Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Steamed Buns

I have always loved the sweet, doughy steamed pork buns in Chinese restaurants.  Therefore, I was delighted to find this recipe for Steamed Chinese Five Spice Chicken Buns.  Although the filling isn't quite as yummy as the stir char-siu pork that the Chinese do so well, it was still pretty good and I will certainly be making them again.  Based on some of the comments on the recipe, I rolled the dough a little thinner and put a bit more filling in each one than the recipe suggests so the buns weren't too doughy.  It is also a great recipe for the kids to help with too!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Another new "oven free" Menu Plan Monday  this week.  Boy am I lucky that we are coming into salad season!

Monday: Caesar Salad
Saturday: To Be Decided

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rebound Books

While I was perusing my local bookshop today, a pile of books caught my eye.  They were diaries with oh-so-familiar Little Golden Book covers!  I SO want this one (but unfortunately I already have a 2011 diary)...

When I got home, I looked up the Rebound Books website to find out more.  Each diary is handmade, using an original Little Golden Book and Australian made 100% recycled paper.  The pages of the Golden Book stories themselves are scattered throughout the pages of the diary. They also make journals, photo albums, and sketchbooks, amongst other things.  I think this is such a charming idea, and I really enjoyed looking through the available designs and reminiscing about those that I had when I was a kid (like the one above).  Just as well they didn't have "Goodnight, Little Bear" or "Home For a Bunny"...I'm not sure I could have resisited either of those!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

With the change in weather, it's well and truly time to try some new recipes.  My repertoire, however, will be significantly diminished for a while, as our oven has now ceased working.  Our dishwasher is no longer functional either, so we have decided that it is time to start renovation plans.  I don't want to buy new whitegoods until we have a plan for our renovated kitchen, so I will just need to make do without an oven for a while.  I'm going to miss my home-made pizzas and baked treats, but the challenge is kind of fun!

So here is my oven-free menu plan for this week:

Monday: Sausage Ragu with Parmesan Mash
Tuesday: Chickpea Tagine with Figs
Wednesday: Pea and Saffron Risotto
Thursday: Tuna and Olive Pasta
Friday: Santa Fe Style Omelettes
Saturday: TBC - my husband's night to cook
Sunday: Haloumi with Lentil Salad

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Simple Sunday

What a difference a bit of sunshine makes!  After a bitterly cold and wet few months, we have finally been blessed with a delightfully sunny weekend.  Our awfully overgrown lawn has now been tamed, and an army of weeds have been given their marching orders.  Although it is really just the start of all the hard work that is needed in the garden, the difference is already obvious.  The kids spent the majority of the day playing together outside, too.

My supply of home-made laundry powder and moisturiser was low, so today I made a fresh batch of each.  While I was at it, I took the opportunity to try a recipe for a honey facial cleanser that I have been wanting to try for ages.  I can't wait to try it!

I just love Simple Sundays!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Month in Review

Gosh, I've just realised that it has been a whole month since my last post!  I guess you could say that I've suffering from general lack of mojo.  August was incredibly cold and wet (just the weather to dampen one's spirits) and my husband's new business is taking off, which is good...but...it leaves me feeling like a bit of a phoney because my life is far from simple.  Time to take back a bit of control and at least make an attempt to regain my simple living mojo!

Since my last post, we have celebrated daughter number one's 8th birthday.  She asked for a birthday cake that looked like our Kitty, so I whipped this up...thankfully it seemed to fit the bill!

