Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tinsel, Reindeers, Santa and all things Christmas!

Christmas is here and all is well in the McGrath household. We have just returned from 2 weeks holiday. We had a wonderful week at Noosa Heads, the weather was perfect (very hot) and the kids loved swimming in the pool, I especially enjoyed the break from cooking, making the beds, cleaning etc. The second week we were nomads and visited our families from Bribie Island down to New Brighton. As much as I love going away it is always a wonderful feeling to come back home. Mariah and Milo were very happy to see us and made sure that we spent lots of time with them over the weekend as penance for leaving them for 2 weeks.

The veggie patch is overgrown and the cucumber seedlings I had planted have gone berserk, I didn't realise they grow so big and spread out so far! The tomatoes are growing beautifully and may need rescuing from caterpillars, I am not sure what to put on them as I was hoping for "organic tomatoes" I will have to do some research. I am finding it very hard to grow veggies in Summer as the bugs are raging a war against me and I am afraid they are winning at the moment!
Another war that is quietly raging away in our house is Jack versus the Christmas tree. I know it is his age but he cannot leave the decorations alone, as fast as I put them on he pulls them off, I suppose by the time Christmas is over I won't have to remove any decorations as he will have removed them all for me!
ROAR.........Leo is well and truly taken with dinosaurs so much so he moves around the house by stomping like Brachiosaurus and roaring like T-rex and his favorite DVDs are Ice Age 3 and Dinosaur King. I am feeling a little on edge as I love a bit of peace and quiet and it feels like I may never experience this again! On the upside this is very age appropriate and it shows Leo is progressing very well. ROAR!My little Jack is no longer a baby. When we were away we decided to try him out in a bed and he took to it like a duck to water. So off came the rails on his cot and it is now a little bed and he is now a proper little boy! I am amazed at how well he is doing and also sad that baby life as I know it is now coming to an end! As Christmas day is not too far away, I still have quite a bit to do. The house is still in a mess from unpacking and I have this urge to make sure everything is in order before the "man in the big red suit" makes an appearance, see you all in 2010!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Every Wednesday morning for the last year we head off to the Lifestart "open playgroup". They are a wonderful organisation that provides intervention for children with special needs. When I first went with Leo, our diagnosis was very new and I was feeling very raw and apprehensive about the whole life ahead of us with Autism. So every Wednesday I would head off with Jack and Leo and sit, learn and watch Noni and Fiona (the therapists) and all the volunteers interact with the children, then the mum's would leave the children for some structured play and have a little "down time" away from the children. It has been during that "down time" that I realised I am not the only mum with a child with special needs, there are many out there, by talking to other mums it makes all the days ahead easier and in some ways very "normal". Leo will attend kindergarten on Wednesday next year 2010, so he will no longer attend Lifestart on Wednesday mornings, I think I am more sad than he is, so I have decided to sign up to be a volunteer, they have given so much to us, so it is now time to give back! Thank you Lifestart for all the wonderful help you have provided for our beautiful Leo!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

20 Years!

Finally I have some time to sit and write.

How time flies! A few weekends ago I attended my 20 year school reunion on the Gold Coast. Wow what a blast! I had the time of my life catching up with everyone. I did leave feeling as though there was still so much catching up to do with everyone. It is so hard to cram 20 years of your life into a few hours of chatting. I feel a catch up before Christmas is necessary, so I will contact as many as I can and see if we can organise a gathering. A dinner out in Brisbane maybe.
I was happy to know that Leo and Jack survived without me for the four days I was away(for the reunion), it was the first time I had ever been away from them, great for me and also good for them. Nanny visited and helped Dan out with boys, a big thank you to Mary for doing a great job!
I was surprised to see the veggies have grown over the four days I was away, due to the hot weather. The Lettuces had all bolted and were tasting very bitter, so off to the compost for them. I have some new seedlings in the ground but they are a long way off from anything edible.

The carrotts are nearly ready and the peas are starting to look good. I should have some tomatos soon they are all hanging there shiny and very green. The cucumber vines have flowers so this is promising. However I am waging a war with all the bugs, they seem to be taking over and making it difficult. So this weekend I will try out some more different organic herbicides, somthing has to work apart from me picking off all the big fat green catipillers by hand (that would be a long and tedious job). I also think it is time to bring out the slug trap they (the slugs) seem to have taken a liking to my baby cos lettuce seedlings.

On another note our beauthiful Mariah is not looking a s svelt as usual and I have have found out why! Please see movie below.

Last Friday was Jack's first day at daycare, he was a little upset but no where near as upset as Leo was. I hadn't thought how this would impact on Leo, he was not used to Jack being there with him, obviously the scenario has allways been the same Jack and I drop Leo off and then we would go home. So the good old autism kicked in and Leo had a big meltdown. Hopefully he will be a little better about the whole thing this Friday. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boycott cage eggs!

