide the entertainment, so all I needed was a clean house and snacks. Genius moment number two came weeks earlier, when I sent out invitations to a 3.30pm birthday party, ensuring I would need to produce snacks ONLY, not a main meal.

By 2pm Saturday, very little cleaning had happened, and the only prep was a mental list of party snack small kids like (which I could be bothered preparing). Despite O requesting various cakes for the past 4 months – Peppa Pig, Minnie Mouse, Barbie, Tinkerbell and Lightning McQueen, nothing to do with flavours – I knew we didn’t have the funds and I didn’t have the energy to make an epic character cake (storebought or homemade) happen this year. I wanted to, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t an option. Despite my tears over this realisation, B took it in his stride and discussed with O how much she’d love a rainbow swirly cake instead. Yes, she agreed, she would like that (score one for parental coercion!) And so we planned a vanilla cake with swirled colours. Despite B’s assertion that he would make the cake, Mummy sensibility realised this was a pipe dream, and added it to my mental list of ‘Shit to do on Party Day’.
Epic cakemix of epicness. Pre-baking.

Surprisingly, I woke up reasonably energised and managed to do everything that had to be done, including creating an EPIC BIRTHDAY CAKE! 2-layer rainbow marble cake with blue semisweet whipped cream in the centre and pink and neon green frosting on the top. A freaking mummy masterpiece never to be surpassed. Not even ashamed to admit that I used the 73c Woolworths Vanilla Cake mixes.
A slice of awesomeness. My amazing cake skillz.
Excuse the crap photo. My exhaustion had kicked in and I was a little shaky with a cameraphone.

The party itself was lovely. 2 of the 6 kinder friends invited came, a decent turnout considering the long weekend. O’s bestest out-of-kindy friend A came also. This was kind of a given, considering her mummy is my best mummy friend, S. I only ended up putting out half the snacks because MummyBrain consumed all my memories of other food, and there were a few small jealousy incidents among girls not used to sharing O (one from kinder, the other not), but it was a great party and O had a blast. 

Now that it’s done, there shall be no more event planning for Mummy for awhile. I’m planning to ignore my own birthday on Friday and see if B manages to make something special of it so I don’t feel hurt at being forgotten. Apart from that, you’ll find me sleeping.

 PLEASE NOTE: Despite not doing a proper cleanup, my house doesn't look like a dump. I just haven't done a few small dishes. I'm not a pig, just tired. And B will do them. Just not right this second. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

My First FFS Friday!!

This is an idea I can definitely get on board with!! Joining up with Dear Baby G to get a little whinge off my chest (so I can be a more upbeat bitch the rest of the week)

O’s first day of Kinder comes and goes. L and I go to pick her up, and as I pull the car out I ask ‘How was your  day?’ like the excited Mumma I am. She chews her hair and replies ‘I want Daddy’... FFS

Everytime I got anything like motivated to do anything, my blood pressure plummeted to new depths and my vision went all fuzzy (without involvement of vodka)... FFS

While O was playing with her new Barbies and the dollhouse which is more amazing than any freaking dreamhouse, she found a box from one of the Barbies and complained that she doesn’t have a Barbie car. I’ve been informed she needs one...FFS

Tried to call Centrelink (who can bite me) to rectify the fact that I’m no longer receiving ANY financial assistance at all, through no fault of mine, since they never sent me the forms to reapply for Parenting Payment and thus cut off not only PP but Family Tax Benefit... FFS

After 5 redials and 4 engaged signals, finally got through to the automated verification BS system, only to get the giggles – note to self, reading Parental Parody and attempting Centrelink contact are not tandem activities. Was subsequently cut off... FFS

O spent 5 minutes standing across the lounge room waving something at me saying ‘Mummy I found this!!’ I kept squinting at it, but couldn’t get up so I finally coaxed her into coming closer, thinking it was a misplaced diamante. The speck on her thumb turned out to be snot, which I only realised when it was shoved down my shirt... FFS

My wireless decided to crap out on me, causing panic. No wireless, no network at all...FFS

Reset the modem and, when that didn’t work, restarted the laptop. Still nothing doing... FFS

Realised (after giving up and resigning myself to using the hotspot on my phone) that I’d knocked the wireless button on my laptop to off...Oh FFS

The playroom that I spent 4 hours cleaning last week (in the process knocking myself beyond exhaustion and into bedrest) is already teetering on the edge of chaos again...FFS

And L goes home today and won’t be around to do half-assed cleaning attempts anymore...FFS

And O gets the concept of pulling toys out, but no matter how much B or myself beg, plead, threaten or bribe, cannot yet grasp putting them away...FFS

This means I’ll be forced to take her Lalaloopsy collection and deal with the OCD fit when she can’t play with them...FFS

L has apparently lost any ability to think independently. I’ve spent the whole of Wednesday having to spell out the simplest of instructions. L is 9... FFS

He suddenly has no shorts, no jocks and no t-shirts. I have none of his clothes in my clean or dirty clothes piles, and he swears they aren’t in HIS room...FFS

Fairly sure he’s hoarding dirty clothes in the crap retirement village... FFS

Going through the DVD collection for a movie to cut the bedrest boredom, and find Coyote Ugly. Do a quick mental double take and conclude I have never bought Coyote Ugly. This means it must have belonged to B pre-relationship. Is he gay?...FFS

Coyote Ugly is softcore porn. Maybe not gay, but still...FFS

B has used some of the money we got as a wedding gift to buy Jason Mraz tickets so we can have a small honeymoon in March... No FFS there!