Kitty birthday cake

Our local kindergarten also held their annual trivia night at the end of August.  We formed teams of about 10 people prior to the night.  Each team was assigned a different colour and we were asked to dress up and also decorate our table using our assigned colour.  There were prizes for best dressed person, and for the best dressed table.  My team was assigned the colour Orange.  I managed to find a nice piece of orange fabric at the opp shop that made a perfect tablecloth.  One of my team mates had a lovely contrasting table runner.  I made a centrepiece by placing a couple of branches in a vase.  I cut out some orange tissue paper leaves and glued them to the branches.  I also made orange some tissue paper pom-poms and placed a few in the branches.  To add to the orange-ness, I lined the vase with slices of orange.  On the table we also placed some orange coloured objects, including Christmas baubels and orange jack-o-lanterns that I made by hollowing out a thick-skinned orange, carving a face into it and placing a tealight inside (the orange scent was beautiful!).  We even colour coordinated with orange food!  The one thing, however, that got us over the line was a couple of vases containing goldfish!  It was a really fun night...even the goldfish had an enjoyable time ;-)

The Orange Table

Miss Eight has also been doing some creative things recently.  Her primary school held it's annual Show Day yesterday.  Show Day is a scaled down version of a country fair, and involves craft exhibits and a pet parade.  Miss Eight decided she wanted to enter the cake decorating and flower arranging sections, and here are her entries:

Alien cupcakes
The cupcakes were inspired by  Martha Stewart's Creepcake Cupcakes.

"Keep off Grass" flower arrangement
Special acknowledgement to Miss Five for this one for donating the wheat she sprouted at kindergarten :-)

There were so many delightful creations on display...but silly me forgot to take photos!  Thankfully Christine had it covered and has given a wonderful description of the day here.

To wrap up my overview of the last month, here is a picture from yesterday's pet parade.  Miss Eight took Pierre along.  It seemed like a good idea in theory, but the poor thing was one of two cats in a sea of dogs!  This picture says it all really...

Pierre and some canine friends

Monday, August 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Apologies for not posting for a while, I've had a big project at work that has required my attention.  Despite last week being on the stressful side, it ended up being quite a good week (excuse me while I put my "proud mum" hat on).  It was my turn to do parent duty at Miss Five's kindergarten last week so I took Mr and Miss Three with me.  I am hoping that the twins will be able to attend kindergarten next year, but as they will be on the younger side, I was starting to doubt their readiness. Miss Three in particular was so excited when I told her we were all going to kindy, she couldn't wait to choose which lunchbox to take with her!  Anyway, they both fitted right in and enthusiastically participated in the activities, so I don't think I have anything to worry about.  I was also really proud to see my shy Miss Five standing confidently in front of the class for Show and Tell.

Miss Five constructed this "Ballerina Robot" at kindy
My proudest Mummy moment happened at the end of the week.  The principal at Miss Seven's school retired on Friday, so they had a special day at school for the kids, which involved a hike, a sausage sizzle, and a farewell assembly.  On Thursday night, after I had put her to bed, Miss Seven came to me and asked for a piece of paper.  She said that she had decided that she would like to write a speech for the principal.  I gave her some paper, and she sat up in bed and wrote her speech.  The next day, she read her speech in front of the whole school.  So, so sweet!

So now onto this week's dinner menu...after revisiting my old menu plans over the last few weeks, I finally feel inspired this week to come up with something new. 

Monday: Rosemary arancini
Tuesday: Rice noodles with tofu and peanuts
Wednesday: Bean and coriander quesadillas
Thursday: Spicy lamb, tomato & chickpea broth
Friday: Soup or omelette (with whatever is left in the pantry/fridge)
Saturday: My husband's turn to cook
Sunday: Chermoula fish tagine

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cleaning the Pantry Challenge

We are very fortunate to have a dear friend who comes to visit us every few months from Sydney.  Each time he stays with us, he cooks a beautiful meal for us (and I make a dessert).  Tomorrow he will be here again, and will be cooking Osso Bucco with Gremolata, served with mashed potatoes.  Yum!

Anyway, yesterday I decided that I would have to allocate some time today to clean my pantry, as I would be too embarrassed for our friend to see the terrible state it was in.  Always the procrastinator, I sat down to the computer this morning instead of getting straight into the task at hand and had a good laugh when I saw Rhonda Jean's post today on her Down To Earth blog, where she set a Cleaning the Pantry Challenge!

Nothing cures me of procrastination better than a good challenge, so I got to work straight away.