Please boycott cage eggs were ever possible! It is a cruel industry and the need is no longer there! Take up eating free range eggs and chickens for that matter. If you have the chance read Karin's article from "The Garden Smallholder".

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some good cake receipes.

After making wedding cakes for quite some time, I stumbled upon some good cake recipes. The two cake recipes I like the best are from Confetti Cakes in New York. The main reason they work well is they taste great and are very easy to shape into children's novelty cakes. I have done a lot of experimenting with cakes (the tiered wedding variety & novelty shaped cakes) and worked out very quickly you need a firm cake or else disaster will strike! Yes we all love a nice light fluffy packet mix cake, that is fine if you want to slap on a bit of icing and presto you have your average home made cake......I frown as I write this(yes I suppose I am a baking snob!) Well here are my favorite vanilla and chocolate cake recipes

Vanilla Cake

2 1/2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 ounces (225 grams) soft unsalted butter
2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Grease & line pan or tin with non stick paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.

4. Set the mixer to slow speed and add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, scraping thoroughly between additions.

5 Alternately add the the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture in three batches, starting with the flour. Scrape down the bowl between additions and beat until thoroughly combined. set the mixer to medium speed for about 20 seconds then stop and scrape the side of the bowl.

6. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans or muffin tins. For 9 inch cake pans and half sheet pans, bake 30-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean; for cupcakes bake 20-25 minutes or until they spring back after being touched.

Chocolate Cake

2 2/3 cups or 12 ounces (340 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
8 ounces (225 grams) soft unsalted butter
2 cups caster sugar
2 eggs room temperature
1 1/4 cups strong prepared non flavored coffee

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Grease & line pan or tin with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, vanilla and almond extract. Set aside.

4. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and beat on a medium speed until smooth.

5. Set the mixer to low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping thoroughly between additions.

6. Alternately add the flour and sour cream mixtures to the butter mixture in two batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture. scrape down the bowl after each addition.

7. gradually pour in the coffee. Scrape down the bowl and beat until thoroughly combined.

8. Divide the cake batter evenly among the cake pans or muffin tins. For 9-inch cake pans and half sheet pans bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean; for cupcakes bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they spring back after being touched.

I know the chocolate cake has a lot of ingredients and takes a little more time, but it's well worth the effort. Happy Baking everyone!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Madeline McCann

I really do hope they find Madeline McCann! My heart goes out to the McCanns as another Christmas approaches.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Snow Peas!

I was pleasantly surprised when a friend pointed out to me on the weekend I had snow peas nearly ready to pick. They seemed so hard to see against the leaves and vines that I had completely missed them. So in a few days I had a small harvest ready for the dinner table!

The warm weather we have had over the last few days is giving everything a real growing boost, especially the seeds I planted under the poly tunnel. I think I have nearly halved their germination time, so fingers crossed I get carrots, beetroots and radishes sooner than expected!

The strawberries are coming along beautifully, they are big and plump and are bright red. I am having a hard time keeping my strawberry thief away from them. I decided to buy some more strawberries and plant them in planter boxes on a ledge over the garage, this way they are out of sight and out of mind. Fingers crossed we get lost of sweet strawberries in the next few months.

The boys have had a great time this week. It started with a visit from my Mum and Dad (Marsie & Parsie). Dan and Parsie took the boys to the Aquarium and Leo loved all the sharks!!! We all then went to the Museum during the week and explored all the dinosaurs and Australian animals. I must admit even I love the Museum, there is something quite soothing about wandering around and looking and learning about our animals and prehistoric dinosaurs.

This weekend we watched the boys participate in their first Halloween dress up and trick or treat. We all went over to a friends place and gathered the boys up for a walk around the streets dressed up in their costumes. As much as Halloween is very American and can be frowned upon in this country, it was wonderful to see families out and enjoying themselves, the children had a great time socialising and this makes for good all round community and social relations. So no matter how you look at it, it was a win win situation for all (especially Leo and Jack with all their lollies they collected along the way)! I still think the highlight was the Jack O' Lantern pumpkin cake I made, I haven't lost my knack after all!

Halloween normally is the last day of the season and brings the change in weather (as well as "All Saints Day") So the 1st of November is here, lets hope we have some lovely warm veggie growing weather!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Strawberry Thief......

Another drizzly cold Saturday and I have come to expect bad weather everyday of the week, I feel that the "Gods of Summer" are punishing us for something we have done. Just what that is I don't know! We have had so much rain lately and everything is waterlogged. I haven't needed to water my veggies at all last week. My poor tomatoes were growing beautifully in their grow bag, until all the rain. I noticed on Friday one plant in particular was looking very sad and sorry (after a close inspection I think there was not enough drainage in the grow bag). So Dan decided to build a small raised bed for them, after a quick trip to Bunnings he knocked up a very swish raised bed. I was very impressed with his skills. Now that all the tomato plants are in the new bed hopefully they will all be happier with better drainage.

