Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rare Birds. Super Gifts.


Designer Dish-washing gloves

Twig Sip-and-Stir. Long twig-like straws with a spoon at the end.

Onion Goggles. I ALWAYS cry when chopping onions. How cool.

Every now and then I just wander aimlessly around the internet, following a link here and a link there, then I go off on a tangent and find myself reading about something completely unrelated to what I first started looking for.

Do you do this too?

Today was no exception. And I ended up finding the coolest blog ... Rare Bird Finds. I love these kinds of blogs - they find out all of the neat new gadgets and gifts that are brought out and put them on their blog so that we can all read about them. The pics above are only a teeny tiny sample of things they have to offer. They're not all kitchen-y either.

I love 'em. Great spot for ideas when you need to buy a pressie for someone who is very hard to buy for.

Check them out. There are sooo many great things.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Am I becoming a house-frau?

For those of you who know me well, you'll know I don't cook. Not that I *can't* cook. Just that I choose not to. Lucky for me, I can continue to eat because Scott does the cooking. And MAN, can that boy cook!

These last couple of months however have seen a shift in my kitchen activity. I've discovered a great site that I have been religiously trying recipes from. It's called VegWeb and it's fab full of ideas for vegetarians like us. These people are serious about their cooking and best of all, the recipes don't require unobtainable ingredients like the root of a Native American bean plant or freshly-milked-just-an-hour-ago goats milk.

Years ago, pre-vegetarian state, I wouldn't have touched a red kidney bean with a pole at a hundred paces let alone eaten silken tofu or tried soy milk. These days I know better. They're not so scary - the ingredients I mean, although vegans (def: they eat nothing that comes from anything with a face) can be scary at times.

Vegetarian food, I've discovered, isn't just lentil pies and unpalatable tofu stirfry. The recipes include a myriad of herbs and spices cleverly combined to create a delectable and highly edible and interesting range of dinner menus. Added to that fact, is the other fact that these tasty, high protein meals digest rather quicker than a hunking bit of meaty steak.

It really does make a difference in how you feel after you've eaten. No longer stuffed to the gills, you find you need less to make you feel 'full' and you have more room for chocolate after.

Ha. That's my secret. Damn, now it's out, isn't it.

This week's recipes:

Olive & Rosemary Bread (my absolute fave bread ever - so tasty and fragrant)
3 cups plain flour
¾ tablespoon of bread improver
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 sachet (8g) instant dried yeast
¼ cup olive oil
1 ¼ cups luke warm water
1/3 cup pitted black olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary spikes/leaves
2 tsp coarse salt extra.

Combine flour sugar yeast and salt in a bowl and pour the water and oil into a well in the centre. Stir to combine ‘til it comes together and turn out and knead for 4-5 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and stand in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. Inch it back and knead again for a few minutes and form into a rough rectangle on a tray lined with baking paper. Stud the olives and rosemary over the top and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Brush the top with a little oil, sprinkle the extra salt on top and bake at 220°C (fanforced) for about 15 minutes or until golden on top.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Ingredients (use vegan versions):

1 package of organic frozen spinach
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
1/3 to 1/2 red pepper (depending on taste)
1 and 1/2 16 oz packages vegan cream vegan cheese (Tofutti is good)
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella ( chopped and shredded)
3 to 5 artichoke hearts
dash of garlic pepper

Directions:

Defrost and drain the spinach well. Saute the chopped garlic clove, chopped onion, and chopped red pepper in a pan. Chop up the artichoke hearts. Mix all ingredients together.

Place in an oven safe dish or hollow out some pumpernickel bread and place inside. Bake on 325 for 15-20 minutes.

Note: the more vegan mozzarella you use the longer it needs to bake in order to get the vegan cheese to bake. Alter the amounts of vegan cheese depending on what you prefer.

