I have finally arrived...

Image of a red vintage uteI feel like I have finally arrived. My citizenship is now full and complete. I can proudly call myself Australian.

On the weekend we bought a ute.

While I have long held romantic notions of sheep farming somewhere, the ute will be used for loftier purposes. Namely, getting your dinner to you. It's an exciting problem when you have grown out of your delivery van and need to upgrade. I'm rather excited about it.

The ute was not located near to us, so we had to go on a reasonable drive to retrieve it. The senior recipe tester is even more excited than I am, given that he also test drove and selected it. For those who remember, this whole process was rather different to the trial he endured eighteen months ago when we first embarked on refrigerated transport.

We rallied the junior recipe testers, promising an exciting adventure to collect the new purchase. I think it was then that it became more difficult to maintain the enthusiasm.

We managed the ninety minute drive to claim the prize. One junior took one look at it and started to cry. "I hate it," she pontificated. She then proceeded to profess hitherto unexpressed devotion to the current Dinner on the Table vehicle, and why did we have to sell the current van? We could only assure her we were not going to sell it that day.

Another junior, seemingly pleased with the purchase, observed, "The dinners will blow out of that one."

Quite right.

Which is why the senior and I had planned adventure part two: getting the ute to the fridge specialists who would put a box on the back to stop the dinners blowing out. This leg of the adventure was met with far less enthusiasm. Being a junior can be a difficult job: you don't often get to choose. We loaded back up, now with two vehicles, and headed off.

Parenting is full of difficult decisions. On this particular trip, on a freeway, I encountered one such decision. Glancing at the face of one junior recipe tester, it became apparent that I needed to make a choice: allow an extreme event to occur in the back seat, or risk a mac truck up the clacker and pull over. On this particular occasion, I chose the truck.

After stopping on the side of the road, I did what all caring parents in those anything-I-do-isn't-going-to-help-much moments. I clutched junior-sized shoulders and spoke soothingly. And tried to keep my shoes out of the way.

Somewhat recovered, we continued. Not 200 metres down the road we observed another car also risking the mac truck, hazard lights flashing. A woman held the shoulders of a junior who was clutching the guardrail... Seems there was a bit of it about.

We did eventually make it to the refrigeration specialists. Without further incident. They're going to keep the ute for a week or two and fit a special box to the back. We're going to start delivering your dinners in a smart new vehicle.

And your dinners won't blow out.

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Carers and the cared-for

A profile of carers in Australia taken from the ABS website

It's true that some carers don't identify themselves as such. They just happen to provide assistance to someone who needs additional help. Overwhelmingly this care is provided for a family member. 

In 2015 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, and a summary of findings was released recently.

2.7 million Australians provide informal care. Over two-thirds of carers are women.

Caring has a significant (usually positive!) impact on the person who is cared for. It often means they can remain in their own home, participate in and contribute to their community, and enjoy quality of life.

Caring also has a significant impact on government spending. Deloitte Access Economics, recently estimated that carers save government over $1 BILLION every single week. That is to say, if government had to replace the care that informal carers currently undertake unpaid, it would cost $60.3 billion each year.

But caring can have negative impacts on carers. Primary carers have significantly lower workforce participation rates. And subsequently their income is almost half that of their non-caring peers.

Caring is valuable to individuals, to households and to communities. But it comes at a cost. This is why every time you purchase your dinner from Dinner on the Table, we use some of your money to gift dinner to a family living with disability.

We're convinced that having a good dinner, done for you, changes your daily life. And when the challenges are great, and the resources are stretched thin, this might be of even greater benefit.

We all need the support of those closest to us - usually our families, whomever that includes (and however much they might get on our nerves!) At Dinner on the Table, we're committed to the needs of whole households. Together, we can care for the carers and the cared-for.

After all, we all have to eat.

School holidays and climbing the roof (but not the walls!)

A red and a blue door of adjacent terrace housesSchool holidays are, for me, a break in routine and a chance just to hang out. They're also a time to climb on the roof. I should point out that I didn't include that on my original school holiday plan.

The work-life juggle can become ever more acute when junior recipe testers are not at their regular places of educational attainment. Last week I fielded a call from my brother who needed assistance with his three junior recipe testers as he and my sister-in-law had a work roster crisis. Their juniors are not of educational institutional age... and all of their usual babysitting stand-ins were out.

Depositing one of my juniors at a friend's house, I packed up the other two and headed to the fabulous inner west to spend a relaxing day in a beautiful, petite, attached house. With five junior recipe testers. All boys.

