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Full Meal Regression

by Lori Dwyer on September 4, 2012 · 9 comments

Full meal regression. (adverb; ‘full me–al re–gres–sion’; eg “That spaghetti bolognaise she attempted clearly shows she’s in a state of  full meal regression”)
Definition: The state of one’s cooking and meal delivery skills when in rapid decline.

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It’s hardly a well kept secret– I think we may have covered it a few times before– cooking is not my strongest skill.

In fact, not only do I not enjoy cooking, I completely suck at it. When my husband was alive, I actually used to put some effort into creating meals for him and the kidlets that were reasonably healthy, reasonable economical, reasonably easy and sometimes even tasted reasonably edible. Fats forward to now and… well…

The night of my husbands funeral (those with particularly sensitive sensibilities, cover your ears, please) I declared in all seriousness to a friend of mine that I was never, ever, ever cooking a roast dinner ever again; be it beef, chicken, pork or lamb.

So far, so good. Let’s face it, the act of not cooking is not the most difficult goal to obtain.

If we could just leave it at that, we’d all be happy. Me, especially. But my children having this annoying habit of wanting to be fed every bleeping evening right about six o’clock. And after eighteen months of sandwiches, oven chips, microwave pasta and homemade Lebanese bread pizza for dinner… maybe it’s time I began cooking again.

The universe seems to approve of this idea because some new Maggi stuff arrives in the letterbox within the week. In my life Before, I felt it was one of my duties as a full time housewife and mum to avoid ‘packet mixes’ at all costs and deliriums. I cooked everything I could from scratch.

But that was Before. When I was up one set of hands, a whole lot more patience and dose less trauma. In the After, I am the person the packet mix was invented for– I have a family to feed and far more important things to do than cook.

And the less washing up, the better.

So bring on the Maggi One Pan range. They also included a pack of their new So Crispy schnitzel coating. And everyone loves a schnitzel. (Randomly, we were playing #SchnitzelAsASwearWord on Twitter a few weeks back. Try it. You’ll be amazed at what a brilliant curse substitute ’schnitzel’ actually is. Mother schnitzels.)

Considering I was cooking a grown up meal I figured I may as well have some grown ups round to share it with. And, you know, do most of the cooking for me. My mates Kristabelle and Pete the Chef were more than happy to oblige. (Kristabelle and Pete the Chef live nearby in a tiny sandstone house named the Daisy Cottage. It’s become somewhat of a sanctuary for me in these last few weeks of winter.)

The first question Pete the Chef asked was whether or not I happened to have any carrots, broccoli or shallots. I told him that if he wished to desecrate my kitchen with such evil, complicated vegetables, then he needed to bring his own.

Pete the Chef’s One Pan, one hand flipping awesomeness.

Which he did. There is something to be said for One Pan awesomeness. You basically take your packet, and add whatever you’ve got. Veggies (complicated or not), meat (beef or chicken or… whatever. I’m sure there are either types, I just don’t eat them very often. Or, for that matter, on purpose) and then your noodles, rice or pasta. Cook it all in the one pan, as the name suggests, and watch the flavors infuse. Yum.

While I did have meat in my freezer (probably chicken) it was most probably frost bitten, so Kristabelle and Pete the Chef swung by to pick some up from the local supermarket one their way. And guess what was on special…?

That’s right… chicken.

Long story, short– One Pan Chinese Beef Stir Fry with chicken instead of beef and hokkein noodles actually stir fried and flipped itself (with the help of Pete the Chef) into a total win. The whole procedure was declared ‘seriously easy’ and quite tasty. And that’s from an actual, real chef (as Pete the Chef’s suggests, no?). As promised– one pan. Add two chopping boards, a couple of knives and a few stirrer–thingies; and consider the dishwasher stacked.

Maggi One Pan Chinese Beef Stir Fry. With chicken.

The Chicken Schnitzel Coating mix was officially designated as dinner for the kidlets. My kids– especially the Chop– are, sadly, just as fussy as I am. And, like me, the best way to get them to eat anything at all is in nugget form. Chicken schnitzel nuggets with good old fashioned BBQ sauce? Nom nom. And when they are super crispy, cooked in the oven without a smidgen of oil- that’s called ‘guilt free child chow.’

My main problem with cooking dinners has always been that the time s
pent in preparation– which I really don’t like, especially any raw chicken factor– is inversely proportioned to the time spent enjoying the meal. The dreaded roast dinner, for example, takes a good two hours to prep and cook. And no longer than twenty minutes to eat. Add the forty five minutes (minimum, dishwasher inclusive) cleanup time, and, mathematically, cooking dinner becomes a waste of time.

