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Craft: Halloween pumpkin & be safe message

October 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Using the right pumpkin makes the job EASY!

Brisbanites frequenting supermarkets have started encountering big, overpriced, yellow pumpkins just lately. I took it upon myself to see what all the fuss was about.

In the name of craft and open-mindedness, I put aside my reservations about ‘celebrating’ Halloween, to see whether these pumpkins were anything special. To be honest, I’d wondered how hard it would be to carve one up, given the near brute force needed to cut up our typical Butternut pumpkin for dinner.

In short, it was as easy as falling off a log. Using the right kind of pumpkin makes all the difference. As you can see from the photos below, it’s a softer pumpkin which has a lot of ‘guts’ that’s easily scooped out by little kids. The cutting must be done by an adult (obviously, one would think). The supermarket instruction sheet sets out 8 steps, but really, there are only five, tops. To be clear, the hairy fingers in the photos are not my own. Yours Truly suffered a shoulder / neck injury while sleeping (how sad is that?) and couldn’t operate the knife without screaming like a banshee, so Dear Brother did the honours.

1. Carefully cut the top off using a knife (operated by a competent adult).
2. Scoop out the insides.
3. Draw a face with a permanent ink marker or mark the outline of a face with pins (eg. using a template).
4. Cut out face
5. Insert a tea light candle and light it.

Easy carve pumpkin

Instructions & template

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Carving up a pumpkin and having a bit of dress-up fun at home is one thing. But if you are taking kids out for trick or treating, do keep in mind the contradictory messages (Don’t take lollies from strangers, except on Halloween. Don’t be mean, unless the neighbours don’t give you sweets. Bullies are bad, except on Halloween.) which can set you up for trouble down the long and winding road of parenthood. While you might be going with them this year, there’ll come a time when they’ll think it lame that their parents tag along (and by that stage, they’ll be too big to say “No” to, with any sort of moral authority). And please don’t kid yourself that children in a group are safe. Sometimes, a group is the most dangerous place to be.

Keeping kids safe is hard work. In a perfect world, there would be no begging for lollies (as opposed to nuts in days gone by, in preparation for winter), but if it must be done, then perhaps consider door-knocking just your friends and family and by prior arrangement. Don’t freak out the elderly, or people who don’t understand or want to have Halloween thrust upon them. Realistically, anyone opening the door to strangers on Halloween is crazy, even if it’s a little kid standing at the screen door (who’s standing behind him?).

A bit of consideration goes a long way in not only keeping good neighbours, but in keeping EVERYBODY safe. Go look up some statistics about how many kids go missing on Halloween overseas. Ask your friendly police how many assaults happen and how many complaints they clock up. Fun should never be at the expense of others.

And this is the end of the government, anti-fun policy.

Have fun, responsibly. And regardless of your religious beliefs, think about the dearly departed on 1 November, which is what it’s all really about.

UPDATE: To avoid being gouged on the price of a Halloween pumpkin, try using a watermelon – it does work and you get to eat the insides. The Halloween pumpkin isn’t good eating. See my later post with photos of a Halloween watermelon, thanks to the Auntie-who-thinks-of-everything.

Trend Alert: Goodbyn lunch boxes from USA, for kids & adults

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

The Auntie-Who-Thinks-of-Everything alerts Yours Truly to a new trend, that’s sure to work its way to the outer sleepy suburbs….

Personalise your Goodbyn with stickers

Here’s the inside with some bits tucked in for size demonstration purposes. It easily fits a regular sandwich, fruit, crackers & cheese and the rest. Check out the Goodbyn or Biome website for more.

Liquid tight compartments to keep foods separate

Love thy lunchbox - the Goodbyn

Inner city Brisbane schools are abuzz with the latest in cool kids’ lunch boxes. Word on the street is that kids are loving the Goodbyn lunch boxes from the USA, but which can be bought in Australia from Biome.

What’s to like, with just another pile of plastic, you wonder.

Well, consider:
* lead free, BPA free, pthalates free
* funky, personalised with 3 sheets of stickers
* LIQUID TIGHT seals between compartments to prevent merging of foods & smells
* great for the environment if it reduces one’s dependence on cling wrap, plastic bags & disposable drink containers
* comes with a freezable drinks container which keeps food cool & probably doesn’t require a cooler bag
* fully recyclable
* one lunch box, one lid – no losing separate little boxes with little lids and ice bricks and cooler bags (less to label)
* easy to open (for 5+) and easy to carry handle (also available for 10+ to adults)
* it’s like a lunch tray
* a percent of sales goes to environmental causes.