The veggie patch is looking fantastic everything is growing just beautifully. I decided to add a cloche over the lettuces as they had been damaged from all the rain and wind, after 48 hours they have really picked up and seem to like the protection with a little added warmth. I have also placed a poly tunnel over the beetroot seedlings I am hoping it will speed up their growth as well as spur on the carrot & radish seeds freshly planted over the weekend.

And finally to our strawberry thief! First clue: He is 85 cm high. Second clue: Has strawberry blond hair (and not much of it). And third clue: Has fat little fingers! Yes you guessed right; Jack McGrath is the strawberry thief!!!! I was so excited to see 2 strawberries turning a beautiful shade of red, but alas their colour was too enticing for my little Jack, who by the way had no intention of eating them, but just to feed them to Mariah (the dog). Oh well lets hope the remaining 11 get the chance to turn into beautiful fat red delicious strawberries and not fall victim to the "fat fingered strawberry thief"!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another year goes by.........

Everything seems to have calmed down in our household. So far the boys have managed to keep themselves in one piece for a whole weekend (a three day weekend too)!

It was my birthday on Sunday and I notched up another year closer to the big 40, where do the years go? Leo loves anything to do with a birthday, especially birthday cake and candles, it so sweet to hear him sing happy birthday, even if it is only the first few lines. The boys gave me a beautiful book for my birthday called "Harvest" by Meridith Kirkton, it has all the information I need for growing all my veggies. All I need now is a few quiet days to read it (in my dreams)! Dan gave me a beautiful pink climbing rose called Nahema, to grow over the gabled gate at the front of our house.

I have planted quite a few trays of seeds and they are all starting to shoot. I have come to realise that I need to continually have seedlings growing all the time, I am amazed at how fast everything grows, and also how fast we eat everything (mainly lettuces)! My herbs are growing at an alarming rate and I love being able to pick whatever I want and when I want. The mint especially has grown fast, maybe a little too fast as it is starting to take over.

This week has been an especially good week for Leo and his talking. I am always amazed how out of the blue we have huge spurts of new words. Leo's phrasing is also sounding more and more fluent. I feel we are jumping some big hurdles!!!!
And last but not least the $5.00 rocking horse that I picked up has been a hit! As you can see it is quite old but still has a lot of life left in it....I hope :)

A quick note: Tomorrow night Dan and I are attending a fund raising trivia night for a very brave woman called Judy. Judy has been diagnosed with grade 4 or terminal melanoma cancer. I had the time to read her blog today and for a mother of 3 boys (a 5 year old, 3 year old and a 5 month old baby) she would have to be one of the bravest and most determined people I have ever heard about. If you have the time take a look at her blog and be inspired! Judy's Melanoma Journey

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The trouble with boys!

I have come to the realisation that the word "boy" really spells TROUBLE! I feel like I have aged 5 years in 5 days.
It all started on Friday (day 1) Jack took the liberty of helping himself to a bottle of dishwasher rinse aid and took a few good gulps. I have always had to be careful with cupboards, as Jack has proved himself to be a Houdini on many occasions, but Friday took the cake, after a quick call to the poison hot line I found out it wasn't toxic, but he would be very sick. And yes he was very sick!
The weekend (day 2 & 3) was just a few days of plain naughtiness with me yelling from the sidelines, and then Jack developing conjunctivitis.
Monday (day 4) came around and I was feeling quite calm and looking forward to a peaceful week, but not for long, Leo was playing a game of chase with Mariah, I believe they took the same path and collided this resulted with Leo being thrown into the air and landing on the back of his head... ouch! After he became quite lethargic and his speech started to slur it was off to the doctors with a possible concussion. Our doctor decided a head scan was in order, but quickly realised this would be impossible for Leo as it would be to traumatic and only result in an ASD meltdown. So with a list of instructions and the doctor's home phone number, we headed home for a night of close observation. The next day Leo was just fine.
Tuesday (day 5): I rise and shine in the morning with my fingers crossed hoping for a much better day with the boys, all seems to be going well the clock hits 5pm and yes I am on the home stretch.......Then a loud thud followed by that eternal pause and a loud cry, oh no Jack has just chipped his front teeth, a quick call to Dad (he happens to be a dentist) but not much can be done. Thank goodness he gets another set when he is older. I have adopted a new rule in our house "walk don't run" but already it is falling on deaf ears...............fingers crossed tomorrow is a better day!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Garden Progress.

