Monday, April 30, 2012

menu plan monday - april 30

photo source

I am dusting off the slow cooker again!!

I have to be more organised with a meal when everyone is hungry.  It is all well and good to have a great plan, but unless it is on the table at the right time it means squat!!

So, how to fix?? 

Use the slow cooker.  Prepare the meal the night before and either put the cooker on low overnight or fridge it until the morning and put it on the heat then and let it bubble away until tea time!!
Lets see how it pans out this week??!!

Oh, and the (slow cooker) apple pie oats in the pic are from Simple Bites.  I'm trying them out for breakfast this week.  Lucky I have two slow cookers!

Menu Plan April30 2012

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

a few before(s)

I have found myself recently thrifting big items at the op shops, tip shop, garage sales and gumtree.  These are things that I have been on the look out for, for some time and I have just come upon them seemingly all at once. 
But the down side of this thrifters 'high', means I have a few pieces of furniture to repair, modify and put into use.  I do love fixing stuff up, it is just hard to find the time to do it and so they sit forlorn in the garage, mocking me when ever I look at them. 

So to motivate myself, here are my newest purchases and what I intend to do to them.

1920 style solid timber single kitchen cupboard
Needs some adhesive plastic book covering removed from the shelves, glass or wire mesh or fabric added in the top door panel and a good clean down but really was in very good shape.  Will be housed in the new laundry/mud/craft room.

1940 style solid timber double kitchen cupboard
Needs several minor issues fixed, 2 hinges replaced, timber filled, door knobs changed, draw dividers added and a good clean down.
It has perspex in the top door panels and this will stay in for the foreseeable future.   Later I will make lead light windows in a traditional sunburst design (my favorite!!),
instructed by my family's resident glass guru, my mum!
This beauty may live in the kitchen / dining room with storage for my preserving things.

vintage hall table
This beauty was rescued from the tip shop.  It looks like it has had a hard life. 
The top is split in two and is not attached securely to the legs, but the legs are solid and even! 
I will remove the top, rejoin the timber, maybe a very light sand down and rejoin to the legs.
I love the multi paint colours in this piece and the turned legs. 
It will be a side table in my (not yet built) garden summer house.

I just love furniture with age and wear showing.  It fits perfectly with my eclectic, vintage style. 

(This sounds much more fancy than it is in reality.  Its just a heap of furniture that I love, put together, sharing the same space.  I think it works together because I love each piece for what it is alone!)

I also love that buying this furniture is thrifty and one of a kind.

Well, I must make a start on one of these projects...
...maybe tomorrow!

Do you thrift shop furniture?  What are your latest bargain purchases?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the things i do... get the tea cooked.
Wear a mouse mask and join in with the imagination play of my 4 year old, while cutting up pumpkin for soup. 
Whatever works to keep everyone happy!!

What is keeping you busy today?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

menu plan monday - 23 april

I shall start this post with a confession and an excuse of sorts. 

There are heaps of packaged foods on my menu this week!!  With everything going on in my house at the moment, I am finding that I have not had time to prepare meals ready for dinner, let alone bake bread and biscuits.

We are in the middle of fairly major home renovations.  We are busting concrete, digging footings, moving plumbing, putting in new windows and landscaping.

We have a great team of friends and family who are tradies, helping us out on this job. 
Which means that I need to be an extra pair of hands on site too.  Most days you will find me holding on to windows, sledge hammering concrete, zipping up to the hardware store for supplies or making hungry man sized lunches. 
It is heaps of fun and I am learning so much about how things are built and how easy alot of things are to diy if you know how!!

So I have been busy with all things building until late into the afternoons and then been trying to put a somewhat nutritious meal on the table at 4:45pm (and yes we do eat that early most nights!!).

I have tried to plan better this week for the evening meals, things I can make the night before or have in the slow cooker all day.  But I still do not have time for baking, so the packaged stuff. 
It is how it is for now!!

Menu Plan 23apr 2012

What life events are impacting your menu this week?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

child safety wrist strap - a tutorial

I don't know about your kids, but mine are the free spirited, adventure seeking, lets explore kind. 
(Read independent & strong willed!!)
That's all well and good in the backyard, in the bush or at the playground. 
Not so good at the shops, walking to school or traversing a car park!!

Events today at the shopping complex, have inspired me to make a couple of wrist straps for my two smallest kids.  Here's how I did it.