Here is the embarrassing before shot of my pantry:

An hour or so later, it now looks like this:

What a transformation!  I'm just amazed at how much space I have in there now.  I didn't have to throw much out, so the space is created by taking the food out of it's packaging and putting it in stackable containers.  I now even have space to put my food processor away so it's no longer taking up space on the kitchen bench, so I am very happy about that!

So, challenge completed!  I encourage you all to clean out your pantry this weekend as well, it really is a worthwhile exercise :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kitten Update

I just thought I would give you all a quick update on how our poor little kittens are going.  It has now been a week since we discovered that the red, bald patch on Pierre's face was ringworm.  Both kittens have now been isolated/imprisoned in our laundry for a whole week.  On Monday, Pierre was showing symptoms of cat flu and was deteriorating fast (he had already recovered from a bout of cat flu before we adopted him, which is probably why he got ringworm as his immune system has been compromised).  I started him on a course of antibiotics straight away and that seems to have done the trick, as his runny nose and heavy breathing seem to have disappeared.  The bald patch on his face looks a lot better now too - nowhere near as red as it had been.  So it looks like we might be winning the fight against ringworm and cat flu (for now at least)!  Poor Pierre now has a really bloated tummy, so I hope that is not going to cause any more problems for him.

Let me out!!

Miss Kitty still has no sign of ringworm or cat flu, thank goodness.  However, just to keep us on our toes even more, she has diarrhoea!  We think this might be related to her diet.  So now I feel like the meanest pet owner in the world, because not only do I have to keep them locked up, force tablets down their throats 2-3 times a day, and shampoo them once a week, I now have to limit her to dry food only!  The vet has advised us that it would be best to keep them isolated until the weekend, to help reduce the risk of the kids getting ringworm.  So hopefully come Sunday, this will get a little easier.

And here I was thinking that having kittens would be fun!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Clothes Line Hair Clip Holder

Sometimes I am convinced that we have a black hole somewhere in our house.  This hole swallows one sock in each pair, along with my daughters' hair bands and clips.

In an attempt to prevent the hair clips disappearing into the black hole, I have made a cute clothes line picture that will hopefully motivate my girls to put the clips away in one place (sadly, as you might notice from the picture, the black hole has already claimed one victim)...

The clip holder was made using this tutorial.  I am now trying to think of ways I can add something to hold the hair bands and headbands.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I feel like I need to put this sign up on our front gate at the moment...

I took our little kittens, Kitty and Pierre, to the vet last Thursday for their vaccinations.  While I was there, I enquired about a little red patch that had developed on Pierre's face.  The seemingly innocuous red patch turned out to be ringworm, a highly infectious fungus that is a pain in the neck to treat and contain (it is spread via airborne spores - humans can get it too).  So for the last few days I have been busy washing bedding, soft furnishings, and clothes in a special antifungal solution, along with vacuuming the house and cleaning floors and hard surfaces with bleach.  Yuck!  Of course the wet, wintery weather has made the job that little bit more challenging (I don't own, and have no intention of buying, a clothes dryer).

On top of these measures to contain the infection, the poor little kittens are now in isolation in our laundry (will need to be isolated for at least a week).  I've had to shampoo them both (which they hate), and give them tablets twice a day (which they hate).  Pierre also needs antifungal cream applied to his now rather large red patch (which he hates more than the shampoo and tablets).  I feel so sorry for them.

Yesterday, I was starting to feel like I was getting on top of it.  Although Pierre didn't look any better, he didn't look any worse, which I was encouraged by.  However, I was shocked this morning to see that poor little Pierre had deteriorated a lot overnight.  Not only did I find new patches of ringworm on his paw, his nose had a little bit of discharge and his breathing was quite wheezy.  He now has cat flu as well as ringworm!  The poor little guy is now pretty sick...I'm not sure that he's going to make it :-(

So far Kitty doesn't have any sign of having either ringworm or cat flu...fingers crossed that her immune system is strong enough to fight it off. 