Tom Yum (Thai Tofu, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup)

Ingredients (use vegan versions):

1 1/2 pints vegetable stock
14oz coconut milk (tinned is fine)
3 tablespoon chopped coriander
1 large onion chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 or two fresh chillies chopped and deseeded
1 tablespoon groundnut oil
250g tofu cut into half inch cubes
2 stalks lemon grass peeled and bashed
8oz tomatoes (tinned is fine)
half a cup dry Thai jasmine rice, cooked

Directions:

Place rice in rice cooker (or just cook rice). Place cubed tofu on a lightly oiled baking pan and bake in a medium oven for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, sauté onion, garlic, lemon grass and chillies in oil until onion is cooked through. Add tomatoes, stock and coconut milk, bring to light boil and then simmer. When tofu is cooked, (it should be a bit dried out and maybe starting to brown a little), remove from oven.

Fish out the lemon grass stalks and discard. If you have a handheld blender, whizz the soup until smooth (optional). Then add the tofu and coriander.

Spoon some rice into a bowl and top with the tom yum and serve.


Wild mushroom polenta

Ingredients (use vegan versions):

1/2 cup Portobello mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup Oyster mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup Shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup dried Porcini mushrooms
1 cup medium ground yellow corn meal (polenta - yellow stuff)
4 cups vegetable stock, warmed up
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped finely
2 tablespoon olive oil
Sprig of parseley and thyme, chopped finely.
Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Soaked dried porcini in 1/2 cup hot water for 5 mins. Saute shallot and garlic in large med. deep pan with olive oil over medium heat. Grind peppercorn over the pan. Add mushrooms and toss in parseley and thyme. Cook mushrooms until liquid has evaporated. Add salt. Add 2 cups of stock to the pan, then pour corn meal slowly while stirring. Once corn meal is evenly mixed, continue stirring for 10 minutes. Add more stock if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and transfer mixture into a shallow cake pan. Bake in 375F pre-heated oven for 5 minutes until the surface feels crusty. Remove and serve in small squares. Note: Polenta can be refrigerated up to 5 days. Best served with salad. Bon appetit!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hooray. We're on our way. Approved for Adoption.

Well, the first major step in our adoption has now been completed and we have the all-important Letter of Approval from the Tasmanian/Australian government that we need to be able to send our file to Thailand.

We have most of the documents together - except passports which will come within the next 2 weeks - and then the file will be "notarised" and then sent off to the Thai consulate in Melbourne for "verification". At least I think that's how it goes. As far as I know, this means that the documents are checked to make sure they are original copies and not fake ones (*gasp* as IF!)

From now we'll be getting our house in a child-proof state complete with toddler gates etc, work our butts off to save as much money as possible before we receive our referral, learn some Thai conversation, stock up on baby stuff (not clothes just yet unfortunately), get a bigger car that will fit baby, dog, us, camping stuff and other paraphernalia all at the same time. The current car just doesn't cut it.

I can't stop thinking about the surprise phone call we're going to get. Knowing my luck, we'll be out of state or camping somewhere where our phones don't work and we'll get home a week later and the message would have come from the DHHS half an hour after we left home for our camping trip. AAAArgh!


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Keeping our kids safe.

http://www.pollyklaas.org/safe/pdf/PKF_SK_2005_all24pages.pdf

I found this document tonight while I was wandering around a Thai forum that I frequent.

It gives lots of useful ways to teach our children to be safe from people who would seek to do them harm. It's actually titled "Child Safety Kit - Teach Abduction Prevention without scaring your child (or yourself!).

It has a lot of useful tips in there to keep them safe in all sorts of situations - from being lost in a supermarket or other public area, what to do if they're lost, eluding potential 'predators', who to talk to and who not to talk to and how to identify 'safe' people.

I thought it was very relevant considering the alternative. Often it is something that we think just won't happen to us, or our kids, and that this sort of thing only happens to others. Consider the possibility that it *does* happen to you.

Wouldn't you rather educate your child to limit the possibility? I definitely will :)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Phyathai Babies' Home



http://www.bangkokpost.net/outlookwecare/28Aug2001_out75.html

The link above leads to an article on the Phyathai Babies Home in Thailand from 2001.