But:
* about A$45
* big & a challenge to squeeze into little backpacks
* stickers come off after washing eventually
* recommended for 5 plus because of the single lid – if the child drops the box, the whole lot goes
* once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.

The adult version of the Goodbyn doesn’t have the big lip / ear for easy opening and comes in more sedate colours. It’d be great for taking leftovers to work, be it curry and rice, salad, fruit salad and yoghurt or dip and veggie sticks. Perhaps other stickers would be required for adults. Here’s one I thought of: Think Big, Eat Small. Or, Would You Like Chocolate With That?

Apparently, you can put yoghurt or dip into one compartment, without it spilling into others. This is pretty nifty. In terms of liquid tight seals, the only other brand I currently know and trust is Tupperware (Tuppercare Snack Cups & Everyday Bowls, Fuel Pack & All Day Pack for babes). But, I haven’t seen anything in the configuration of the Goodbyn. Having it all in one, does seem convenient.

I don’t own one (because I’d just been to several Tupperware fundraisers…) but I’ve seen it in action. My niece gets on with her new lunchbox very well and in the end, that’s what matters – making lunches something children look forward to. Everything else is a big bonus. Anything that makes good parenting easier gets my tick of approval.

So, this week, while you’re filling out school book orders for next year and probably wondering how many weeks are left till Christmas, you might want to contact Santa for a Goodbyn stocking filler.

Happy lunching!

Categories: Parenthood, Products, Review

Road Test: No mess tomatoes

October 25, 2010 2 comments

Yours Truly gets a little bit excited when a product actually lives up to its marketing hype.

Hooray! Truth in advertising ...

I can say that I was hugely impressed with the fact that these tomatoes didn’t turn into sandwich sludge – not even when put in the toasted sandwich maker (aka jaffle maker). They hold firm and seem to last longer than other types of tomatoes, when kept in the specially designed holey plastic bag, in the crisper section of the fridge. The tomatoes cut very easily (even with my perpetually blunt knives), present very well and taste great.

While I don’t personally believe in salad, I’m sure these tomatoes would be great for those who do. They’re not as juicy as other kinds, so they wouldn’t be my first choice for sauces and suchlike. (I’m told, in comments below, that they perform equally well in sauces and cooking.)

No more mushy tomato sandwich nightmares. Enjoy! No Mess Tomatoes, indeed!

UPDATE: I’ve had buckets of people agreeing that these are now their favourite tomatoes! I love a local good-news story. Hats off to Aussie ingenuity.

Reflections on the movie, “Charlie St Cloud”

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Reader Ant has asked me to post my thoughts about the movie, “Charlie St Cloud” (which she liked), but tied my hands somewhat by saying that “you have to be nice (because it’s my birthday).” So here goes.

SPOILER ALERT – don’t read this if you’re yet to see the film & you don’t want to laugh loudly during the sad or romantic bits. You might get elbowed in the ribs & spill your popcorn, which would be a waste.

In short, the main character, Charlie (Efron), is devastated by his younger brother’s untimely demise. Minutes before the car accident, the brothers had made a pact of sorts, to meet every day at sunset and practise catching ball in the woods, so that younger brother, Sam (Tahan) can grow up to play serious baseball. Both die in the accident, but Florio, the paramedic (Liotta) brings Charlie back from a flatline. Charlie indefinitely defers the college sailing scholarship to work at the graveyard so that he can keep his promise to his brother. Years later, Charlie encounters the paramedic, who himself is dying of cancer. The paramedic tells Charlie that he was brought back by God for a reason and that he had to find it – the second chance story. Helpfully, this coincides with a damsel-in-distress story with the introduction of sailor-girl, Tess (Crew), who gets herself lost and near-death at sea.

This movie has some lovely moments and the cinematography is great. In all, I think it’ll appeal to teenagers and those looking for the second chance, live-every-moment moral. Zac Efron fans will be beside themselves when he takes his shirt off.

However, older viewers who might see past this (or not) may well be wondering:
(a) the girl’s deceased father mightn’t like what she’s doing in the cemetery with Charlie;
(b) whether it’s too much like cutting and pasting the kid from “Sixth Sense” and the gooey bits from “Ghost”, rolling it together and smoking it; and
(c) if your subconscious can go off by itself without your knowledge or consent and have intercourse with someone in a cemetery and form “a memory, not a dream” (Charlie), dating just got a whole lot more confusing.