The stupid thing is my intuition was screaming at me that adopting Pierre would be a bad idea.  On one hand, I wish I'd listened to my intuition, but on the other hand I am so glad he's with us because the poor little guy needs so much help and at least we will do everything we can to help him recover.  Anyway, I think we have a bit of a fight ahead.  Wish us luck!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

What a busy few weeks we have had!  My husband's new business launched on July 1st and I have been helping him out with a few projects.  While it's nice to hit the ground running, it has been a very difficult and stressful time.  It hasn't been all work and no play, though.  We've had Miss Five's birthday party of course, and a trip interstate to celebrate a good friend's 40th - lots of good food, wine, and great company!  Oh, and we also adopted another little kitten from the local pet shelter - the very dapper Pierre...

Those mice don't stand a chance now!

I've had no time to plan our meals over the last few weeks, so I was grateful to have had a collection of menu plans to draw from.  This week, I can feel things returning to normal, so it's time to add to that collection of plans and try out some new recipes.

Monday: Vegetable Quiche
Tuesday: Bean Burritos
Wednesday: Mediterranean Pizza
Thursday: Beef stew
Friday: Spicy Lentil Cottage Pie (from Aug 2010 edition of Australian Good taste mag)
Saturday:  Daddy's Special Blue Cheese Burgers (my husband's turn to cook!)
Sunday: Pearl Barley & Rocket Risotto with Pumpkin (from Aug 2010 edition of Australian Good taste mag)

For more menu planning ideas and tips, check out orgjunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bug Party

My apologies for the lateness in posting about Miss Five's bug themed birthday party - the usual excuses apply.  The party was a great success, I think a great time was had by all.  We were blessed with a beautiful winter's day, so the kids were able to go out and burn some of their sugar fueled energy outdoors.  It was a bit of a miracle to have such a beautiful day, as the day before was incredibly cold, wet and windy!

Here are some photos of some other bug themed ideas from the party.  My sister and Miss Seven made some gorgeous table centrepieces, and the birthday girl herself made some pipe cleaner flowers for the table:

Instead of bags packed with lollies and made in China trinkets, I made up some small bucket party favours.  Into the buckets (which are reusable) I put the Bubble Bee Mix, the pencil toppers, and these gingerbread cookies that I made and iced.

Here are the buckets, ready to be handed out:

The buckets also came in handy to store the goodies from the Beehive Pintata that Miss Seven and I made (using these instructions).

Inside the pinata, we put some wrapped lollies, along with a handful of small plastic snakes.  I coundn't resist putting a couple of plastic mice in as well!

What a wonderful day it was - wish we could do it all over again!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bubble Bee Mix

Party preparations are in full swing, with tomorrow being the big day when Miss Four becomes Miss Five.  I have had a lot of fun with the bug theme, it's just a shame I don't have to time to bring all of the ideas I've had to fruition.

Here is a sneak peek at a couple of ideas that did make it....

I couldn't resist making my own labels for these little bottles of bubble mix.  I think they make wonderful party favours!

And I've managed to complete the much anticipated butterfly cake...

I'm really happy with how it has turned out (the colours are a lot darker in the picture as it was taken at night).  My kids have been poring over the birthday cake cookbook (the Australian Women's Weekly "Party Animals") for the last month. The twins have already put their order in for February - and they both want different cakes, of course!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bug Pencil Toppers

It is my daughter's fifth birthday this weekend, and to celebrate we are having a bug themed party (click here to see the party invitations).  Here is a sneak peek at some bug, or creepy crawly pencil toppers I have made as party favours for the kids.  They are really simple to make, you just need some pipe cleaners, googly eyes and some glue! 

Let me introduce you to Mr Bumble Bee (made with one black and 1.5 yellow pipe cleaners):

And here's Miss Spider (made from four pipe cleaners):

Madame Butterfly (made from 3.5 pipe cleaners):

And finally, my favourite, Mr Worm (SO simple to make with just 2 pipe cleaners):

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Hate Meeces To Pieces

 A few weeks ago, I was shocked to witness a wee little mouse scamper into our loungeroom.  It was the first time I had ever seen a mouse in my own house and I was embarassingly freaked out about it!  I immediately went out and bought a couple of mouse traps and reluctantly set them that night.  The next morning, I was secretly relieved to find that the traps had not gone off (even though the cheese was gone).