Over 300 kids live at the Phyathai Babies Home, which is always in need of donations, goods, and volunteers, not to mention adoptive and foster families.

http://www.phayathaibabieshome.com/pbh/default.asp

Name of organisation: Phyathai Babies' Home
- Contact person: Nonthinee Petpaisit
78/24 Phumwet Road, Bangtalat, Pakkret, Nonthaburi 11120 Thailand.
Tel: +66 (0) 2584-7254-55 Fax: +66 (0) 2584-7264
(from what I hear it is best to call this number at around 1pm Australian E.S.T. to get staff in the office)

Bank account information for donations: Thai Commercial Bank, Ramathibodi branch
Account Name: Phyathai Babies' Home Foundation.
Savings account number: 026-2-28911-5

Those who want to give donation should contact the orphanage first for specification of goods - powdered milk, nappies, toys, books etc.

Those wanting to volunteer for the Phyathai Babies' Home may contact the Non-Governmental Social Welfare Promotion Division on 02-281-3199 ext 660.

Those interested in adoption can contact the Child Adoption Centre on 02-246-8651 or 02-247-5084.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

PCOS + Getting rid of it.

I've been doing a bit of research recently on PCOS. I have it now and I suspect I've had it since I was 15 years old as I have the same symptoms now as I did then. I'm 32 now and sick and tired of the side effects of having this annoying condition. I won't go into detail. It's too much information..

Many, many times I've been to the doctor and the gyno however almost always they prescribe a light version of the pill. This has never really sat well with me as I dislike using the pill as it does not address long-term regulation of PCOS, it addresses a short term 'fix'. Everyone knows that you shouldn't take the pill over a long period of time so it's kind of a bad suggestion as I see it.

Anyhow, there has been much in the news and online recently about addressing the regulation of insulin to combat the issue that causes this condition. Never wanting to buy the pills and potions that claim to be able to rid you of PCOS, I've put off doing much about it and just suffered along like other women do. I certainly don't go to the doctor/gyno for it anymore as they haven't got a clue or they just haven't researched in detail for themselves to find a way to actually help their patients who have it.

Tonight however I found a system of management for PCOS that may actually be useful. It makes sense to me that it is not just a "one pill" system and that it doesn't promise that magic will occur in a short period of time.

The only thing that concerns me is that I don't want to get pregnant. Scotty and I are very involved with our adoption process, on an emotional level, and are very ready for our child to arrive so we would be disappointed if something were to interrupt that plan. We have never believed that having a bio child is desirable over having an adopted child. It is just not necessary for us as a couple. As a women, I have different thoughts to a lot of other women on this point. A friend or two, who have their own bio kids, have expressed their desire for me to 'experience pregnancy and childbirth'.

Needing to step lightly here as not to offend, I will just say that this is only my personal view and not a judgement on those who have/want to have bio kids of their own ... this reflects to me that one's own personal desire (to be pregnant and experience birthing) is more important than the needs of a living, breathing child (already in the world) having a family of their own when currently they do not. I just don't think my own experience of being pregnant is important when there are children in the world who I will love just as much as a bio child from my body. The fact that our adopted child will not look like us in any way or who does not share our 'genes' is not even a consideration I feel is of importance.

Scott and I have talked long and often about this fact prior to starting our adoption. This is not a decision that we make with any intentions of 'saving' anyone or being 'honourable' or 'kind-hearted'. I abhor those sentiments intensely - how egotistical they are.

'It's every child's right to have a family, a home and the unconditional love of a parent/parents' ... that is our opinion and if we had the financial capability, we would adopt quite a few more children before our family was complete.

I digress ... I don't want to be pregnant was my point and all that, as above, is why. I just want to be free of unpredictable cycles. There are so many women in the world who have PCOS and just live with the symptons every day. Granted, it's not cancer or anything serious like that.

It's just freakin' annoying and, at times, painful and if I can get rid of it or minimize it, I will.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Metro Dad.

This evening in my blog wandering state, I stumbled blindly across Metro Dad.

Oh dear. What a guy. He warrants a whole plethora of Emmy Awards for his wit. I want to give him endless standing ovations for his prose, his 2.5 year old bi-polar Peanut, stories about a neighbourhood child and endless, endless wet-your-pants humour.

