Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Painting of a wonky muffin

We had a special day today in the kitchen, as we were joined by two clients of Northwest Disability Services who came to volunteer their time in the kitchen. They helped us package your dinners, wash up a myriad of pots and pans (you should see the mountain of washing-up we create each day) and they also found time to make you some choc chip muffins.

These muffins don't look like our ordinary muffins. And that's because they aren't ordinary. From the outside they look a little wonky. Some of them have a little of the mixture on the outside of the paper case. Some of them are a little bigger than you're used to. Some of them are a little smaller.

But you know what? These muffins have been made with care by people who have gifted us their time. They have been made by people who have a disability and who want to work productively and meaningfully. They are packed full of ingredients you want to eat. And they taste delicious. Gifted, meaningful, full of good quality ingredients, delicious to eat. Beautiful? We think so.

This week we'd love to gift a small pack of these muffins to anyone who orders more than $80, while stocks last. We think you're going to love them. Order your dinners now!

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Parenting thesis: Chapter One

Black and white image of a baby asleepWhen I commenced my parenting thesis, nine and a half years ago, I had not considered that it would take quite so long to hand it in. I had not banked on the required reading list being quite so long, nor the minimum skill set being quite so extensive. This graduation, of course, does not mark the end of the parenting journey. Merely, it signifies the end of the chapter entitled, "child-at-home-during-the-day-several-days-of-the-week".

At the completion of a thesis it is requisite that a paper be published from the work. Now that the junior recipe testers are all at school during the prescribed hours, save those times we are running late due to a flat bike tyre, lost car keys or a tantrum about whether or not sunscreen should be applied and by whom, I feel it incumbent upon me to write.

Parenting is oft described as one of life's most fulfilling pursuits. Although there is some conjecture amongst scholars, those critiquing this standpoint are often found to have no offspring of their own. Supporters of the notion of parenting fulfilment are quick to counter that critics should at least be grateful that their parents wanted to try it. Lest they would not have been born.

The early years, considered the time between birth and when the last child starts formal education, are generally considered stressful. Learning potential is heightened as well adjusted, sensible adults come to terms with the vagaries of newborn, toddler and child behaviour. Classes, taken prior to the birth of a first child, are a curious human endeavour, producing adults who feel accomplished at parenting but without any understanding of what the task of caring for an offspring actually entails.

Along with my fellow graduates of 2018, all of them titans of learning, the following minimum competency standards have been achieved.

Shoes are rarely found on the feet of junior recipe testers, particularly in those precious minutes before you need to get out the door. An hour before leaving home, said shoes will be on the appropriate feet. A minute before, not so much. Multiple strategies for dealing with lost shoes, including hopping, are both learned and rehearsed.

For the breastfeeding mother, the advent of an infant's teeth is a significant test of faith. The losing of teeth, however, may set forth a series of events that has to be witnessed to be believed. At this point one is expected to add an additional role to one's repetoire - that of tooth fairy - without any additional duties allowance. Any role performance issues are treated extremely seriously.

The teaching of tucking in a school shirt requires swift mastery concurrent with the starting of school. In most cases it involves at least four hands, belonging to up to three individuals, pushing slightly too long shirt tails into a slightly too loose waistband. Proficiency is achieved when the task can be accomplished while running along the footpath, undistracted by the sound of a bell ringing in the distance.

The graduation ceremony was held on Monday 5th February. The bell rang, the lines were drawn, the bags were placed on the appropriate hooks. The tissues were fetched and the long walk back to the car, my hands empty, began. 

Time to write chapter two.

The balance back to real life

People swimming at the beach under a blue, lightly clouded skyWe talk a lot about work-life balance, and about the daily juggling act. But until this week it hadn't previously occurred to me how much of a balancing act getting back to real life was.

We had a lovely school holiday, enjoying some much needed time out and an extended period with family and friends at my favourite beach in all the earth. The junior recipe testers learned to body surf, caught and released prawns, swam with fish, some more or less walking on water to get away from the fishes "creepy eyes" and rattled through our very first earthquakes (that's a story for another day).