My husband then suggested that our best option would be to get another cat.  We lost our dear old cat in April, and although I didn't feel ready for another, the thought of the mouse in the house prompted us to go to the local pet shelter and adopt young Kitty.  Yes, I knew that 8 week-old Kitty would be too small to actually catch mice, but I guess I had assumed that her presence would be enough to scare the rodent off.   Clearly I was wrong.

Last week, when I was tucking Miss Three into bed, I saw a mouse run into her room.  I quickly grabbed the traps, cut a couple of pieces of cheese and set the traps.   I think I must have trapped my thumbs about four or five times so my poor thumbs were absolutely aching afterwards...I couldn't help but feel sorry for the poor mouse.  I put one trap in Miss Three's room where I had seen the mouse hide, and the other trap I placed in the same cupboard in which I had set the traps previously.

Next morning, I checked the trap in Miss Three's room and once again found that the clever mouse had managed to pinch the cheese without the trap going off.  I then checked the other trap...poor mouse :-(

For that whole day, I couldn't face opening the cupboard door.  I didn't want to look at the poor little mouse.  I waited until it was dark and placed the mouse, trap and all, in the bin (fortunately I had put the trap on a piece of paper so I didn't have to touch the trap itself).  I was convinced that that was the end of our mouse troubles.  Clearly I was wrong.  Again.

This afternoon I went to get something out of the laundry cupboard.  I noticed that there were some mouse droppings in the bottom of the cupboard so I set about cleaning the cupboard out.  As I neared the bottom, a mouse suddenly shot out.  After I had finished screaming, I ran and grabbed young Kitty and shut her in the laundry with the mouse, hoping that she'd sort the problem out.  She didn't. The mouse was doing too good a job of hiding, so I grabbed a broom and started poking the stuff in the bottom of the cupboard and sure enough, it ran off.  Unfortunately, the mouse ran one way (towards me - more screaming - I thought it was going to run up my leg), and Kitty ran the other.  I think Kitty got more of a fright than I did!

So aside from setting another trap tonight (which may or may not go off) and waiting for Kitty to grow up and develop a viscous streak, I have absolutely no idea about what to do.  If anyone out there knows of any other ways to rid your house of rodents, I would be very appreciative of suggestions.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Challenge: Read a Book Every Month

 I love to read, but I have found that since having children my reading has been largely limited to picture books (most of which I could recite by heart, I've read them so many times) and the odd "Famous Five".  I am also one for setting myself difficult challenges.  Now that all of my kids are finally good sleepers, I decided to make a New Year's resolution in which I will challenge myself to read at least one book every month.   I also extended the challenge to include only books that I have never read before.  At first I intended the challenge to mean I had to start and finish the book within the calendar month, but I ended up relaxing this so that I simply need to read 12 books in one year (although I do still aim to start and finish one within the month, as it makes it easier for me to keep track of where I'm up to).

I'm now six months into the challenge and I have managed to read 8 books so far...
  1. "Vile Bodies" by Evelyn Waugh - not his best, but amusing nevertheless
  2. "Time's Arrow" by Martin Amis - really clever and memorable book, as the story is written in reverse!
  3. "The Haunted Hotel" by Wilkie Collins - he was the original master of suspense...couldn't put it down!
  4. "Atonement" by Ian McEwan - such a beautiful, tragic story
  5. "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut - found it a bit hard to follow, but it was pretty good
  6. "Emma" by Jane Austen - would recommend this to anyone suffering from insomnia!  It's charming, though.
  7. "Carry On, Jeeves" by PG Wodehouse - very funny, everyone needs a Jeeves in their lives!
  8. "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury - struggled a bit with this.  Love the concept, though.
So I'm on target...and loving it!  I had forgotten how much I loved the feeling of reaching the end of one novel, placing it back on the bookshelf, and choosing another.  And not to mention, it's so much more rewarding than watching TV!  Mmmm...that gives me an idea for another challenge.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I'm feeling keen to try some new recipes this week, but have have also added some comfort food to this week's menu plan.

