West End State School Fiesta fun.

Despite the wet weather forecast and sodden grounds, Amanda’s school fete was a huge success with droves turning up from  our suburb and all around. Rides had cues snaking metres long, the trash and treasure stalls attracted hordes of bargain hunters and everywhere you looked, there were people with a plate in their hand and a smile on their faces.

Amanda and I arrived at close to noon with our friends Mehan, Janaki and their daughter Maya, to partake in the festivities. Our first stop was the grade 2 cake stall where I dropped off my donation of home-made chocolate chip cookies and Janaki picked up Elmo from Sesame Street cupcakes. Next, we had a tour of the food stalls, stopping by each one to see what was on offer. Since we had a late breakfast, it was mutually agreed that we would continue checking out the fiesta and this we did by making a beeline for the crafts stall. There Janaki picked up a lovely hand-knitted preppy sweater for Maya and I, a hand-knotted cream and caramel scarf for myself to combat the coming cold.

At the WESS Fiesta.

Standing in front of the crafts, jams and preserve stalls at the West End State School Fiesta.

We circled the preserve and jams stall, when His Royal Highness joined us with his on-call phone. We were not expecting him but Amanda was clearly pleased to have him with us. She dragged me to the Tombola stall where my one dollar bought her the surprise prize of one plastic doll and a beaded necklace. Janaki and I then took off to dig for our own treasure in the Trash and Treasure stall at the end of the field. We each picked up a couple of books and I, an almost new Kookai wool dress for the bargain price of $3.

Bargain hunting at WESS Fiesta.

At the books stall at the West End State School Fiesta.

From there, we adjourned to another pre-loved goods stall, where in the fashion of all Asian mothers, I was as pleased as Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas when I spied a huge board for Amanda to learn her times-table from. We hauled our finds back to Mehan and His Royal Highness, sitting docilely with the kids under a tent next to the cake stall, talking shop, before going to grab lunch.

Eritrean food at the WESS Fiesta.

Eritrean food at the West End State School Fiesta.

All in all, I’d say we had a great day out. Organisers hope to equal or better last year’s record of $45k raised from this annual event. Funds raised will be put towards adding to the school’s stock of library books and new computers.



Preparations for Fiesta.

Ahead of tomorrow’s “Fiesta” at Amanda’s school, I joined a bunch of mums and dads to help Ms Dung, a long-time organiser of the Vietnamese food stall, to make what Aussies call “dimsims” and clean cooked prawns so that they can be put into cold rolls. Borrowing from the Chinese, “dimsims” are similar to wontons in that both are small pieces of flattened dough filled with meat. The version that I made was a combination of minced pork, peas, diced onions and mushrooms, seasoned with soy sauce, salt and pepper. Since a picture paints a thousand words, here are some snapshots for the day’s proceedings.

Pan frying peanuts for dipping sauce.

One of Ms Dung's helpers pan-roasting nuts to make the dipping sauce for the cold rolls.

Cleaning prawns for Vietnamese cold rolls.

Volunteers removing prawn poop and slicing prawns.

Making pork dimsum.

Volunteers making "dimsims".

Australian pork dimsum.

My cute little "dimsims".

Making pork dimsum.

Me and my production line.

By the end of the three hours, I’d made new friends, had many laughs and was thoroughly competent in the art of making “dimsims” and removing prawn poop. Woo hoo ! Two more skills to add to my CV. Here’s a preview of some rides for tomorrow. Out in the school field, people were hard at work erecting tents for tomorrow’s event.

West End State School Fair rides.

The fearsome hurricane. No way am I going on.

Fair rides.

There are tea cups too, but you can't see them.


Watch out Masterchef, here I come !

Okay, so it might a lifetime before anyone sees me on a reality TV show competing for the title of “best cook in the country” but with Amanda’s school fete on this Sunday, I thought I’d try my hand at making cookies. These cookies will be donated to her grade 2 cake and cookie stall to be located along with the other food stalls, at the bottom of their building. That’s excellent because weather pundits have us in for a shower this weekend.