To its credit, the movie raised issues of survivor guilt, grief and moving on in a way that is accessible to all viewers. I wouldn’t recommend the film to anyone who’s lost a loved one recently, or been in a major vehicle accident any time in the last few years, for fear of exacerbating post-traumatic stress disorder. I also wouldn’t recommend it for young teens (or tweens).

Will the film smudge your mascara? Depends. That’s the odd thing about this movie. I went with a large group of mothers – and by rights, we all should’ve been passing the Kleenex, but we weren’t – some were, most weren’t. Even I cry in kids movies (“Up” and “Toy Story 3”, most recently), but I was too busy trying to decide what it was that prevented me from suspending my disbelief in this story.

The relationship between Charlie and Rachel was flat until they rolled around in the cemetery – but wait, they didn’t – so he saved her anyway and they went back to being flat but sailing off into the sunset (promising) all because of a little poem by ee cummings about taking risks. Maybe it was some of the corny lines – like the one which should’ve been the most powerful, when Sam was moving from being in-between to moving on (to Heaven) but asked his still living brother whether he promises that they’ll “be brothers forever – you promise?” (because you broke your last promise about meeting me here at sunset and playing ball since you went out looking for that sailor-girl, so I had to think of a promise you could actually keep….)

But hey, if the film makes people Google ee cummings, take up sailing (safely), move on from grief, have a cleansing cry, then it’s okay by me. It pulls at the heartstrings, for some more than others and in all, will probably be loved by more people than reviewers will give it credit for – so go watch it and decide for yourself.

[And happy birthday, Ant!]

Thought of the day …

September 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I love the Italian proverb on these gorgeous little ice cream cups: After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box. Says a lot.

What I loved even more was the ice cream itself. Miss Six had American Chocolate – which we all enjoyed. I had Pistachio – which we all enjoyed. Miss Nine finished her Carmel & Hazelnut Gelato before I could introduce her to the joys of taxation (‘Mama Tax’).

Have a great Friday! If it’s not so great, ice cream helps….

Craft: fabric colouring set & recycled paper notebook

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Craft is something that other people do better than me.

I’m mostly appreciative of other people’s efforts (although please don’t send me any toilet roll dollies) and I know a winner when I see it.

It being spring carnival / school fete season, I thought I’d share two little projects which you might find inspiring. Since a hot glue gun is a weapon in my hands, I won’t pretend to know how to make these items, but will depend upon the picture-being-worth-a-thousand-words saying. So, my four thousand words on craft this week are as follows:

With thanks to readers Lee (for the colouring kit) & Joanna (for the purse-sized notebook).

Review: Burn the Floor (choreographed by Jason Gilkison)

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

This new show, choreographed by Australia’s beloved Jason Gilkison, doesn’t just burn the floor – it burns the house down.

Gilkison has become international hot property, choreographing and judging most recently, on the American and Australian dance show franchise, “So You Think You Can Dance.” I’ll admit to a slight addiction to the show and a great admiration for Gilkison. You can see his style and great Aussie humour in his choreography. Fans of our boys, The Cat Empire will enjoy the Jive number he set to “Fishies“.

The chorie is inspired, the costuming just yummy and the dancing is HOT. The live singing is great and the stage setup is just right. It was non-stop action: one song led into another and there was no intermission. It was the fastest 70 minutes of my life.

The show’s on the Gold Coast at the moment from 26/8 to 31/10, at the Jupiters Hotel & Casino. It’s great value at $59 a ticket or $69 with dinner – and there is no parking fee (compare the Entertainment Centre & Convention Centre, in Brisbane). The show kept the whole family totally engaged – you can take the kids and grandma. As a guide, there aren’t any moments where you wish you’d not brought grandma or kids – nothing that can’t be overcome with a quick pass of the chips and lemonade, according to discretion. [There’s nothing like say, Pink’s rendition of “I Touch Myself” in her last Australian concert, which had parents with children in attendance want to just die – for anyone who didn’t hear about it, you didn’t need to understand International Sign Language to get it – it followed more common conventions… And no, I didn’t take my kids to that one!]

Don’t miss the show. Book here.

P.S. The “Learn to Burn” instructional dance DVD is pretty good for total beginners, especially for those who’d prefer to stumble in private. It’s sold at the show.

Categories: Australia, Dance, Music, Review, Stage