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On family and Mexican

Collection of stuff in Oli's room which perfectly sums up the weekend, football and Mexican.

On any night in our family when the question ‘what would you like for dinner’ is aired, there is a 50% chance that the response will be Mexican. If Oliver is in the room, there is a 95% chance that the response will be Mexican. This Sunday night we decided to do something a bit special with our Mexican because we had had a fairly special weekend of football and family. We lucked out on a combination of recipes that were simple and fantastic.

Our weekend has been a reminder of what is really important for us, my sister spent the weekend with us and it was lovely to feel like a slightly bigger family for the last few days. She is a constant reminder of what is important in life. We also spent Saturday with Trevor and Jan, who are members of our chosen extended family  and as such, can give our children advice on everything from haircuts to careers and it is well received (a little bit too well in Oli’s case from someone who spent a large part of his career with a pony tail- Trevor)

Oli's hairstyle experimentation

My sister, my daughter, my niece and I

We are rich in friendship with our chosen family and this weekend has been a reminder that through bad times and good the more time you spend with the people who you love the better your life. The start of our weekend, Friday night dinner with Nicola’s closest high school friend and her family was still another reminder of keeping connections, at this dinner we shared laughs, greek culture and learned an important lesson that chosing the sparkling mineral water can end up costing you $100 at the end of the night as they continue to fill you up- note to self for future, tap water is free!

Nic and Nat in their highschool days

Here is our Mole recipe, pieces pulled from all over the internet, super simplified, we popped it in the oven and went and saw The Help, came home to a Mexican feast!

Chicken Mole

2kg chicken pieces

3 onions (chopped)

1 cup orange juice

3 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup sultanas

4 cloves of garlic (crushed)

2 medium red chillis, seeded and chopped.

100gms dark chocolate, chopped (70% cocoa or more)

1 tbsp orange zest

2 tsp cocoa powder

4tsp cumin seeds

4tsp corriander seeds

1.5 tsp dried oregano

peanut oil

Brown chicken pieces in 2 tbsp peanut oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

In another pan, fry onions in 1tbsp oil with spices (cocoa, cumin, corriander, oregano) . Add chillis, sultanas, almonds and orange zest, and fry until onions are soft.

Transfer chicken, onion mixture and chocolate pieces, orange juice and stock into an ovenproof caserole dish with a lid. Stir.

Cook on 170 celsius for two hours (covered)  and watch the magical transformation into a thick, rich, mole.

We served this with a range of supporting characters; 

mexican rice, tomato salsa, guacamole, tortillas, Cholula hot sauce, refried beans

Then for dessert, the world’s best hot chocolate made with this

Fitting end to a jam packed, family weekend.

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Anguilla is paradise.

June/July is their low season so we experienced all the benefits of this warm, tropical island at very reasonable prices with very few other tourists! Apparently the only months to avoid are August and September which are their Hurricane prone season. We had moments of tropical rain (which came and went inside half an hour), but generally clear blue skies, and beautiful sunshine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water is such a beautiful clear aqua that for the first couple of days you are constantly surprised by how beautiful it is. The water temperature was around 30 (celsius) which really suited two sooks from Melbourne used to swimming on the freezing surf coast (and coming out with teeth chattering even in the middle of summer) There are 34 beautiful beaches and 100 restaurants in Anguilla, and its only business is tourism. It seems it has been a quiet haven for wealthy Americans for quite some time before we discovered it. Consequently, it has attracted some high quality restaurants in addition to the local cafes and beach shacks where you can buy a lobster lunch for $16.

There is plenty of accommodation on the island, and it is very reasonable in low season. Nicola found us a beautiful, small bed and breakfast calledAmbia. Again we had plenty of space, a beautiful pool with a great view, and it was small enough to still feel like you were in the West Indies. There are also a couple of very up-market resorts with manicured lawns, magnificent pools and great service, but once you’re inside you could be anywhere in the world, and for that reason we preferred to be somewhere a little bit smaller.