The day, somewhat miraculously, proceeded without incident. That is, apart from the bleeding lip after a nasty collision with a broom handle, but we won't mention that. My sister-in-law arrived home and all was relatively calm. The youngest junior there present was tucked up soundly for his afternoon sleep, and the lip had mercifully stopped bleeding.

We packed our things, said our goodbyes, and all sneaked past the sleeping baby's room: some of us to hop in the car and go home, others of us to wave those departing. As six of us stood on the front doorstep, a powerful gust of wind blew. The front door slammed shut.

My sister-in-law's eyes bulged. "Oh," she said. "Um...," I helpfully added. All was not lost, however. "The back door is open," I said. "I'll go round."

"Except that the only way to the back door from here is over the roof."

"Oh. What about down the side of the house?"

At my house, the sides are about 3 feet from the fence. And you can walk down them. Easily. But this was the fabulous inner west. The sides of the house are either attached to another house, or approximately half an inch from the fence. Even on my thinnest days, there was just no way.

We dragged a wheelie bin as close to the roof as we could and, leaving my sister-in-law with four juniors to monitor, I climbed up. Perching atop the paling fence I managed to hoist myself onto the roof. Walking across the roof, away from the edge was relatively easy. It was the getting down again that caused a few problems.

In the courtyard at the back of the house, a retaining wall stood alongside the fence. When my brother has found need to complete this task (yes, apparently I'm not Robinson Crusoe) he simply lowered himself off the roof onto the retaining wall. "It's not that far to drop" assured my sister-in-law.

How far something is, or how high something is, is entirely a matter of opinion. I sat on the edge with my legs dangling over. I talked calmly to myself. I breathed deeply. I conjured every feline instinct I could muster (cats always land on their feet... even on the skinniest of ledges), but the fence, nor the top of the retaining wall got thicker or less far away. I panicked. In the distance I could hear a baby starting to cry.

I walked back across the roof. My eldest junior looked up, "Mum," he helpfully suggested, "You have to go the other way!"

Quite.

"I can't jump down. It's too high."

There was another way. It involved walking the paling fence, holding (lightly) on to the gutters of the two houses who shared the fence. As I cruised past the neighbour's kitchen window I observed their dishes, clean, and sitting on the draining board.

I was grateful they had not chosen that moment to start the washing up.

An award winning weekend!

Image of Rachel with Peace Mitchell & Katy Garner, AusMumpreneur founders

It has been a big weekend. On Friday night I was honoured to be awarded the Women's Business School Excellence Award at the AusMumpreneur Awards for 2017. It was a night of celebration of the many, many remarkable achievements of entrepreneurial women in Australia. I certainly spent the evening in the company of greatness.

Image of Rachel, Kimberley and Jay with their awards

My huge congratulations to my fellow finalists, and to especially to Kimberley Colquhoun, Handy Communications and Jay McClure, The Invaluables who took second and third place.

Image of Kate & Irish with the Hills Shire Council Locals for Locals business awards

But that wasn't where it ended. Across town, Dinner on the Table received the Hills Shire Council Mayor's commendation Locals for Locals Business Award for community contribution. Kate and Irish, who work in the kitchen cooking your dinners were there to accept this award.

We are just a little beside ourselves with excitement - and are so grateful for this recognition. I am so very proud of the Dinner on the Table team. They pour their hearts and souls into cooking your dinner and are committed to changing the daily lives of all those we cook for.

I certainly wouldn't be without them.

We've launched our own #waronwaste

Image of pumpkin and someone cutting it up in the background

We buy veggies for your dinners from a local vegetable farm. When I first went to the farm to talk to the farmer about this arrangement we gazed out across his fields. "Well," he said to me, "You'll have to give me a couple of days notice of your order."

"Ok," I replied.

"So I can pick 'em."

When the veggies get to our kitchen they have often just been plucked from the ground. We need to wash them, then we trim them, before we chop them up for you. They don't come in plastic bags, they're rarely neatly cubed, and they never have a 'washed and ready for use' sticker on the pack.

But all this chopping and trimming means we fill up our bins with vegetable scraps.

Like many of you, we recently watched the ABC's War on Waste in horror. Compostable waste, put into the bin might actually create a bigger problem than other kinds of garbage. We were dismayed at this, and decided we just couldn't carry on.

The Hills School just down the road from us, in Northmead, caters specially for the educational needs of children and young people with disabilities. They also participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. They have the most beautiful productive gardens.  AND they compost. ...We got an idea.

We're really excited to tell you that each week students and staff of The Hills School now visit our kitchen and collect our veggie scraps. The scraps feed the school chickens and their herb and veggie beds. School students participate in the gardening program, learning how to grow, and then cook food.

In the spring, these same veggie beds will provide us with herbs that we'll cook into your dinners (just quietly, we can't wait!) We'll keep you posted!