Enuf said. Over to you Metro Dad.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Waiting parents of children from China

At times I read a little about others who have adopted or are in the process of adoption from China. A lot has changed about the Chinese adoption process since we first started our adoption journey.

From what I can gather, the referral of children from China has slowed quite a lot, starting out last year to have a waiting time of about 7 months to what is now a current waiting time of 18 months. Quite a difference. In this particular month, April 2007, there is a 'rumour' that referrals are only being moved along by two days when normally the CCAA (China Centre for Adoption Affairs) refers close to a month or at the least 2-3 weeks at a time.

The major issues of these parents-to-be seems to be the lack of information they are receiving about why the wait has extended. There are many thoughts on what the reason could be but no-one really knows.

China seems to have said in the past that their priority is local adoptions of children to residents in China itself. That makes sense, of course, however there are other reports of local adoption fees in China being out of the range of a large proportion of Chinese couples who wish to adopt locally. Of course, there are the upcoming games in China and that may affect the wait somewhat. Perhaps a lot of referrals may be pushed through before/if the CCAA close for the games? Who really knows? Not me, that's for sure.

For the sake of all involved, I hope that some information is forthcoming.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Preparing our file to send to Thailand

Many of those who know we are adopting ask "any news yet?" in the hope that we have been referred our child. We wish it were that quick but, alas, there is still more paperwork to go.

Let me explain a little about what happens from now until we receive referral of a child ...

1. We will shortly receive the formal approval letter from the Adoption services department in Australia. Not to count our chickens before the letter arrives (or risk jinxing ourselves) but we have been verbally advised that we are approved as suitable adoptive parents from Australia's point of view.

We are over the moon of course and it's been a totally painless and actually very pleasant experience with thanks to the efficiency, experience and compassion of our caseworker *J* and the Director of Adoption Services here in Tasmania, *U*, who is very hands on in preparing her future adoptive parents to be ... well, adoptive parents.

Much time and effort is put into making sure we all understand what we are to be facing in future. As much as it would be nice to think it's all roses and sweetness, it's also going to include some trying and difficult times, given the start our child would have had and the many upheavals he/she would have been through so far.

2. The "List" ... of documents we need to send to Thailand and other important things we need to do with said documents. This file of documents will be sent off to Thailand sometime in April 2007, all things being equal. We have organised 90% of the docs already.

(Note for future parents to be: this is the list as supplied by Tasmanian Adoption services however it can (and does) change depending year of application, the state/country you are adopting from and your personal circumstances and may not be exactly the same for you)
  • Completed Thai application form - witnessed and signed by public notary.
  • Full original copies of birth certificates for both of us.
  • Full certified original copy of marriage certificate.
  • Certified copy of divorce decree - notarised by public notary.
  • Statement of infertility from medical practitioner (that's me and PCOS).
  • Statement of occupation and income on employer's letterhead for each of us.
  • Statement of willingness to register the adoption with the Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra once the adoption is on it's way to being finalised. This means a plane ride to Canberra (no Thai Embassy in Tassie)
  • Personal references commenting on character, family life, ability to care for a child from Thailand.
  • Police conviction check.
  • Photographs : 4 passport size of each of us and a separate sheet of photos of inside/outside of our home.
  • Personal letter to Adoption Services in Thailand requesting placement of a child. Short version in formal style around 2 - 3 paragraphs. Signatures witnessed by public notary.
  • Copy of each of our passports, also notarised by public notary.
3. Verification by Royal Thai Embassy: After we have compiled all of these things, which I'll do in the next two weeks (have 90% done already!), we'll motor on in to the DHHS and they will collate and check our handiwork, add their own homestudy report and send the lot off to the Royal Thai Embassy for verification.

Once verified, the file will be sent back to the DHHS to be sent, via courier, to Thai Adoption Services, Bangkok, Thailand.

4. We wait. And hope for a speedy referral.

We learn some basic Thai to be able to interpret and communicate with our child when the big day comes. We build cots (or my dad does). We baby-proof the house (and look for a house to buy that's bigger). We send positive energy off to Thailand that everything will go smoothly and that there are minimal bumps in the road (and that the current political atmosphere in Bangkok settles down a lot).