Disclaimer :: This is not to be used instead of holding the child's hand. 
It is an additional means of knowing where they are.  
But you knew that already!!

I recommend making as many as you need and keeping them with you, just in case. 
I made two and they will live in my handbag.

Do you have issues with your kids sticking with you when out and about? 
What do you do to balance safety with independence?

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green goals - april update

As the first quarter of the year closes, I am reviewing the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year.  The goals are based on my word for the year, sustainable
As I think more about the word 'sustainable' I am realising that all these things I want to do to live more sustainably also need to be sustainable. 
I need to be able to keep doing these things or there is no sustainability about it.
ie. It is all well and good to bake my own bread, but unless I am able to commit to baking bread regularly in the long term, the change is not sustainable.

These are the things I have started to make changes with.

- make my own bread, certainly not regularly but I have baked more than last year
- use slow cooker more, it sits on my counter top now and have used it heaps
- use less plastic in lunch bags, have been trialing wrapping lunches with paper
- reduce reliance on supermarket products; I now use reusable cloth kitchen wipes, surface spray & laundry soap.
- pack a lunch bag for everybody (including me!) every week day
- preserve (bottle, freeze, dehydrate) excess garden produce and low cost local foods in season
- menu plan through the holidays as well as through the school terms

- finish chicken shed and enclosure, almost done!!
- develop our edible garden; increase varieties grown, expand land area, improve set out, have worked a bit on the design and will be starting digging very soon!

- try using a shampoo bar for family hair cleansing, have tried several shampoo recipes (post coming soon)
- make own soap, deodorant and shampoo bars, done and love them
- stop chemical colouring my hair and investigate alternatives to cover? the greys, have just stopped cold turkey!
- install double glazing and reclad house for thermal and sound insulation, all new windows are in.
- purchase another menstrual cup, bought a cup and love it

So, if you have taken a look at the original list, you will notice that there are still heaps of things I have not even looked at yet.  But we are only in April and I have to start somewhere!

So I am looking forward to addressing some other areas in the next quarter.

Do you set goals for yourself?  How are you going with them?

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Friday, April 20, 2012

where i am currently - april 2012

I am listening to Walk off the Earth.
I love this clip.
I heard it again on the radio today and just had to play it again and again when I got home.
I love the story telling,
the performance,
the harmonies,
the how-many-people-on-one-guitar factor... 
Its just so good!!
And if by chance you have not heard Walk off the Earth play 'Somebody That I used to Know',
check out the link.

I hope you will like it too.

What are you listening to?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

outdoor adventure kids birthday party

I was really pleased with how this party eventuated.  The kids had heaps of fun running about outside and exploring in the bushland and it was low stress and on budget for me. 
Win - win!!

Most of the details of this party you will find here.  And the rest is as follows.

This was a good amount of food to provide for our guests (10 kids + 10 adults).  We did have some food leftover, but not too much.  It was good not serving a hot food and no-one missed it at all.  The food was laid out (covered) on the serving table at the beginning of the party and uncovered when it was time to eat.

sweet - mini wafer biscuits (2 pks), mint slice biscuits (2 pks), sweet & salty popcorn (6lt), 3kg imperial mandarines, birthday cake (based choc ripple cake)
savoury - plain corn chips (2 pks), pumpkin dip, hommus, water cracker biscuits, camembert cheese (3 rounds), egg & lettuce sandwich triangles (15 eggs mashed with mayo, 1 iceburg lettuce, 2 loaves bread)
drinks - hot drinks for adults, 300ml bottled water (24 pk), raspberry syrup

All the extras...
I made a tree birthday cake.

We hung fabric bunting around the picnic area...

along with my paper bag happy birthday bunting.

I thought it all came together really well, the kids had a great time
and the birthday boy was delighted with it all.

A good day was had by all!!

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tree birthday cake

Here we have the how-to for a very quick and easy kids birthday cake.

What you will need;
a few packets of plain chocolate biscuits
whipped cream
food colours (green dye and choc powder is what I used)
coloured candy coated choc
wrapped bee and ladybug chocolates

Look forward to lots of happy smiles from the birthday child!

(ps. This cake is made in the same style as my caterpiller cake.)

Happy birthday cake making.  Have fun!

