Monday, 26 March 2012

My Perfect Lasagne!

OK I know this isn’t my area really but I have been perfecting my low fat lasagne and I think I have it just right now and ready to share. This lasagne is perfect for kids because you can hide loads of vegies in there and it has a mild flavour. Plus it’s really healthy! The only thing I think you need to adjust is the amount of water you add. Depending on how you like it, you might want to add a bit more or less….. I make a big one then cut it into slices and freeze it. It is great for meals where you are short of time and just want to microwave something healthy! I can get about 8 meals out of this recipe so it's really cost effective too (eg cheap!)

Susie’s Lean Lasagne

500g Turkey Mince (very low fat, high protein)
6 mushrooms – chopped (they disappear into the meat mix!)
1 onion – chopped
1 red capscium – chopped (I like LOTS of red capsicum – mild sweet flavour with heaps of Vit C)
1 carrot – grated
1 zucchini – grated
1 tin crushed tomatoes (the no sugar kind)
1 tub tomato paste
½ teaspoon mixed herbs
1 eggplant sliced finely
1 tub low fat ricotta cheese
1 packet oven ready lasagne
1 packet light cheese slices (I used Bega Extra Vintage Tasty)
½ cup water

Saute chopped onion. Add turkey mince. Brown the mince then add capsicum, carrot, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs. Cook for about 30 mins.
In a lasagne pan layer other ingredients in this order.
Small amount of the turkey mix
Lasagne sheets
Eggplant slices
Lasagne (press down firmly at this point)
Turkey mix
Top with cheese slices – slices work well because you get exact coverage and not too much cheese
Cover with foil and bake for 30mins in moderate to slow oven
Take the foil off and cook for a further 30 mins or so to brown the top
Cool. Slice into portion sizes and freeze.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I’m so excited.  I’ve always wanted to be an anthropologist and finally, I think I have a foot on the ladder!  I believe I have discovered a new sub species of human being, the Homo Erectus Sticky Beakious.

I’ve discovered these creatures most frequently take the physical form of a post menopausal woman.    They are not limited to this profile however my observations indicate that most are women with adult children and short memories.  They are most prevalent in shopping centres.  Early studies indicate they are drawn to locations where young mothers and their offspring can be found.

The defining feature of the Homo Erectus Sticky Beakious is their ability to locate, assess and quickly pass judgement on the parenting skills of young mothers as they attempt to carry out everyday activities with their children.  They communicate their displeasure by a variety of means.  These means include gestures (for instance head shaking and eye rolling) and vocalisation (tut tuts and scoffing).  The most commonly used form of communication is the stare or as we academics call it, the “skunk-eye”.

Allow me to illustrate a typical interaction.  A young mother exhausted and sleep deprived, rushes to the local supermarket in order to purchase groceries.  She has had approximately 4 hours sleep, (not 4 consecutive hours it should be noted).  She has been up since 5.30am.  Upon waking she prepared breakfast for her husband and two small children.  She has made beds, done a load of washing, quickly tidied the house, made a shopping list for the week’s meals, dressed both children and quickly dressed herself.  She has not had time to shower or apply makeup.  She has taken her older child to school and now has bundled her two year old into the pram to go shopping. 

She dreads this as her two year old dislikes shopping centres, prams and shopping trolleys.  The young mother has arrived in the shopping centre car park at 9.30am and eventually finds a parking spot.  She strains her back as she leans into the car to extricate the child from the car seat.  The child wriggles and screams as he/she is put into the pram.  The toddler has mastered running and does not take kindly to being contained in a pram.  The mother then walks swiftly to the supermarket, pushing the pram quickly in an effort to placate the child.  The toddler continues to scream and wriggle.  The mother enters the supermarket.  She then attempts to get the toddler from the pram into the trolley.  The child objects, loudly.

As the mother makes her way through the aisles, tossing items into the trolley as quickly as she can, the child continues to grizzle and whinge.  The mother becomes increasingly stressed as she knows that the toddler’s “nap time” is approaching and the line at the checkout is long.  She finally completes her shopping and joins the queue. 