And then the first day of school rolled around. And we were back to real life.

The daily life tasks that you are required to balance are dependent entirely upon your socio-cultural status: where you live in the world, how old you are, your gender, and your role. If you are a junior recipe tester, this means your mornings may be preoccupied with getting dressed, eating breakfast, making your bed. Routinely, it will mean you need to invest significant time finding your shoes.

If you are an actuary, your mornings may include negotiating commuter traffic, checking market reports and doing hard sums. In both cases this will look completely different if you happen to live in Australia, in Austria or in Angola.

And so the morning, in our corner of Sydney, began.

One junior appeared in the kitchen in a pair of socks. And nothing else. She had neither noticed the breeze, nor that she had missed a few significant steps in the daily task set before her. When prompted she disappeared again.

Shrieking down the hall quickly followed. A second junior was going into meltdown. The first had gotten distracted again and was now sitting on the second's bed. The second indignantly pointed out that his sibling was sitting on his bed, "With a bare bottom!!"

With the daily goal of dressing finally sorted, we commenced goal two: eating breakfast. The youngest of our juniors promptly, and predictably, dropped part of his breakfast on the floor. "It's alright," he bellowed, immediately hopping off his stool in a desperate attempt to ward off the usual berating, "I'll just brush it off. With my toenails."

In a few days time, this particular junior will commence formal education. The senior recipe tester and I have great hopes for his progress. Principally, that pedagogical instruction will assist him in comprehending certain anatomical truths, namely, the difference between his fingernails and his toenails.

If the accomplishment of daily life tasks in and around the rigours of formal education is getting tricky already, may I suggest, this week's menu?

Merry Christmas

'Tis the season to be jolly... busy and harassed

Trumpeter statue

'Tis the season to be jolly. But mostly, jolly busy. And harassed.

We seem to have presentation days and Christmas concerts coming out our ears. Occasionally they proceed from other parts of us too. Last week was the all important band performance evening. Our very first one.

As luck would have it (and it usually does), the concert was on the same night as swimming lessons. This was entirely predictable, but added another layer of complication to the logistics of getting everyone in the right place at the right time. But because we have shelled out the national debt so the juniors can learn to swim, heaven and earth is regularly rearranged so we don't miss a lesson.

Mobilising three junior recipe testers to an event and coming home again has its challenges. None of these challenges are ever mentioned in antenatal classes. But leaving home for multiple events before returning to the nest often requires the diplomacy and skill to make the UN weep. This was the state of play just to get us out the door:

Because there would be no time for the eating of a meal at a table, dinner boxes suitable for consumption in the back seat of a car, in a car seat, with a fork, had to be constructed and packed. Check.

One junior required full band uniform. Check.

Two juniors required swimming gear. Check.

The band uniform was too hot to wear in the tropical environment of the swimming centre. That junior required an alternate set of clothes. Check.

The band uniform then had to come off the body and go in a bag. Check.

The swimming gear was completely inappropriate for a band soiree. Those juniors required an alternate set of clothes. Check.

These alternate outfits had to go into a bag. Check.

One outfit per bag - the juniors can no longer share a change room at swimming. Check.

Including undies. Check.

Both types. Check.

The band junior's shoes were a wreck and had to be polished. The owner of said disgraceful shoes was sent outside to polish them. Check.

Shoes shined and equipment put away. Check.

Black blobs discovered on kitchen floor. Large lump of shoe polish discovered on the sole of the newly shined shoe. Request for shoes to be taken off immediately, if not sooner, issued. Check.

Remain calm, don't get shrill. Check.

Boot polish cleaned off kitchen floor. Check.

Carpet inspected for more boot polish. Check.

Junior, with shoes now in his hand, sent out to the front lawn to wipe his shoes on the grass. Check.

Race out the door on heels of that junior to ensure he didn't wipe his shoes in the cat vomit on said front lawn. Check.

We don't have a cat. Check.

Mental note to self that when I find the offending animal who threw up on our front lawn and waltzed off, I will commit grievous bodily... Check.

Remain calm. Don't get shrill. Check.