My seeds from Diggers finally arrived (the day before we went to the zoo) I have sown the carrots, beetroot, french basket radishes, & peas. The radishes have already started to poke their little green heads through the mulch and are worshipping the sun. I have to say my lettuces were looking a little brown from all the dust that was blown our way via a very intense dust storm. It was quite eery to wake up in a haze of red darkness, I have a feeling this is what it would be like to live on Mars. A thought I hope never becomes a reality!

I purchased a little portable green house on the weekend so I can propagate the rest of my seeds that couldn't be sown direct into the raised garden bed. I have potted up mini cucumbers, mini capsicums and spring onions, fingers crossed they sprout into strong little seedlings.

The lettuces are going gang busters, all of a sudden they seem to have taken off! We had our first salad last night and it was a great feeling to know that the lettuce came from our garden and hadn't been contaminated with nasty toxic sprays. The herbs also seem to be growing beautifully, I think that little spurt of warm weather over the last few days has really helped (I even have a few strawberries popping up).

I have finally planted the tomatoes, I couldn't decide how and where to grow them. I bought a grow bag to plant them in and have placed this against a sunny fence facing West with a little protection from the wind, I am still not convinced they are in the right spot, I suppose only time will tell!

Dan and the boys dug up the back garden and replaced some bare patches with a stronger more child/dog resilient grass "Kings Pride" a flat leaf buffalo. We have always had problems with bare patches through the winter and I think the boys and the Mariah don't help either.

They all had a great time, unlike me with all the dirty washing that has been produced over the last 2 days I think I will be washing all week.....oh well that's boys for you! :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Our long awaited trip to Western Plains Zoo started at 4am in the morning. With a 6 hour drive ahead of us we decided to make the most of the 2 days and one night (in the plush tent) by setting out at 5am in the morning. With printed directions in hand (we are yet to join the satellite navigation generation) and the children bundled into the car we set off. We were barely out of the driveway when Leo piped up with "watch an animal movie" Leo loves David Attenbourgh documentaries, so we put on an animal movie, something soothing and tame for 5am, by that I mean "no lions hugging and kissing gazelles....!!!" After a quick breakfast at McDonalds and a fuel stop we were well and truly on our way. The drive to Dubbo is a little monotonous, sheep, cows and more sheep and cows, I was starting to tire of these domesticated animals and was longing to see some wild animals (surrounded by fences) after a few more hours of David Attenbourgh's soothing voice chatting away in the background, we found ourselves driving through the gates of Western Plains Zoo. With our map in hand and a very gusty hot Westerly wind blowing we headed straight for the Black Rhino, then the Hippo who was very lazy and just lay in the sun. After looking at the Gibbons and the funny Wombat we proceeded to our tent,and unpacked. A zebra striped minibus arrived and took us to meet the 3 boy giraffes, which was the highlight for me as they ate the carrots from our hands with their big long curly tongues. Then we were whisked off to see the tiger have his dinner, wow I'm glad I was on the other side of the cage, he wasn't very friendly. The zebra striped minibus took us back to our tent and for Leo this was probably the highlight of the zoo, he unfortunately didn't want to get off the bus (we quickly realised he had never been on a bus before) after a lot of convincing we finally got him off!
Day 2: A 6am "rise and shine" to a wonderful sound of animal calls got us off to a great start. We headed straight to the minibus (a full 20 minutes early, Leo just couldn't wait) and the first stop was hand feeding the black rhino, this was fantastic, then onto the Galapagos Tortoises, a little boring for me, well what can you expect from an animal that has a top speed of 3km per hour! Our final port of call was the Meercats, everyones favorite, then we were heading back to our tent for a quick breakfast, check out and a last cycle around the zoo before heading back home. A wonderful 2 days away, now my mind is swimming with ideas of a real safari in Tanzania.........I think we are a long way from this but who knows!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Veggie Patch!

Over the weekend we put together the raised veggie garden from Natural Yards. We had a little hiccup, it was no longer viable to place it where I had originally wanted it to go. The ground was quite uneven and it just wasn't getting enough sun. So with a little jigging and looking around we found another spot that looked perfect. I had my little helpers, slowing everything down, wanting drinks, morning tea etc, I didn't think I would see it finished by the end of the day as I was spending so much time in the kitchen preparing food!
Now for the dirt and compost and why do boys love dirt so much......?
After lunch and more snacks we headed off to our local garden nursery and I purchased some lettuce seedlings and snow peas, I thought this would be a good start, as I am still waiting for my seeds to arrive form Diggers. Once again with my little helpers by my side I got down to the serious stuff, PLANTING and voila I was I starting to see progress!
By the end of the day we were all tired and extremely happy with our efforts, the warm weather had zapped all our energy so it was an early dinner and off to bed for me and my little helpers.