I think, on that note, it’s safe to declare dinner in One Pan, and about half an hour, a success. I’m not promising it will become a habit. But it certainly makes everyday cooking an option.

*As I’m sure you already guessed by now, this post is sponsored by Nuffnang.

I’ve got 25 Maggi One Pan and So Crispy packets for some RRSAHM readers to try- Fill out the form here and tell me- how many pans do you use, on average, to cook one family meal…?You can check out the t’s and c’s here, and entries close Sunday 9th September.

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Finger Lickin’ Good.

by Lori Dwyer on June 8, 2012 · 18 comments

“Stick one of those fingers on each up hand up,
Now be proud to be… out of your mind, and out of control,
One more time, sing it with me, how does it go?”
 The Real Slim Shady, Kate Miller-Heidke.

This is the post where I not only sell out, I admit I’m selling out. And I’m OK with that. I always have been– this isn’t the first time the whole blogging/sponsors/ sell out thing has come up on RRSAHM… I’ll try not to repeat myself.

Some of you may have seen this article in the SMH last week, talking mummy blogging and how much brands kiss our arses. Woogs looked glam and Eden looked all funky hot. Eden happened to mention that she, like a lot of other bloggers, declined an event invitation, knowing it wasn’t something she would blog about, not being relevant to her readers. Which is awesome- that’s what we do, as our own editors and publishers. We make our own calls.

But the journalist took that one and ran with it, I say. They showcased the blog, Twitter and FB feeds of another blogger, the lovely Samelia’s Mum, who did attend KFC, and blogged about it turn– the general vibe of the article was that she sold out for chicken.

Bjerk.

Had the journal on this article searched my Twitter feed from the day, they would have found sentiments comparable to those expressed by Samelia’s Mum– basic chit chat about the bits and pieces (of chicken) that KFC were showing off.

Did anyone really think the chick with blog covered in jellybeans would turn down an invite from KFC on healthy eating principles…? No? Good. We are all the same page here.

To be honest, when I first received the invite, I felt… dirty. Or greasy, as the case may be. I did have a moment of “ummm”, “ahhh” “what will people think of me?”… then I cracked another can of Coke and forgot about it. The Twitter stream on the morning of the event was a graveyard… It seemed no one was actually brave enough to Tweet where they were going to (sell outs!), and once it was revealed, the number of bloggers who came out to say they had knocked the invite back were… terrifying. I felt like the only girl in high school munching on hot chips while everyone else took sensible bites of their salad sandwiches.

But I accepted the KFC invite. In fact, I accept most invites. I really do attend the opening of an envelope– and I’m OK with that. For a couple of reasons that are very valid, to me– and I’m the only that counts.

Number One– We all know I’m hardly the healthy eating advocate. I’m a learner, an absorber, a sponge… I like to know things. If a company wants to bring me into their space and show me how awesome they are, I’ll go with an open mind and see what they have to say. Just because I attend does not mean I’ll blog about it– you lot would be so, so bored if I did.

Deep fried canola flowers. Not really.

And for the eternal record– KFC actually was quite interesting… even if back of house raw chicken prep made me squirm. While blogger Trish loves the support they are giving Aussie farmers, I respect the fact they are not actually as full of shit as one might first believe. As they firmly portrayed to us, they’re not trying to be a ’healthy’ food option– it’s fried chicken, for canola’s sake. They’re aware that their food is used as a treat, and should be utilised as such. They don’t market specifically to children and are the only major fast food chain in Australia to not offer plastic tat toys with their kids meals. As I’ve said before– and if I haven’t, then I should have– here, we eat healthily but moderately. Having few issues with weight or sugar levels in our extended family, I’m teaching my kids that they can eat any full fat food, as long as they keep moving. I’m OK with a certain amount of sugar and fat in our diets– it’s additives and preservatives that bother me. While the body can burn off sugar and fat, preservatives and chemical additives are simply stored– the human body isn’t sure how to process them, and it will be a few hundred years before we can.

Number TwoI am freaking lonely, and sometimes I need to get out of this house. If you’re a parent to small children, you know how intense the craving for adult company can be, especially if you’re the only adult in the household. My kids go to daycare three days a week and spend one day with their paternal grandmother– if an invite comes for one of those days, I’m there. Why wouldn’t I be, really…? Someone is going to pay for my travel, food and expenses, in a nice venue, with other woman who I adore, or with interesting new people to meet– logic tells me that as a single mum on a limited budget who has lost all her closest friendships, passing up the chance to socialize on the house is just illogical.

Which brings me to Number Three.