When I asked him if he knew why Jason Mraz was so special not only to me, but to us, he said no...FFS

My walk down the aisle and our first wedding dance both happened to Jason Mraz songs. And we only got married 2 weeks ago...FFS

My husband pays no attention to the small details that make my life bareable... FFS

But still.... Jason Mraz tickets!! YAY! 

SO MUCH FUN!! Join me for a little ranting?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Stepson's Bedroom is Where Crap Comes for Retirement

I give up. We’ve had L for 3 weeks of the 6-week school holidays, and during that time I have asked, pleaded, demanded and chucked hissy fits in an effort to get him to cull his toy stash. Why yes, yes I am the stepmonster from hell and no... I do not care.

We moved into this house in May of last year. The house has 4 bedrooms. 3 down one end of the house, and one small one off the lougeroom. When I say small, I mean narrow and quite tiny and closed in. We decided this would be L’s room for several reasons:
1. He is 9 years old. He’s getting too old to be in a room that shares a wall with his father and stepmother’s room. Trust me on this one, no-one wants him there. Him included.
2. The room may be small, but during the majority of the year year he’s here weekends only (sometimes every second weekend). How much time, realistically, will he spend in it?
3. At his mother’s, he shares a room with his 6 year old sister. This teeny tiny room is still a step-up.
4. I refused to relinquish the bedroom next to ours for him. It is the baby’s room. It has an attached ‘sleep out’ which I use as a photography studio and it has a window in the door so I’ll be able to work and monitor baby at the same time.

All of these reasons are totally viable, and L loves his room. He has O’s bunk beds (god knows why) so it’s like living in a fort. However, the top bunk, which when O used them housed some precious stuffed toys and a shelf with her ‘pretties’. Now the top bunk is crap storage. Underneath the bed is crap storage. The cupboards and drawers I arranged in there for clothes are all crap storage, as are the toyboxes and his desk.
I wonder if Mama Berenstain threatened to throw her kids' DS out the window if the room got messy? It works!
Image Source

Don't get me wrong. The room is something resembling tidy, because he has the fear of God and Stepmother struck into him. These is a sign on his door detailing the infractions for which he will have to pick the pieces of his DS up off the road. The room is tidy, because the crap is hidden.
L's Face whenever I suggest culling
Image Source

Before we moved, I was talked out of flinging a metric f*ck-tonne of toys I believed to be too young for L or too broken for usefulness, with B telling me it was up to him to go through his own toys and clothes and get rid of what had to go. Not a week has gone by since that I haven’t sent him back to his room to TAKE OFF THE THREE SIZES TOO SMALL T-SHIRT. I’ve ranted and raved and made piles of too-small clothes, which L then rescues and shoves back in his drawers.
Since Christmas, I’ve become increasingly aware of how many toys he has. Not because he’s playing with everything he got for Christmas. Because almost everything he got for Christmas has spent the ENTIRE SUMMER HOLIDAY sitting in its’ original boxes while he’s spent 2 hours a day playing with magnetix he's had since he was 4. He has 2 toyboxes and 4 sets of drawers/cupboards FULL OF TOYS! 

Everytime I rant about this, he and his father spend 20min in his room. He cries crocodile tears and his father gives up. I throw my hands up in a huff and try very hard not to scream.

Every so often, B gets daring enough to bring up how many toys/books/clothes O has. Snarly bitchwife takes the time to snarl sweetly point out that not only does O live in this house FULL FREAKING TIME,  but she plays with ALL her toys. She may not have seen something in a month, but she’ll get a random hankering for it and drag it out of its’ toybox for a good deal of lovin’. I’m sure at her Daddy’s house she has half the toys she does here (and if she has an many as she has here, not my issue) but for the amount of time L spends here, he has an inordinate amount of crap, and that is my issue.

The only upside to the realisation that all the crap exists, and is in no hurry to leave my house? I’m not going to feel the guilt for Christmas and Birthday this year. We spent a stupid amount of both our kids for special events this year just gone, and the reality of how much plastic shit ended up in our house has hit home. In 2013, we’re living simply. Clothes, books and PJ’s, one or two special toys MAYBE. But covering my whole lounge room in packages on Christmas eve, and not being able to move for unwrapped presents and wrapping paper on Christmas day? The adding to it with whatever my family buys them? HELL NO.