Fun and games

Posted April 10th, 2007 by Penny Wise

Tut, what a week it's been! Sorry I didn't get around to wishing everyone a Happy Easter, I hope you had a good one. Unfortunately the school holidays haven't really gone to plan yet so far in our house. The week started off well enough, although somewhat nervewracking when I was asked to give a talk to Ali's class at school about saving water. Thanks to all the Vault tips I have learned over the years about conserving water I was well prepared; the nervewracking part was standing up in front of 35 students! With so many of their households running out of water this summer, they were keen to know how they could help mum and dad's water tanks stay fuller for longer and listened carefully to the tips. 'Does anyone know how much water there is in the world?' I asked and a dozen little hands shot up. 'About 400 litres!' came one answer. 'Nah - 4000 litres!' said another. So they were all absolutely gobsmacked when we went through all the various ways of saving water and worked out that just using half a dozen simple tips would save each family over 170,000 litres of water a year. That's just doing the basic stuff too - putting a brick or plastic bottle in the toilet cistern, not leaving taps running, showering instead of bathing and not making so many loads of washing for Mum. I did find it reassuring that Ali wasn't the only one who leaves his clothes on the floor in a mangled heap after just five minutes of wearing them but now he has learned that doing this can waste up to 200 litres of water a week in extra washing, I am hopeful that at least we have seen the last of that particular habit!

The next day was the last day of school before the holidays and I was all ready to cram as much as I could into my last day of freedom. Unfortunately Ali had other ideas. When Liam came running in to tell me that his brother had a sore tummy and couldn't get out of bed I knew he wasn't pulling my leg - Ali, unlike the rest of the family is a real 'morning person'. I rushed in to find my poor little man in tears and looking very scared. The worrying part for me was that the terrible pain he was experiencing was on the right hand side, right where his appendix was, so I knew there was no time to waste. Noel had gone to work and he was getting worse by the minute so I called an ambulance. Living in the back of beyond it took 40 minutes to arrive and I was very relieved to see it but once again Ali had other ideas. Terrified at the thought of going to hospital he put on an Oscar-winning performance for the ambulance officer of being absolutely fine now, able to walk upright and sat playing happily with his toys. I felt like a right idiot, the medic was convinced all was well and took my address details so she could send me the $100 bill for calling the ambulance out. I was none too impressed but no sooner had the ambulance pulled out of the driveway than the pain miraculously returned and Ali confessed he had only pretended to be alright because he didn't want to go to hospital - agggghhh! By this time the local surgery was almost due to open so we got in the car and the GP sent us straight to hospital with suspected appendicitis. Where we sat for another four hours waiting to see a doctor. By the time the paediatrician got to us the pain had subsided considerably and Ali wondered out loud if his pain may possibly have been caused by practising wrestling stunts at his mate's house the night before. 'I think I may have done too many Swanton Bombs' he told the doctor apologetically. At this revelation I was almost ready to perform a choke slam on the little ratbag myself. An ambulance call-out and hospital visit for WRESTLING? Luckily for Ali the doctor wasn't convinced and had to undergo a blood test, which showed his white cell count was double what it should be. There was definitely something up, but what? We had no choice but to stay overnight while we waited for whatever it was to show itself.

We were lucky enough to have been given a room on the ward to ourselves and the 24 hours which followed were a blur of kids' movie after movie. With nothing else to do but stretch out on our beds in front of the TV it felt rather like being on holiday - albeit an extremely boring one. Noel and Liam turned up to visit with copious supplies of junk food bought specially for the occasion and being in a children's ward I learned first hand how well baby shampoo works on grown-up hair, just as this hint says. My hair felt and looked great all the next day too and I am now on the look out for a big bottle! We never did find out what was wrong with Ali but there was no more pain and he had perked up considerably so we were allowed home on Good Friday. Almost all the shops were shut but thank goodness McDonald's was open! We headed straight into the drive-thru along with half the other motorists in the district and ordered not one but two combos to fill the huge gap left by hospital food. Yes, our brief stay in hospital was a costly one indeed and we won't even mention the cost of overnight car parking but at least whatever Ali had turned out to be nothing major. We felt very fortunate indeed and the doctors and nurses in the children's ward were nothing short of amazing; when do those poor people sleep? I shall never complain about being stressed or not getting enough time with my family again; my life is an absolute breeze compared to what those lovely people go through.