It is at this time that the Homo Erectus Sticky Beakious will make its move. It stalks its prey and swoops.  As the toddler’s grizzling and complaining becomes louder, the Sticky Beakious will position itself in such a way that the mother cannot avoid its gaze.  There will be tut tutting and murmuring which is Sticky Beakious’s method for communicating the message “If that was my child...” or “In my day...” or “What that child needs is a good smack”.  The “skunk eye” may also be employed at this time. 

Should the toddler’s behaviour worsen, the Sticky Beakious will often resort to head shaking and “skunk-eying” in combination.   This will communicate the desired message that the young mother is doing a lousy job as a parent and that their child is out of control.  In most cases, the young mother is already harbouring fears.  The young mother leaves the supermarket in distress.  The Sticky Beakious’s work is done.  She will now continue to roam the centre looking for other victims before settling in for a nice Devonshire Tea at the Coffee Club with Beryl from the Bowling Club.

If the job in anthropology doesn’t work out, I might go into business for myself anyway.  I’m going to get these business cards printed up and sell them online for young mothers with lively toddlers.

Friday, 20 January 2012

So who is the bad guy?

I am a single Mum. I have a 9 year old daughter who I am raising alone. I get great support from my lovely Mum and some terrific friends but essentially I’m doing it alone. I left my marriage five years ago after years of abuse, both verbal and physical. Believe me, I didn’t envisage myself as a divorced, single parent at this stage of my life but here I am!

My ex-husband deeply resents the fact that I left our marriage. As members of a fundamentalist church community as we were, you just don’t get a divorce, ever, for better or for worse. Our marriage and its problems were well hidden from our friends and the leadership of the church until I left.

To this day, despite his remarriage, my ex-husband continues to verbally abuse me and blame me for the failure of our marriage. He pays the barest minimum child support, rarely sees our daughter and even when he plans to see her, often lets her down at the last minute.

So, I guess by now, some of you are thinking this is going to be another man-bashing rant about ex-husbands and how they are all bastards. Not so.

In fact, what I want to talk about is the way our society and the media talks about divorce, separation and children. What has bothered me immensely in recent years is the combative, gender-based approach that society and the media often seems to take with this issue.

The tabloid media often depicts the cliche “dead-beat dad”who won’t pay child support and is unreliable and irresponsible. How often have we seen a bloke being chased along the street by a reporter having loaded questions thrown at them about how they don’t pay child support? It’s not helpful and serves to perpetuate a gender based myth that heaps of guys are dead beats and women are all badly done by.

Then we see blokes climbing bridges and protesting about the way that fathers are treated by the court system. For a while, the media seems to pick up on this and we see stories about fathers who are prevented by the courts from seeing their kids and how difficult and obstructive ex-wives can be.

Often when people divorce they seek out others in a similar situation to talk to. Usually it will be a person of the same gender. I believe that often what happens is it turns into a gender bashing exercise. If you are a divorced Dad, you will have no trouble finding a bloke in a similar situation who wants to join you in a conversation about their bitch of an ex-wife and how she takes all his money and makes it impossible for him to see the kids. If you are a woman, you will find no shortage of women ready to tell you about their bastard ex-husband and how they won’t pay child support and how difficult they are to deal with.

It seems to me that this gender based, combative approach is entirely unhelpful. Yes, no doubt there are Dads who don’t pay child support. Some are violent and present a real danger to their kids. Equally, I know some Dads who are simply beautiful examples of caring, committed and responsible fathers. They do their very best to maintain routine, stability and show great unconditional love to their kids. I can think of three such men, straight off the top of my head!

My situation is sadly, not so ideal. The thing is, just because my ex behaves this way, doesn’t mean I paint every ex-husband and father with the same brush.

I know some women who do it very tough. They have very limited support; financial, emotional or physical. Their ex-husbands try to punish them through the children, using manipulation to put their own vindictive agendas ahead of the children’s best interest. I know some men who experience the very same thing, women preventing them from being able to see their children, being obstructive and difficult and bad mouthing them to their kids.