I like free stuff.

What…?

Doesn’t everybody like free stuff, especially when it’s practical? Hair dye, toothpastes, pantry items, computer needs, toys and books and movies and clothes and days out for my kids. What do I have to do in return, you ask? Well… not much. Show up. Be an interactive part of whatever experience or product the brand is promoting. If I like, I can Tweet or Instagram or FaceBook anything that takes my interest. I go with an open mind, and  then I tell the truth. If it’s something I find interesting or relevant or touches me, or something I think you jellybeans would groove on, then I blog it. And if not, I don’t.

It’s a commonly held principle amongst bloggers that, to quote the so-beautiful-she-can’t-be-real Lady Melbourne, “you can’t pay the rent with shoes.” To a certain extent, I’ll beg to differ– toothpaste won’t pay my rent, no. But if it’s practical or necessary, then the money I would have otherwise spent to purchase it does go to the rent or the bills or the kitchen table or where ever its needed. With two tiny kids to feed, clothe and protect…  as I said, I’m OK with that.

Speaking of the munchkins, the low blow comments that seem to follow every article about mum blogging were evident– hey, even TV presenters who featured us just a few weeks beforehand get all weird about the mummy bloggers. Don’t we have anything better to do. We are neglecting our children, being on that computer all the time. We are exploiting our children, writing about them.

To all that, I say– if having their stories shared with people who have a genuine investment in them is the worst exploitation my children suffer in their lives– massive bonus. And, in truth, my children are minor characters on this blog, and they will probably shrink further as they grow older. I’m far too narcissistic to blog about my kids all the time– this is my story, not theirs. And, again, if having a detailed, truthful, if not painful, written account of their formative years available to them at an older is the most traumatizing thing that ever happens to them– again, massive win.

I have far greater concerns for my children than those that result from blogging about them. And, quite frankly, without the extra income and the social interaction blogging gives to me, I’d be a work at least part time. Same amount of cash, same amount of childcare. Less enjoyment and fulfillment for me. And the kids would not have the ample collection of Disney DVD’s that they currently possess. In fact, I think they would complain if I stopped exploiting them– we’re supposed to going to the movies next month. (Again, thanks Disney. You rock.)

Lori hides from paparazzi chicken.

Don’t I have anything better to do? Maybe. Don’t you? How much time does the average person spend a day engaging in passive entertainment– watching TV, for example, or reading a book? I don’t watch TV, and books are difficult to find time to read these days. So I’m simply entertaining myself, the way most people do; its just that I happen to be creating something at the same time.

You’re into Home and Away or playing the piano or collecting ceramic cows… I’m into my laptop. Let’s all agree that all our hobbies and interests are, broken down, probably pretty pointless. That’s the whole point of them– the essence of a hobby is to find an activity with which to enjoy yourself, right? It doesn’t have to change the world. And if you happen to get paid for that hobby and you still enjoy it– ’nother bonus there.

And, while some days my never ending email inbox most certainly feels like work; I can still classify this as a hobby. I thoroughly enjoy it. It improves my self esteem. I could, potentially, become a faceless post farmer and write for nothing but the cash– but it wouldn’t be anything like this place is. Just to begin with, I wouldn’t have you lot. And I’d be having nowhere near as much fun.

I don’t earn as much off this site as I should, I’ve been told; but I like it that way. I’ve kept my ad space rates low on purpose, because I like having them filled with the businesses of work at home parents and small entrepreneurs, cloth nappy sellers and Etsy stores.

I choose my review posts and giveaways on a case by case basis, and I apply all the following factors to the equation– do I like this product? Do I want this product? How many giveaways do I have scheduled for the next few weeks? Is it a PR company I’ve worked with before or a small business owner doing the grueling email outs themselves? Are they Australian owned, organic or natural or environmentally friendly? Is it some awesome new product that I think is way cool, or I know a lot of people would use? Will my readers get any enjoyment out of this post, or will it just tick the off?

I throw in all those factors, and come out with a price. It’s a sliding scale. The less I want to write or publish it, or the more it will irritate my readers, the more I charge– but having said that, sometimes I charge nothing at all.

Case by case, sliding scale– I think it’s the only way to ensure that the products and brands featured on your blog are consistent with that inner thread of yourself that weaves its way through ever post you publish. The accusations of ‘selling out’ have been floating around for at least two and half years now, since I first got here.

Selling out to what, selling out to who? The only person I’m selling out to is me– and as long as I pay me well… I’m OK with that. We all make our own calls- the only people who have to be OK with them is us.

Coming soon… the post where I didn’t sell out. Stay tuned.

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