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{almost no sew} fabric bunting - a tutorial


5.  Sew the fabric to the tape in one long zig-zag line.

Hang the bunting up and have a party!!

See, it is almost no sew!  You could have it completed within the hour. 
{ps. You could make it even quicker if you staple the fabric to the twill tape!  Nobody will know!}

Got to love a fast & frugal craft project!!


How do you decorate for a kids party?

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Monday, April 16, 2012

menu plan monday - 16 april

I'm starting properly on the Menu Plan Monday posts. 
I plan my weekly menu using my menu plan template.  It is always open on my laptop and I add to it for the following week, so that when it comes to finalising the plan at the end of the week, most of it is done. 
I hope that you can download it and use it in much the same way.

And on to this week. 

Menu Plan 16apr 2012

The image at the start of the post is the apple & quince crumble the kids will be taking to school.  It is super yummy, made with my home grown quinces.
I bought some locally grown butternut pumpkins which will be used in the soup. 
Toasty sandwiches feature big this week.  I just bought a new toasty sandwich maker, the kids love the ones their Nan makes for them.  And I have remembered heaps of fillings that my mum would make for me and I can't wait to try them.
You will notice there are still some blank spaces.  That allows me to use up leftovers and clean out the fridge toward the end of the week.

What yummy things have you planned this week?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

happy birthday banner - a free printable

Today's post is a free printable banner suitable for an eco/crunchy/frugal kids birthday party. 

Master (almost) Six's birthday party is coming up soon and I am in the midst of planning for the party.  This will be one of the decorations for our picnic area where we will be serving afternoon tea and cake.  I like it because it is re-useable and easy to make at home.

Happy Birthday Banner by smallthingsbynona

I printed the banner onto brown paper lunch bags and stapled the bags onto twine.  Leave yourself enough twine ends to tie the banner to something.

What do you use to decorate your kid's birthday parties?

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Friday, April 13, 2012

a few of my favorite things - april 2012

 Crisp, sunny days.

 Kids free to explore.

 The blur of movement.

 Skipping sleep time.

 Playing in the tussocks.

 The first snow of the season.

 Clear, still water.

 The peaks of Cradle Mt.

 The colours of fungi.

Wonder at our world.

A selection of snaps from our day trip to Cradle Mt
We are so lucky to be able to visit this National Park often.

Where are your favorite places?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

birthday party planning - how i do it

In an effort to make more sustainable choices for my kids birthday parties, I have made some changes to how I plan and how we celebrate.  As priorities, our parties must be cost effective, as we have 4 parties to throw each year, and simple to organise, because I like to have fun at the party too!

I break my party planning down into simple to plan tasks.  I made a simple (I do stress simple, I'm no graphic designer, but it does the job!!) birthday party planner that I use for every party.  I print it out, fill it in and keep checking back to it often.  It makes the task of planning that bit easier. 
Take a look and see if it can work for you too.

The first thing to decide is the theme.  From there all the other bits fall more easily into place. 
I just love the inspiration of this party, and am doing my own version.  We do not have a farm, but there is an arboretum (tree park) close by.  So we will be having Master almost Six's party there with an outdoor adventure theme.  He and his friends will have heaps of room to play games, there are sheltered BBQ areas with power and seating and an easy walking track.

To keep the chaos to a minimum, we allow the birthday child to invite only as many friends as the new age.  The birthday boy will be turning six, so six friends will be invited.  This is in addition to the family members who also attend our family do's. 

The reasoning behind this numbers game is that smaller numbers are easier to supervise and entertain, the birthday child is not overwhelmed with gifts (often items I would otherwise not have in our home) and less food is required so I do not have to spend so much time and money preparing refreshments.
And that is the way my parents did it and I have memories of great birthday parties!!

I use free printable invitations that I come across online and have set up a Pinterest board to keep them all organised until I need them.  This time around I used a download from WorldLabel.  We printed the birthday party info onto the cards and they worked really well.

If you have found any good free birthday invitation printables I would love to hear about them!!

Party Bags
I dislike the idea of plastic rubbish and more lollies coming home from birthday parties. So for this party I will be making simple fabric bags, which the kids will decorate with fabric markers.  The bags will hold the kids treasure hunt items and be the bag to take home some birthday biscuits as party favors.