I would have happily settled for a pre-mix, seeing as how well Amanda’s birthday cake turned out from one, but Janaki, my friend, convinced me to give the chocolate chip cookie recipe on www.exclusivelyfood.com.au a go instead. I like that many other people have been guinea pigs ahead of me, making it a tried and tested recipe sure to garner success.

After a late lunch, Amanda and I hopped along to our local Coles supermarket where we bought all the ingredients. www.exclusivelyfood.com.au has measurements in cups and spoons alongside grams, which makes it easy for someone who usually buys a single cookie from Subway like me, to follow the recipe. Here are the measurements of ingredients for the cookie dough:

1/2 block of 250gm butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp of vanilla essence

1 and 1/2 cups of self raising flour

200 grams of chocolate chips

Basically, all you need to do is mix the egg, sugar, butter and vanilla essence until you have a well-incorporated pale yellow mixture. I used a fork to do this since I don’t own any fancy kitchen gadgetry and this was just fine. Then I measured the flour and dunked it in, again using my fork to get everything properly mixed. When it looked like I had a dough of some sort in the bowl, I opened a packet of Cadbury chocolate chips and threw the whole lot in there. I know it says 200 grams of chips and the packet has about 230 grams, but who’s counting? Every kid I know loves chocolate anyway so the more the merrier.

Mixing chocolate chip cookie batter.

Amanda helping out with the mixing of ingredients for the chocolate chip cookies.

I put the balls of dough on a lined tray into  pre-heated 160 C fan-forced oven  for 15 minutes and they came out beautifully!

Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

The finished result: gorgeous chocolate chip cookies.





Who moved my cheese ?

Before we have kids, we dream of how gobsmackingly good looking and smart they’re going to be. After we have kids, all we dream of is dreams really, REM sleep eluding us after the extended sleep-deprivation of nursing newborns. By the time the tyke gets to school, dreams of another sort haunt our waking hours: packing up and running away for a month anywhere, so that we can have conversations that revolve around things other than uneaten school lunches, homework and after-school activities. Adult conversations.

On weekdays, we dream of weekends when there is no early morning alarm to set, when we can just laze about until midday in our pyjamas. On weekends, we dream of weekdays when the kids are off at school and we have a couple of childfree hours to ourselves. Then we find ourselves a nice herbivorous-looking sitter one evening and decide to go and get reacquainted with our other halves. That’s when the penny drops. What we really dream about is a life free of parental responsibilities. But are the childless really having such a good time or are they just pretending to have scintillatingly full lives so that we’d be envious of them?

It’s moments when my child puts her hand in mine, or clasps my face with her grubby paws and says, “Mummy I love you” that I’m left feeling silly for ever wanting different. Then the occasional resentment of it no longer being about me or having any time for pre-parenthood interests melts away and the only dream I have is of this journey that began with the making of this special little person, never-ending.

Mother and baby sharing a moment in a pool.

A private moment between me and my baby.

Puppy love in the playground.

Children grow so fast. One minute I was cradling Amanda as a newborn, the next she is talking to Vivi, her Chinese language tutor’s daughter, about her classmate’s crushes. “Sveta loves Vlad,” I hear her say.

“What’s this?” I ask in my typical Asian-mother voice, communicating my disapproval. After all, when I was her age, the only crushes I had were on TV stars and I wisely kept them to myself.

Everyone knows Sveta loves Vlad,” she says, making me feel like the only parent who missed out on the school’s weekly newsletter. She goes on to wax lyrically about her best friend’s new admirer, another classmate of theirs. “And everyone knows that Guy likes Lily.”

“That’s ok,” I say. “As long as everyone knows that you cannot have a crush or boyfriend until you are thirty, Amanda.” What I would give for her to be a baby again.

Amanda and a her friend Maia making mud pies on the banks of the Brisbane River.