Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Mums from two worlds

So, my daughter and I went on a little adventure on the bus the other week - just to the local shops to get a few groceries - and while we were out, I ran into a mother from a mothers' group I used to go to.  There was something in her face and body language that told me she really didn't want to talk to me, but was 'caught' when I said "Hello" and politely chatted anyway.  After a few minutes, I gave her a quick out: "Well, we should go and catch our bus home, and I don't want to keep you."  She gladly took it and shot off into the supermarket.

My own insecurities kicked in.  My daughter was dressed for a day of mucking around at home, in her slightly mismatched hand-me-downs, a little bit of stubborn breakfast on her face; I was pushing a hand-me-down stroller, and looking 'casual chic' in my own ensemble.  Her daughter looked gorgeous in a sweet, clean little dress, and while the mum was having a 'home' day too, her summer dress was gorgeous, flattering, and matched her shoes perfectly.  My daughter and I looked like the riffraff neighbours, and she and her daughter looked like the well-to-do from a few suburbs over!

"Perhaps," I thought, "she doesn't want to talk to me because we look 'poor' with our clothes choices today.  And maybe she thinks we're weird because we caught the bus here."   And as we walked back to the bus stop, I made myself come at it from another perspective.

Perhaps she didn't want to talk to us because she knew in about 5 minutes her daughter would be beyond tired and would crack a nana?  Perhaps she had a tradesman coming to her house and she really needed to get home?  Perhaps SHE felt like a dork in her lovely summer dress (which would be crazy because she looked great!) and was embarrassed to be caught out by someone who knew her?  We always jump straight to ourselves to explain someone else's behaviour, when you often have no idea what the other person is experiencing.

But one thing that I held on to and made me feel really good, was the job I've been doing with my daughter.  While I'm so far from being a perfect mum it's funny, that day I was taking my girl for her first ride on a bus because she loves seeing them when we're driving in the car - she's always the first to spot one, even when it's blocks away!  We were having an adventure!

And while I was chatting to this other mother, my daughter was wandering around between us, going a few metres away to touch a shop window, then coming back to me, then toddling over to the plant display outside the supermarket to touch the leaves, then back to me.  All the while I could see her, and she could see me and was staying close while still checking out her surroundings.

"So what?" I hear you say.  Well, this other mother ran to grab her daughter just for touching a shop's display window.  She wasn't banging on it, or screaming - just touching, and looking back at her mummy.  And she was touching the glass window because there was a delicious, creamy-looking cake on the other side!  Who wouldn't want to touch that!  And after fetching the girl and firming placing her on her hip, and watching my daughter just potter around us, she said:  "Oh, I could never let Mary down in a place like this.  She'd touch the plants!"

"So what?" I thought to myself.  So what if she touches the plants?  If you're there and she's not pulling the leaves off or tipping the plants over, so what?  I realised on the walk back to the bus, that while my daughter and I might not always be beautifully dressed when we go out, I'm giving her a chance to experience the world around her, when some children aren't.  We went for a ride on a bus - and she had fun!  I let her down to investigate the shops, but always kept an eye on her and would naturally have corrected her or picked her up if she was doing something wrong or getting in someone's way.  And in some small way, I hope that's helping her development and view of the world.

And today we're off to the shop again, and I wonder who my daughter is going to make friends with today - who she is going to smile at, and who will smile back at her.  You never know who's day your child's smile will brighten if they're not given a chance to flash that gummy grin at others!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Two of my favourite recipes

Here are two of my family's dinner favourites.  They're cheap and easy to make, and my 20-month-old thinks they're delicious!

Vegetarian lasagna

4-5 cups diced vegetables (I use onion, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini and yellow button squash.  But mix it up with whatever you have and like)
500g tub ricotta cheese
4 cloves garlic
2-3 stock cubes (I use vegetable stock but beef also works really well)
1 egg
instant lasagna sheets
1 big bottle of tomato puree (passata)
2 cups grated cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion until translucent (*you could add hamburger here if you like).  Turn the heat up and add all your diced veggies and a tablespoon of oregano.  Stir to coat all the veggies in oil and herbs and cook until they start to soften.  Add the passata, stock cubes, garlic and other herbs to your liking.  Add about 1/2 cup water and simmer until it starts to thicken (about 15-20 minutes).  (I know it's a bit more work, but it really does make the taste SO much better pre-cooking the veggies at this stage.)

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 the grated cheese, all the parmesan cheese, egg and 1/2 teaspoon of oregano (*I've also added a few shakes of nutmeg here, which is good!)

To cook
Spray the slowcooker bowl with non-stick/oil spray.
Spread a bit of the tomato veggie sauce on the base of the crockpot (to stop sticking) and place a layer of lasagne sheets down; top with tomato veggie sauce and blob over a little of the ricotta mixture; cover with another layer of lasagna sheets.  Repeat this two or three more times, finishing with a layer of ricotta and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

I cook it on "low" for up to six hours.  You could also cook on "high" for three or four hours.  In a pinch, I've also cooked this in the oven at 180 degrees for an hour, as you do with a normal lasagna.  Serve with garlic or herb bread, and because there's so many vegetables in it, you don't have to serve it with salad!

Tuna cauliflower cheese

A 500g tin of tuna (I use the one in spring water)
Half small cauliflower, broken or cut up into small florets
1/2 small head of broccoli, broken or cut up into small florets
Big handful of green beans
Medium can of corn kernels
1/2 cup rissoni pasta (or any small pasta shapes you've got on hand)
1-2 tablespoons of butter
about 1/3 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I use skim but it doesn't matter really)
1 cup of grated cheese

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.  Boil, steam or microwave cauliflower, broccoli and beans until tender.  Cook the pasta until al'dente.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, make your white sauce - melt about 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat; add enough plain flour to soak up the butter (about 1/3 cup'ish).  Stir around for about a minute to cook off the flour some.  Gradually add the milk and keep stirring until thickened - add a little more milk if it's too thick.  Add a small handful of the cheese, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine.

Spread the vegetables, corn and pasta over the base of an oven-proof baking dish.  Drain the tuna and break up over the vegetables.  Pour the cheesey white sauce over the top and stir a little to combine.  Top with the rest of the grated cheese and bake in the oven until the top is golden brown.  Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.

I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine does!