The West Indian people are warm and welcoming, and very friendly. The West Indian men have a great appreciation of women. And although I’m sure there are one or two faithful and monogamous men on Anguilla, we didn’t meet many, and the girlfriends we spoke to said that relationships are very much on the mens’ terms over there! Typical of the male confidence in Anguilla was the 14 year old who fancied his chances with Nicola, who he thought may have been around 16, in spite of the fact that he was about a foot shorter than her.

Nicki and 'Little Ray'

The food was beautiful. It helps to like seafood! We sampled everything from creole barbeque to up-market lobster dishes and didn’t have a meal we didn’t enjoy. As an unexpected bonus, there seems to be a telephone system in Anguilla which allows all accommodation to provide free landline phone calls to any international destination. It was nice to sit sipping a drink watching the sun set and chatting to our loved ones back home here in winter.

Anguilla is a very long way to go for us in Australia who are pretty spoilt for beautiful food and beaches. However, if you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere, you couldn’t find a better destination for a beach holiday.

The Happy Travelers!

Nicki and I have just returned from a 2 week mother and daughter holiday which exceeded my expectations in many ways. Even though I’ve had some wonderful holidays they usually include some aspect of feeling a bit disappointed that what we were expecting didn’t quite eventuate. It could be the accommodation or the weather or the ability to feel truly relaxed or everyone being happy with everyone else’s company. For some reason everything worked on this holiday, so I’ll share a few of the details, to anyone else who is planning on going to Manhattan or Anguilla around June and July, or any mother and daughter brave enough to spend two weeks together and leave their respective loved ones at home!

Nicola and I shared the planning, I booked accommodation and flights for Manhattan and Nic took charge of our week at the beach, which I had imagined would be somewhere around Cape Cod. She assured me ‘if we’re on that side of the world, we can do better than that’ and I was able to trust her to take charge.

What worked in New York:

– Great accomodation (at the Benjamin which we booked through this website ) with plenty of room. This was very important!! I had a bedroom to myself, and Nicki had a queen sized pull out sofa bed in a large sitting room. We also had a kitchen and a study area. Being able to sleep in separate bedrooms was key as it meant we had enough of our own space, particularly at night and in the morning.

– Pre-booking the only tourist thing we did (Statue of Liberty) there are so many tourists in NY over summer, that if you don’t book this you may miss out on getting the pedestal (let alone the crown, which we were even too late in booking for) and also pre-booking enables you to skip a huge portion of the lines.

– With the exception of our one day at Lady Liberty. not being too structured.

– The Book of Mormon, as good as all of its reviews, this coming from someone who doesn’t really like musicals. It was sold out but if you go to the theatre first thing in the morning and line up, they sell the cancelled seats for that day’s performance. Standing in line, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts and chatting to people in line was a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours. We were rewarded with great seats at a great price.

– Food. We loved Empellon (very noisy though), The Dutch (also very noisy, I’m showing my age here), Rosa Mexicano (great guacamole, not quite so cool, not quite so noisy), Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown (noisy) and as on previous trips Pret A Manger is our favourite ‘grab a lunch’ spot.

– Department store sales. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction in buying a dress for under $200 which has been marked down by $1000.

– The Subway. Staying in East Midtown was a great choice because we could walk to Broadway and had a short subway ride the days we went to Soho, Harlem, Upper West Side, Greenwich Village etc.

* Something worth noting, if, like me, you want to go up to Harlem on a Sunday to experience the full Baptist Church Service and Choir, you might want to steer clear of the organised tours and just find a church to go into, there is something a bit off-putting about busloads of people sitting in a separate area of the church observing what is happening downstairs. *

On the Statue of Liberty Pedestal, with the city behind us.

Full mummy winter

All members of our family attended black tie functions on Saturday night, which meant we were all dressed to the nines for a rare formal family photo, and on the flip side needing a bit of quiet time and comfort food Sunday.

