Social whirl

Posted July 20th, 2011 by Penny Wise

Hard to believe but as of this Friday I will be the mother of two teenagers! Yes, my littlest baby is about to turn 13. Although I'm not quite sure how we're supposed to celebrate it as it seems my children have a party pretty much every week! Well not exactly a party but we certainly have enough people staying every weekend to hold a party! School holidays are here again and by yesterday I think the tally was up to seven kids staying at our place; most of which have been staying for the last five days or more. I don't mind at all though, I think it's brilliant! Although I did stop baking after day two when the last batch of muffins were scoffed in less than two hours! People are always asking us how we manage to feed so many people ALL the time and the answer is quite simply smart shopping. If we didn't have our SS skills we just wouldn't be able to do it but through shopping around and snapping up specials when we see them, we manage to keep everyone well fed without making too much of a dent in the food budget. Which is just as well because one of them alone can eat up to 12 Weetbix in one sitting. Yesterday while I was working they decided to make breakfast and had toast, cornflakes and Weetbix followed by chicken soup, fish cakes and sausages! Noel's chicken soup is a huge hit among the teenage tribe and we've been asked for the recipe so much I thought I would copy it here. Perfect for this time of year with so many colds and sniffles going around!

Noel's Chicken Soup

1 - 2 cooked chicken carcasses (or cooked chicken pieces, whatever you have)

Approximately two litres water

2 chicken stock cubes

1 packet Kings Country Chicken soup mix

About 1/3 cup Pam's soup mix (for those outside NZ this is just a cheap and cheerful basic soup mix)

1 large onion, chopped

About 1 1/2 tsp mixed herbs (essential!)

1 tsp minced garlic (or two cloves, crushed)

All or any of the following winter vegies (you can only usually fit in 4 or 5):

1 potato

1 large carrot

1 reasonable sized piece of pumpkin

1 - 2 celery stalks

1 parsnip

1 kumara

1/2 a swede or turnip

Throw everything together in a large pot or slow cooker and bring to the boil. Cook slowly for as long as you want or until the vegetables and pulses from the soup mix are softened and cooked through. Remove all the chicken bones and enjoy, no need to thicken or blend. Makes a super thick, chunky soup. Yum!

One of the boys staying said the other day 'You must feel like the local orphanage!' I guess it does feel a bit like that but it never fails to make me smile when they all drag their mattresses down to the lounge and camp out together, watching the rugby and scoffing pizza. Eventually we run out of mattresses but that doesn't bother them, they just sleep on the couches or in chairs as well! I'm not sure what the neighbours must think sometimes; just the other day a lady walked past and asked Noel if we were selling bikes as there were so many parked outside our gate. Last weekend Noel and I returned from an evening out to find them all leaping around the lounge with guitars. Apparently they had been watching MTV and decided to have a huge and very noisy Karaoke session, followed by a haka competition. For those of you who don't know what a haka is; it's that very loud chant that the All Blacks (and these days it seems the world and his wife as well) always do before a game to intimidate the other team. Fortunately they decided they had better stop that around midnight before they got a visit from noise control. I so would have loved to be a fly on the wall!

Still, it's all good, free fun and at least we know where they all are. And the best thing of all is that after years of struggling we seem to have found the cure for Liam's anxiety - lots and lots of friends! He simply doesn't have time to worry about anything any more, he's too busy playing sports and having fun! When we first moved here Noel and I did wonder if we were being a little selfish. We told the boys it would be wonderful and that they would have a fabulous time but really it was our dream, Noel and mine and there was a time that we wondered if we had done the right thing by them after all, dragging them away from everything and everyone they knew. I think however we can safely say that we have; they are both thriving in so many ways. It's not only the boys who are thriving either. For the first time in longer than we can remember Noel and I have a social life! In fact it's so busy it's hard to keep up! I confess years of farming and being surrounded by other farmers had turned Noel and I into homebodies. It's pretty hard to have a social life when most of your mates have to get up at four o'clock in the morning to go and milk cows! In addition Noel's job means he is on the road all the time so often the last thing he wants to do at the end of the day is go out, particularly when his phone doesn't stop ringing with work calls. But that was before we met a wee dynamo by the name of Kiri and her husband Nigel. Like us, they had been coming to Whangamata for years and decided to take the bull by the horns and move here six months ago. Their enthusiasm and love of socialising is infectious and before we knew it lo and behold we had things to do on a Saturday night! And Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon! Fortunately there are plenty of free things to do, such as a weekly quiz night (which I'm very bad at as I get so excited every time I know the answer I burst it out too loudly and tell all the other teams in the process) and the Karaoke every Saturday is entertaining to say the least! Through them we have met so many lovely people already and what with them and the rugby we really feel like a part of the community. I think you could say that our whole family has found its very happy place in the world!

The only problem with having so much fun is that ultimately other things tend to go by the wayside. Such as the vegetable garden. At the moment we have red peppers and bok choy coming out of our ears but not an awful lot else. Noel has been talking about building another raised vegetable garden since we moved here nine months ago and not a day goes by when I don't look at my hanging baskets and pots and borders and think 'good heavens, I really must do something about those!' For me at least, running is going to have to come first for the next few months as I can't get behind with my training but I am determined to try and do my bit in the garden before the end of the school holidays. After all, next month is 'Free Food Month' and with the amount of people always under our roof, we're really going to need it before too long!

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