Frog march three juniors to the car. Check.

Seat belts on. Check.

Reverse out of the driveway. Don't forget to close the garage door. Check.

Make it to the end of the street. Check.

Listen patiently when a junior mentions he has forgotten his trumpet. Check.

Point out that it will be quite challenging to play in a band without an instrument. Check.

Pull the car over to the side of the road. Check.

Remain calm. Don't get shrill...

Our packaging war on waste

Sheep looking down at camera

Like many of you, after the ABC's #waronwaste campaign and TV show we were horrified. We thought we knew something about responsible disposal of rubbish, but the problems that rubbish is causing were far worse than we imagined. And so we started thinking...

We've already told you about our partnership with The Hills School to compost all our veggie scraps from the kitchen. But we got to thinking about all our other processes. Next up: our packaging.

It's true that styrofoam boxes can be recycled. But making more and more styrofoam is not good for the environment. We were delivering in styrofoam boxes and we figured that had to change.

Enter Woolcool. Woolcool is an environmentally responsible insulation. It can insulate a cardboard box. A cardboard box that can be easily recycled. A cardboard box that can hold all your dinners. AND it outperforms styrofoam for keeping your dinners cold.

Woolcool is, somewhat unsurprisingly, made of sheep's wool. Wool is a sustainable and highly effective insulator (just think of all those sheep in the paddocks in the middle of summer... they're fine!)

We were ecstatic to find an environmentally friendly way of keeping your dinners cold on their way to you. Many of you will have already received your dinners in our new boxes, but for the uninitiated, here's how it works:

  • Your dinners will arrive in a cardboard box, lined with Woolcool liners and icepacks.
  • The cardboard box can be flattened and recycled. You may also choose to make a billy-cart out of it.
  • The plastic coverings on the woollen liners can be removed and placed in the plastic bag recycling bins at your local supermarket.
  • The woollen liners themselves can be put in your compost bin. They also make excellent pet bedding... but not for your goldfish.
  • The plastic pouches and bags that your dinners are sealed in can be washed and dried and also placed in supermarket plastic recycling bins. Arguments about which of your junior recipe testers is going to put the plastic bags into the bin this time may be adjudicated at your own discretion.
  • The icepacks are excellent for picnic-ing and keeping things cold. When you don't want to use them anymore, pierce the plastic bag and squeeze the non-toxic gel down the sink. The bag goes into the supermarket bag recycling. This has the added benefit of facilitating another argument in front of the bag bin.
Woolcool insulationWe're working hard to expand our social impact from our support of people with disabilities to our environmental footprint. Do get in touch and let us know what you think!

I am a professional...

Blueberry bagels in the foreground with a child's hand stealing blueberries off the plate

I generally consider myself to be a professional. It's true, that reasonably often this means I need to take a junior recipe tester assistant with me to business meetings. But I always try to maintain a professional, um... air. I brush my hair and my teeth. I dress appropriately.

I don't go to meetings in my pyjamas.

Well, hardly ever.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with an app developer. We use this app to help us find your house to deliver your dinners. It's fabulous. It has changed my life and saves me loads of time. It means we're running our delivery truck greener too, because we find the most efficient way to do the delivery run, driving as few kilometres as possible.

The developers live in Canada. I do not. When they are eating their dinner, I am eating my breakfast. This causes some difficulty with scheduling a meeting. We did, however, find a time and set the meeting for 5.45AM.

When it comes to tech, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. But I do know what a phone is. And, what's more, I know how to use one. A phone call was the means by which this meeting was to take place, and so on the appointed morning, I got up early.

I made a cup of tea and sat by my phone. My computer was also open and sat on the table nearby. I waited.

Somewhat shockingly, my computer screen suddenly sprang to life. There, in appropriate professional attire, was the app developer, complete with groovy Canadian accent. I was in appropriate bedtime attire, complete with wild hair and puffy eyes.

In a fit of panic I redirected the computer screen to obscure his view of my pyjamas. It worked. Instead, he had a bird's eye right up my nose.

Yes. I am a professional. Who clearly does not understand the meaning of the words, "phone call".