Activities and Games
I usually allocate about one third of the party time to organised activities and games, about one third to free play and the remaining third covers eating, gift opening and cake cutting. 
This time around, our planned activities will be decorating the fabric bags, hiking an easy track around the park doing a nature based treasure hunt and party games, like musical chairs and pass the parcel.  *Edit - we never got to the traditional party games.  The kids were entertaining themselves quite happily and I didn't want to interupt!!

I made a printable happy birthday banner and some {almost no sew} fabric bunting, that will look great hanging around the picnic area for our party.  They are both frugal and reusable items.  And will be simpler to set up and clean up than balloons and streamers.

What are your tips for a fun, easy and sustainable kids birthday party?

You are welcome to use my free printables for your personal use.
If you would like to share them, please link back to this page.
Thank you.

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30 Handmade Days ~ Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways ~ Your Green Resource

Saturday, April 07, 2012

lunch box idea #1 - how to wrap a rolled sandwich without cling film

I had been wrapping our sandwiches for the lunch box with cling film but as one of my goals for 2012 was to use less plastic in our lunch boxes, I had to figure out another way of wrapping them.

This is what I came up with.

I hope these instructions are easy enough to follow?!
It is an easy process when you get the hang of it. 
When we have rolled sandwiches for lunch, I make about ten for my family. 
It really doesn't take long.

An up-side of this wrapping method (in addition to reducing plastic use) is that kids can easily unwrap their own sandwich without an adults help.

How do you reduce the plastic in your packed lunches?

honey oat bread - a recipe

Homemade bread is just the best thing to come out of my kitchen.  It smells great, is easy and is always appreciated.  We all love freshly made bread!! 

This recipe is based on one by Stacy from 'Stacy Makes Cents'.  I made modifications the first time I baked it.  I switched out the coconut oil and used stone ground flour and I changed the method for the way I bake bread (one bowl, dry ingredients first, then in with the wet, easy!!). 

It produced the best oat bread I have ever tasted.  It is so good, you must try it.  You don't need a bread maker or even bread tins.  This loaf can be cooked free form on a baking sheet.  It won't be as high as a sandwich loaf, but will still taste great.  What I am trying to say is... don't be scared of baking bread!!  Just give it a go... you'll be pleased you did!

First up, mix all the ingredients with a butter knife in a large bowl.  
Turn out onto the bench and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, for about 10 min or until you get tired!!
This is the dough looking smooth and elastic!!  It's not crumbly anymore and doesn't have bits falling off it.
Throw the dough back into the still doughy bowl.  Cover with a greased piece of cling wrap and leave for a couple of hours (somewhere warm) or overnight (somewhere cool), depending on when you want to bake the bread.

Knead it again for a few minutes and divide the dough in half. 
Put in prepared tins and let rise to loaf type size.
This is mine proving in second hand commercial bread tins.  Mum found them at an op shop for a bargain price.  The bread comes out so good in this tin as it is such a heavy weight construction.  As you can see, my loaves are just a bit too small for the tin size, but the loaves still come out great, they just don't fill up the tin all the way.

Cook in 180degC preheated oven for about 45min or until you have a golden crust on top and on bottom of the loaf.  Turn out of tins and cool on a wire rack.

Or if that process is all to much, just make it in the bread maker.  It produces a very acceptable loaf, if you don't have the time to knead and prove and all that.  I make about half of all my bread in the bread maker.  Sandwich loaves mostly are done in the machine and specialty breads in bread tins.

Despite the honey, this loaf is a savory bread.
It is great as sandwich bread and for serving with soups and stews.
I have had success with freezing this recipe, make one and freeze one for later.
Now, on with the recipe.

Honey Oat Bread
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups stone ground white flour
5 cups plain white flour
4 teaspoons yeast
2 cups water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon salt

Mix oats, flours and yeast in a large bowl. 
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
Into the well add the water, oil, honey, eggs and salt.
Stir well with a butter knife until dough has come together.
Turn out and knead until smooth and elastic.
Return dough to bowl, spray with oil and cover with cling wrap.
Set aside to prove, until doubled in size, or a couple of hours, or all day or overnight. 
(Bread baking is a very flexible art!)
Punch down, knead and divide in two.
Shape into loaf forms and prove again in greased tins, for an hour or so.
When risen, bake at 180degC for 45min or until golden and sounds hollow when tapped on base.
Cool before cutting.

Do you bake your own bread?  What is your favorite recipe?