Parenting on display, and the case of the sore... um...

Ants

There are times when you find your parenting on display for those around to observe. This will oft invite opinions from others: thought, if you're lucky or they are kind. Spoken, if you, and they, are not. It is perhaps most disconcerting when you need to deal with the goings on of a more sensitive part of the anatomy. In public. In this situation, the stakes only get higher.

We strongly encourage our junior recipe testers to play sport. So they do. The eldest of our juniors plays soccer, and so on a Saturday morning, along with the rest of the parent and sibling martyrdom, we go along to watch. It should be stated that for those juniors not actually engaged on the field, there is something less than delight expressed about attending a game.

On Saturday, however, one of the juniors finally had good reason for his chagrin.

While we stood on the sidelines cheering and attempting not to provide too much refereeing advice, the non-playing juniors, along with some other long-suffering siblings, sat on grass at the side of the field playing. Sometime into the second half we were distracted by some yelling. The youngest of our juniors walked towards us with a pained expression.

"My penis hurts," he announced in his loudest voice.

I walked towards him, mainly in an attempt to get out of earshot of the gathered parent-crowd. If we were going to commence a discussion of a sensitive nature, I figured this best done without an audience.

By the time I reached him he had his hand down the front of his jeans and was looking more distressed. I picked him up and walked further away, attempting to soothe and comfort. I may have suggested a small drink of water? He shrieked and became rather distressed.

There are some items of clothing that civilised folk don't usually remove in polite company. Your jacket, for instance, may be perfectly acceptable to doff. Your pants not so much. It was however, quickly apparent, that no amount of soothing talk was likely to aid the situation. The clothes were going to have to come off.

Now, in my defence, my reluctance to believe there was any real problem does stem from the junior in question and his propensity towards histrionics and hypochondria. So you will understand my surprise when I found a large black ant in his small pair of undies. The ant was quickly squashed and the soothing recommenced.

Given the commotion we were causing, several parents enquired after the poor unfortunate junior's wellbeing. Four spectator fathers winced when we informed them of the predicament. One watched the remainder of the game with his legs crossed.

Thank you to the parent martyrdom who managed firstly to locate an icepack, but most heroically, didn't flinch when they realised where it needed to go.

Last minute orders are here... for when you're begging for mercy!

Black and white image of children's hands on a table topRecently, I had one of those days. Not the good one. I had a bit to get through, so I made a list. Lists are good. They keep you on track. And there's that sense of great personal fulfillment when you tick something off.

My big problem is, I lose little pieces of paper on which I write lists. But I will not be deterred. I now write them on my phone. And then they do not get lost. Very often.

Towards the end of last week I had a long list and, arriving at my first of many ports for the day, I reached for my list. It was not in my handbag. It was, I then realised, plugged into the charger. On the kitchen bench. At home. My second port of call for the day was home. My third port was my first port. Again.

I played that sort of scenario on repeat, pretty much all day. I finally fell in my front door and started loading up the mixmaster with the requisite ingredients to make pizza dough. Predictably, given what had gone before, we had no yeast.

Now bread dough for pizza is not tricky to make. But it is made inordinately difficult without yeast. I pondered this for a minute when my phone beeped.

The text was from the mother of a friend of my eldest junior recipe tester. Her name is Nancy. I do not know Nancy well, and I promptly replied to her text. Autocorrect saw fit to amend her name. To my horror, I referred to her as "noncustodial". I have no reason, nor, presumably does she, to think that perhaps she is not her child's mother.

I was begging for mercy...

We get it. On Monday, when we brow beat you to get your order in, you feel bright and breezy - and you figure this week you just don't need help with dinners.

And then Wednesday afternoon rolls around. You fly out of the office to battle the traffic, arriving just in time to pick up the kids and then you remember that you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. Or perhaps you have run out of yeast (we've heard that can happen). And you really don't want to feed your people takeaway. Again.

Well, now you don't have to! We're now offering same-day delivery on top of our usual delivery options.

We're starting this new service in the Hills District. Our Hills customers can now order same-day delivery on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Just order by 3pm and we'll deliver same-day.

We're still offering our usual Tuesday delivery for the Hills and Outer West - just get your order to us by 8am Tuesday and you'll have dinners delivered as usual.

And for our other regions, we're extending order cut off times:

  • if you're on the North Shore, in Northern Sydney or the lower Northern Beaches, order by 8am Wednesday for delivery on Wednesday
  • all other eligible suburbs* should order by 8am Thursday for Thursday delivery.

We can do nothing about autocorrect. We cannot retract embarrassing, insensitive text messages. But when you're begging for mercy, we'll bring you a real dinner.