After all the Saturday night glamour, Sunday night was time for tracksuits and baking. I cooked Rockling with a pesto and breadcrumb crust, Italian greens, and rhubarb and apple crumble.

Dessert is rare in our family, where a couple of us are watching our waistlines, so the apple and rhubarb crumble was a special winter treat. Maybe because of being a dessert deprived family, we have got into the habit of eating our desserts with a teaspoon- to make it last!

Oli, Mark and I, about to attack the crumble with our teaspoons!

Recipes

Rockling with pesto crust.

This is a winner for people like Nic who don’t really like the taste of fish. Rockling is a very mild tasting white fish, and the crunchy topping is delicious. The topping is: 50% pesto paste (we make our own but you could buy) and 50% breadcrumbs (again we use fresh but bought would be fine). Mix the two together with a fork until fully combined. Cooking it couldn’t be simpler, put pieces of fish on baking paper on a flat tray, gently press topping onto each piece of fish, bake in 180 degree (c) oven, for around 15 minutes, or until fish is white.  Finish under grill for 30 seconds to give the topping extra crunch (optional).

Vegetables

Stir fry broccoli (or broccolini) in a bit of olive oil in a wok, add sliced mushrooms, splash of balsamic, sea salt, black pepper, handful of cherry tomatoes, sprinkling of chopped olives. Stir fry, place in vegetable dish, and top with shavings of parmesan cheese.

Crumble

Fruit

peel core and chop 1/2 dozen Granny Smith apples.

trim and chop a bunch of rhubarb.

place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Boil until fruit starts to soften, stirring regularly.

Tip fruit mixture into a baking dish, allowing plenty of space at the top, as the fruit can froth up during baking.

Topping

1 cup self raising flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup dessicated coconut

1/3 cup rolled oats

2 heaped tablespoons margarine (or butter)

Mix together dry ingredients with a fork, then fork through butter or margarine (do not melt) until margarine is completely mixed into dry ingredients. You may want to finish by rubbing it through with your fingertips.

Put topping loosely on top of fruit, bake for 25 min-1/2 hour on 180 degrees until top browns.

Serve with cream or vanilla ice-cream and teaspoons!

Anxiety

Anxiety has been a long term companion in my life. I’ve spent many hours professionally helping people who struggle with their anxiety, some of whom, at points, have been so crippled by it that it seems to define their life. I have also spent many years managing my own tendency to be anxious, learning to understand it, accept it, talk about it, know what works.

Anxiety, like depression, or other things that we struggle with mentally, is something that intuitively we avoid talking about. For nearly everyone who suffers with anxiety there is always an element of personal insecurity- telling ourselves we should be better. So talking about one of our flaws doesn’t seem like a good pathway to feeling better about ourselves.

However, accepting our anxiety, realising it is just a part of us, which will often show up alongside other things that we are doing, and committing ourselves to making decisions about a richer, fuller life, is one of the cornerstones to getting it under control. I’ve noticed this week how anxiety shows up in parents. One parent I heard of who was paying their ten year old child for every goal they score personally in a football game, clearly has lots of anxiety about wanting their children to be successful, motivated winners.

Lots of parents, while driven to try and construct their children’s lives for them, to make sure they are visibly successful, and never dissapointed, angry or upset, probably wouldn’t understand that this was their own anxiety showing up. For me as a parent, I have realised, with the help of my children, that because I value human relationships and the joy of feeling connected to people, my anxiety has shown up over the years in providing them with unnecessary coaching about how to deal with relationships. Nicki helped me realise that being on the other end of this doesnt feel like someone is giving you pearls of wisdom which may prevent you making mistakes, instead it feels like someone doesn’t have confidence that you will make good decisions for yourself.

I suppose like a lot of things, it comes down to self awareness and listening carefully to the important people in our lives about how our behaviour affects them. It’s also about accepting who we are, imperfect, with all our quirks and flaws.