While Ali has made a great recovery unfortunately I managed to pick up some sort of bleurgh virus and was knocked out for the next three days so Easter was very quiet in our household and I realised with sadness on Sunday morning that with one thing and another I had forgotten to get my own children an Easter egg. Luckily they still ended up getting a big chocolate fix from their grandparents! After being cooped up in the hospital our house looked huge and Ali and I were most impressed to find a heap of mushrooms had popped up around our house and that we are the happy owners of a sweet chestnut tree, although we soon discovered that prising the fallen chestnuts from their spiky cases is quite a delicate matter - ouch! I came home to another huge pile of zucchinis but mercifully have found a different recipe for Zucchini and Goat's Cheese flan - yum!


500g pastry (the recipe says shortcrust but I used flaky as it was all I had)

2-3 medIum courgettes, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g feta cheese

150ml (1/4 pint) thickened cream

2 eggs, beaten

1 egg yolk

3 tbsp chopped fresh chives (if you have them - I didn't!)

20g pine nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200'C, 400'F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and use to line a 23cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin and chill for 10 minutes. Bake the pastry blind (if using shortcrust). Remove and allow to cool. Lower the oven temperature to Gas Mark 4, 180'C, 350'F.

Layer the courgettes in circles in the pastry case. seasoning thoroughly between the layers. Soften the goats' cheese with a fork and mix with the cream, eggs, yolk and chives. Pour over the courgettes, scatter the pine nuts over the top and bake in the oven for 30-35 mins until slightly brown and set. Serve warm or cold with salad. Serves 6-8. Easy and so yummy!

With everyone's health now hopefully on the mend, we are now ready to start the holidays properly. The boys asked if we could do the ABC holiday activities as suggested by the Vault again. Liam and Noel started it off with 'A' for 'Adventure'. The two of them (and Liam's beloved fox terrier, Hubble) took the boat and some provisions and spent the night out at sea, catching their breakfast, lunch and dinner and bringing plenty home for everyone else to enjoy too. Sleeping out on the boat with Dad is one of Liam's favourite things and costs next to nothing. Yesterday was 'B' day, which stood for balloons. The boys bought three packs of party balloons and spent a sunny day outside filling them with water and throwing them at each other. We have found the proper balloons are much better value and longer lasting than the purpose-made water balloons, most of which break before you can fill them up! Today is 'C' day so I'm writing my blog nice and early because we're off to Hamilton to watch the Chiefs train, hooray! Thanks to the Vault I'm also prepared for no-cost rainy days too. A recent hint Free online trial saves buying new games caught my eye so I thought I would try it out and it's been great! Cheaper even than borrowing computer games from our local library! The Forum has once again proved a fantastic source of inspiration too. I spotted a thread entitled Playstation which was very timely as after almost a week of being stuck inside due to bad weather I was absolutely sick of seeing our kids sat prone in front of the Playstation - particularly Liam, who really needs to be kept active. It was good to see from this thread that I wasn't alone but what caught my eye was the parents who seemed to 'get it right' using Eyetoy games and others which get the kids exercising indoors without realising it. I had heard of Eyetoy games but didn't know what they were so next time I was in the city I had a look and found one on special in Dick Smith's. With my VIP card I got a further discount and managed to pick up an Eyetoy Play 3 game for just $12! The boys hadn't heard of it either and were sceptical but soon perked up when they saw themselves pop up on TV. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much trying to keep up with all the activities, I was crying! It was SO much fun and the sweat was pouring off us all by the time we had worn ourselves out. A much better way to play Playstation, I guess technology isn't all bad. Thanks heaps Forum ladies!

My lovely insurance people came up trumps too this week and a brand spanking new wine-free laptop has been delivered. The only problem is, I haven't had time to even look at it yet! There are some great new hints in the Vault too which I am looking forward to getting a chance to try out. The tip 'money tin savings work online too' sounds just what I need. I find that I rarely carry cash so when our family tried to do the proper Money Tin Challenge, we never had anything to put in it. There's nothing wrong with me doing the same online every day though! My Mum told me recently that she would like to be able to save $1000 by Christmas and was amazed when I told her she would only have to put away $26 a week to achieve it. Oh how those little bits add up! I got a horrible surprise when I got home from the hospital the other day and found I had been saddled with a nasty tax bill - what timing! The most upsetting thing about it is that I really want to take part in the Mortgage Reduction Challenge which is just getting underway in the Forum. What a great idea! Unfortunately it looks as though this Simple Saver is going to have to pay off another debt first before I can tackle the mortgage but it just makes me all the more determined to pay it off faster so I can join in. I wonder if Noel will notice if I sell a few of his cows?

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