Monday: Pesto, Rocket & Bacon Pasta
Tuesday: Vegie, Ricotta & Cheddar Frittata
Wednesday: Sweet & Sour Pork & Apple Kebabs
Thursday: Coconut, Sweet Potato & Chickpea Curry
Friday: Tuna Mornay
Saturday: Tomato, Feta & Olive Pizza
Sunday:  Eggs on toast :-)

Check out Orgjunkie's Menu Plan Monday for more menu planning ideas (there's also a giveaway this week).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bug Party Invitations

My Miss Four will become Miss Five in a couple of weeks, and it is her turn to have a party this year (her big sister celebrates her birthday in the following month, so we alternate birthday parties in the interest of fairness...and laziness!).

Miss (almost) Five really wanted a Fairy party, but as most of her closest friends are boys, we decided against that theme (fortuitously, the mermaid invitation she received last week was for a party at the Fairy shop to be held the day before her birthday, so she'll get to do the fairy thing anyway).  I was a bit stuck for an alternative theme that would suit both genders.  However, when the birthday girl told me she wanted a butterfly cake, inspiration struck me - a Bug/Creepy Crawly party!  I've already managed to come up with a heap of ideas, and the theme really suits both the boys (spiders, snakes, worms, etc) and the girls (butterflies, ladybugs, etc.).  Unfortunately, her birthday is in the middle of winter, so we will most likely be confined indoors.  For this reason, we have decided to have it at home, and keep it managebly small (as she is turning five, she has chosen five friends to invite - their parents and siblings are also invited).

I searched the web (pardon the pun) for some bug themed invitation ideas and was inspired to make these Ladybug Invitations:

They were really simple (and fun) to make.  I used a saucer to cut circles out of red and black card stock for the body.  To make the head, I used a cup to cut a smaller semi-circle shape out of black card.

I then stuck the head onto the back of the black circle.  For the ladybug's wings, I simply cut the red circle in half and drew black dots on randomly with a black permanent marker.  The kids had a template that I used to make a nice neat circle (black dot stickers would have worked well too, if I had some). 

To attach the wings to the body, I punched a small hole through the slightly overlapped wings and the black circle and inserted a split pin through the hole.  This allows the wings to move up and out of the way so the party details can be read underneath.  I gave the ladybug some white sticker dot eyes and glued a strip of magnet to the back (I cut up an old calendar fridge magnet for this).  I also coloured in some cotton buds with black permanent marker, trimmed them to size and glued them to the back for antennae.

Finally, I used a silver pen to write the invitation wording:
Dear (Name),
Sorry to bug you,
But we're excited -
(Child's Name)'s turning five
And you're invited!
Bee ready to swarm on the (Family Name)'s hive ((address)) on (date).  The infestation will commence at (time).  To RSVP, buzz (Name) on (phone number) by (date).

Stay tuned for more bug-inspired party goodies over the next couple of weeks!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

My copy of the July 2010 Australian Good Taste magazine arrived in the mail the other day, so I thought I would try some new recipes from this issue.  I really like the recipes in AGT, I find them easy to follow, the ingredients aren't overly exotic and they are reliable.  Most of the recipes find their way onto the Taste website as well, which is a magnificent recipe resource.  They have good competitions in the mag too!

So here is my Menu Plan Monday for this week:

Monday: Cauliflower curry (from AGT July issue)
Tuesday: Shepherd's Pie
Wednesday: Rosemary and mushroom risotto
Thursday: Quiche Lorraine
Friday:  Zucchini soup
Saturday: Sausage, tomato & bean tray bake followed by Orange & almond self-saucing pudding (both from AGT July 2010)
Sunday: Tuna, haloumi and butter bean salad

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mermaid Party Invitation

Miss 4 received this party invitation yesterday, and I thought it was so beautiful I just had to share it with you...