Happy Birthday Oli

Today we’re celebrating the day 18 years ago when Oliver was born. He started life as a complacent, relaxed, smiley baby and not much has changed! Oliver’s only enduring problem has been the fact that he sometimes can’t quite understand why the rest of the world doesn’t operate the same way he does. This is typified by our overused family anecdotes and his astonishment that some people actually want to have conversations before breakfast. Oliver is loved by his friends, and because he is so tolerant and non-judgmental, not a lot of people in his life don’t become his friends. Every parent/teacher interview we’ve ever had has started with; I love having Oliver in the class. (several have moved on to ‘But….’) No matter what Oli does in his life, he will be happy, because he brings happiness to everything he does.

Happy Birthday Oliver

Veering away from my normal theme, the focus of this dinner is not really the food. It was a family dinner that combined a Greenberg Shabbat, with Oli’s 18th birthday, Rachel’s 21st and a Willich family get together. We had twenty people for a sit down dinner, kept the food simple by getting people to bring a caserole, red meat, chicken and vegetarian options and in the spirit of a true family dinner, everyone contributed. Before the dinner, the logistics of fitting everyone around the table, ironing the tablecloths, finding oven space, have we got enough food? Got my anxiety fired up. To the extent that I even got (thankyou Nicki!) my daughter to do a last minute dash to a gourmet food store to buy a fourth caserole we didnt need! Sensing my anxiety, she didnt even try and argue me out of it, clearly thought ‘this will be tomorrows lunch!’ But once we had the twenty people here, spanning four generations, I realised how much the enjoyment is ten times the effort.

Three of the four generations, including the oldest (Nana Erica) and the youngest (baby Kobi)

There were dozens of small moments which will make this a night we’ll all remember. My sister sitting happily at the table with her ex husband, and realising that with generous good people these things can be managed in a way where family, and especially children, don’t feel awkward or lose their connections. The four young women cousins sorting through hand-me-downs from their older cousin Georgia, who knew as each piece was picked out, exactly which cousin would love it, and was unfailingly right.

The Four young girl cousins (Nic in jeans newly acquired from Georgia)

Seeing my dad wearing a Kippah for the first time in his life, and hearing my nephew exclaim ‘what is this great bread’ while eating challah. (These are the unique experiences you have when a Catholic marries a Jew, more on that, and my religiously confused children, another time) Seeing Nana Erica, our oldest generation, who arrived alone in Australia at sixteen from a Concentration Camp, surrounded by her big extended family. Even though she is battling cancer at the moment, and the effort of her getting there puts our logistic efforts of organization into sharp contrast, she managed a late night (well after 9pm) and for her also the reward is worth the effort. Discussing sibling jealousy when a newborn arrives with Georgia, while remembering watching her experiencing exactly the same things when she was two.

Georgia and myself, deep in disccussion.

As I listened to Georgia, I realised what an effort it had been for her and Adam and the two little ones to get here also, she had had one of those days I remember all too well, with a newborn and a demanding, tired, jealous older sibling, when probably all she wanted to do at half past six was put the two of them in bed and follow them into bed herself very shortly afterwards. But they  came, with Jarrah whose tired crankiness soon faded as he realised the power he has over a room full of adoring cousins. Another highlight was hearing Mark say a few words about the wonderful man Oli is, on the cusp of his 18th birthday, he truly is a kind, patient, laid back, warm person. It was lovely to see him with  Jarrah, who adores his ‘Oli B’ (a nickname that stuck, although noone except Jarrah knows its origin or is allowed to use it)

My birthday boy with his baby cousin

At the end of the night, after lots of warm hugs and thankyous, I realised again that it is our connections with people that are the most significant thing in life. and that for all the people there, getting together had involved effort, stress or in the case of my sister’s family lots and lots of driving, but the feeling of having everybody together was so worth it. And I thought again, I should remember this and continue to make the effort rather than be lazy when it comes to initiating getting people together.