The thing is, it’s not just Dads who let their kids down. It’s Mums as well. We can’t generalise about who the bad guy is. Every situation is different. Every family is different. Every divorce or separation is different. Until we stop with the cliché“dead-beat dad” stuff or the “difficult ex-wife who makes my life a misery”stuff and put the kids first, we are never going to be able to give our kids what they need.

It’s not about gender. It’s about character, purely and simply.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

I'm thinking of becoming Amish and I'm taking my 9 year old with me

I like to think of myself as being a “cool Mummy”. You know, one of those Mums who is up with the lingo (does calling it “lingo” instantly disqualify from the cool label I wonder?) 

I’m familiar with the latest technology. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook account and I use the internet daily for work. I am aware of the sort of stuff they play on Top 40 radio these days. I know all about the TV shows that kids are watching. I have a 9 year old daughter and I’ve tried to instil a certain savvy-ness in her about all these things.

We don’t listen to commercial radio in the car or at home. We don’t watch Video Hits. I choose not to promote the values expressed in a lot of this music to my daughter. She’s heard many of these songs from her peers and from friends. I know I can’t prevent her from hearing top 40 songs and seeing music videos in other places. My theory is, our home is our sanctuary and I make the rules and set the boundaries. I just hope that once she is out in the world she is able to make good choices about what is and is not worthwhile, healthy, sensible and valuable.

So you can imagine how I felt when my 9 year old daughter came home from the school disco last Friday night with a copy of a CD containing songs they had been dancing to like “Sexy and I Know It”, “Champagne Showers” and “Last Friday Night”.

Let me just highlight the two key aspects of that sentence “9 year old daughter” and “school disco”.

One of the songs “Sexy and I Know It” was played at the disco apparently and the children were encouraged to chant the chorus “Sexy and I Know It” by the school employed DJ. This choice tune includes the delightful lyrics:

I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it

I'm sexy and I know it

I'm sexy and I know it...

The children were then encouraged to “wiggle it, wiggle it, wiggle it”while chanting the lyrics.

Um, is it just me or is this a rather extraordinary contradiction in messages? On one hand, we are concerned about the sexualisation of young children in our society. We are trying to teach them safety on the internet, in the school yard and in the world in general. Then we are running a school function and encouraging them to dance and chant the words “I’m sexy and I know it”.

Another song which was played was “Last Friday Night” by Katy Perry. Katy Perry is a hugely successful singer and was recently the voice of “Smurfette” in “The Smurfs” movie. The kids love her. Here are some of the lyrics to this happy tune.

There's a stranger in my bed,

There's a pounding in my head

We went streaking in the park

Skinny dipping in the dark

Then had a menage a trois

Pictures of last night

Ended up online

I'm screwed

Oh well

It's a blacked out blur

But I'm pretty sure

It ruled

So hang on, my daughter is at a school function dancing to songs that say that “blacking out” from drinking “rules”? Hmmm. “What’s wrong with this picture?” I ask myself. “Everything” is the answer.

The song “Champagne Showers” has lyrics such as “flash your titties like mardi gras” and walk out the party with a hottie or two”. If you think that is a little out of line for kids to be listening to, have a look at the music video. The words that come to mind are pornography, deeply offensive and misogynistic.

These days, kids go online and Google the lyrics to songs (not like in my day when you had to tape the song and listen to it over and over and try to decipher the words). They may not understand the deeper meaning of these songs but is that an excuse? It seems so in some people’s minds. When a parent asked the DJ at the school disco to stop playing these inappropriate songs he replied that “the kids love it and they don’t understand the words anyway”. Right! Great answer. Not.

Am I alone in feeling this way? Am I out of touch? Why are we not protecting our kids more from this sort of garbage? Don’t we want to give our kids a consistent message about personal safety, about respect, about treating people with dignity and behaving with dignity? How do songs that promote binge drinking and promiscuous sexual behaviour fit with our desire to raise happy, healthy kids? Isn’t that what we all want for our children? If so, why are we all just sitting back and letting this drivel infiltrate society and invade our kid’s mind?

I wrote to the principal of the school about the disco and the music content. She neatly hand-balled it to the P&C and I am yet to hear back. I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I’m considering becoming Amish.