5. The Call ... One fine day, we will receive a phone call. We won't know it's coming because there are no timeframes for referral of a child from Thailand.

The adoption services there considers that it's more important to match the needs of the child with the most suitable parents for this particular child (we fully agree on this one) so one's file could languish in the adoption services offices in Bangkok for up to 2, maybe even 2.5 years, before we hear. Or, more exciting to think about, it could speed through and be matched pretty darn quickly. I love reading those stories! The quickest I've read about is 1 WEEK! Imagine that. I think I'd probably think our caseworker was having a joke at our expense if she called us with a referral after one week. Or even one month.

We will be advised of our child's sex, name, age, weight, height as well as whether they live in an orphanage or with foster parents and whatever other details are known. If we're lucky, we'll receive a photo. That's pretty normal from what I understand.

The other details depend a lot on the child's circumstances and what is known of their history. Some are just abandoned with no note, no information, not even a birthdate, maybe left in a market or on a street for someone to find and take to an orphanage. We won't know until we are told. If it is even known.

The particulars of our child's circumstances will not be shared with anyone and will be known only by Scott, myself and the adoption workers and our child, of course. We consider that, although people will be 'curious' about our child's story, that curiosity is not a justified reason for sharing such personal, and often painful, information. That is for our child to share when they get older, IF they choose to.

6. Accept referral of child by sending a letter back to Thai Adoption Services. From this point on, it will be very hard for us not to just jump on a plane and go meet our baby. We know who they are, we know where they are, we know how old they are and what they look like. I know Scott will be calm and patient but will I?

7. Await advice from Thailand that we are able to travel ... there are many things to be done on the Thai side of things before we can jet over to meet our child. Many medicals, visa applications, passport, setting a date for the Board Meeting in Bangkok (every second Wednesday are the only days they have these mandatory meetings), preparing the child to meet his/her new parents by showing them photos and giving them the care packages we will immediately send as soon as we have accepted the referral. And probably a myriad of other things that are organised also that I just don't have a clue about.

8. Travel Advice Arrives from Thailand ... well, happy days!, we will then be able to book our flight and just as soon as we can pack (I can be ready in 1 hour) we can fly, fly, flyyyyy to meet our baby.

9. Arriving in Thailand :
  • Touchdown in Bangkok.
  • Meet Thai Adoption Services Social Worker.
  • Go to Orphanage/Foster home to meet child.
  • Spend a week (roughly) getting to know our child and ensuring they are reasonably comfortable with who we are. About this .. this can vary from child to child. It means that the first day we could just go and play with them and then go back to the hotel for the night. Next day we could go and play for a bit longer, feed them, interact more. Next day, take them for an excursion. Next day they could be ready to come with us for good. OR they could be ready and willing to come with us from day one, like one little fellow that we know who had his backpack ready, waited in the lobby of the orphanage from 6am til 11am when his mum and dad arrived and just didn't want to leave their sight ever again!
  • With our child, attend the Board Meeting in Bangkok to formalise the adoption.
  • Soon after we will be given our child's passport and visa for travel and we are free to return home. However, we plan a shortish stay up north in Hua Hin at a resort there for swimming and relaxing together as a brand new family, free of the pressures of cooking, cleaning etc. for at least a few blissful days. On second thoughts, who am I kidding? I don't cook and clean anyhow. Well, not much ;)
10. Homecoming ... return home to Australia and settle into our lives together as a family. This will be a quiet and low pressure introduction for our little one into a brand new culture, smells, sounds, food, environment, family and we'll be laying low until they become a little more grounded and are feeling safe with us. Then, gradually, we will start to introduce one or two new people into our lives (grandma, grandpa, aunties, uncles, friends).

Whilst the homecoming will be super exciting for us, we will need to put off the excitement for our young one as it could all be too stimulating and overwhelming for them. Slowly, slowly, will be the motto.

If you've made it from the top to the bottom of this looooong post, kudos to you and thanks for visiting.

Kim xo