She is so shiny and beautiful!  Such a simple, yet effective idea using cardboard, sequins, glitter, ribbon and glue.  The party details are handwritten on the back. There is also a magnet glued thoughtfully on the back so Miss Mermaid can take pride of place on our fridge door.

I think I will need to pinch this idea at some stage in the future!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lucky Me!

When I decided to buy nothing brand new last year, I was expecting to become a regular patron of the local op shops as my kids grew out of their clothes. I have been really lucky on a couple of occasions to find exactly what I was looking for (once I walked into an op shop specifically looking for a Bob the Builder raincoat for my 3yo son, and couldn't believe my eyes when there was an almost new size 4 Bob the Builder raincoat on the rack!), but more often than not, I would walk out empty handed (I'm not much of an impulse shopper, I tend to only go shopping for specific things I need).

However, my need to visit the op shops has been minimal, thanks to some very kind new friends. We moved to this town when my twins were one week old. As you can probably imagine, arriving in town with two newborns, a 19 month old toddler, and a 4 year old pre-schooler was not easy and our social life was virtually non-existent for the first year or two. So last year, when the twins turned two, I felt I was ready to join the local playgroup. I'm so glad I did, as it has been a wonderful opportunity for both myself and the kids to form some really lovely friendships. The other mums made me feel so welcome and I look forward to these friendships in the years to come.

Oops, I've gone off on a bit of a tangent there...now back to the point! I happened to mention to some of the mums at playgroup last year that I had committed to the buy nothing brand new challenge as my own personal protest against consumerism. Their level of interest in part motivated me to eventually start this blog. They were so supportive, in fact, that I have been on the receiving end of bags and bags of clothes and goodies - things that their own children had grown out of and no longer needed. They seemed to be so pleased to have someone to give these things to and were motivated to clean out their cupboards. And I, of course, was over the moon to be on the receiving end of it all. Most of the things were boys clothes, which was exactly what I really needed, but I've also been given bikes, a helmet, shoes, hats, school uniforms, pyjamas, and coats. And the bags of things keep coming, even though my buy nothing brand new thing is officially over.  Now all I need is to find someone that I can pass all my things onto when my kids outgrow them (fortunately we have a childcare centre around the corner who have been happy to take the toys and baby items we no longer need, so that's a good start)! 

Here is a pic of just a handful of items that have been given to me:

In addition to all of that, I am also very lucky to have discovered that another mum from my daughter's school, Christine, shares a similar interest in back to basics and sustainable living. I happened to have seen some beautiful soaps that Christine had made for another friend, and soon after I commented to Christine about how lovely they were, I was in possession of some of the delicious bars myself! Christine has written about her soap making (among other things) on her fabulous blog, Slow Living Essentials. Thank you, Christine, for your generosity :-)

Here is a pic of a couple of the bars she gave to me most recently:

Now this is what I think living in a community should be all about!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Wow, is it time for Menu Plan Monday already? Where did last week go? Here in Australia, we're enjoying a long weekend...for some strange reason we celebrate the Queen's birthday in June, despite her birthday actually being in April. Go figure. We are still super busy with work stuff at the moment, so we stayed home all weekend. It was pretty cold, so we lit the fire for the first time this year and the house has therefore been extra warm and cosy. As we weren't going anywhere, I took the opportunity to start toilet training my son. He has made huge progress over the last couple of days, so we are now so, so close to finally being a nappy-free household.

So here is what we'll be eating this week...

Monday: Cauliflower & Nutmeg Soup
Tuesday: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Wednesday: Baked Chicken with Sweet Potato and Chickpeas
Thursday: Silverbeet Pie
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Chicken & Shiitake Dumplings and Pork, Shiitake & Water Chestnut Dumplings
Sunday: Chickpea Curry

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Knitted Pencil Case

This is a little project I have been working on for my daughter, who has been asking me for a nice pencil case to take to school. I found the pattern in the book "Essential Knits for Kids" by Debbie Bliss.

Knitted in garter stitch, the pencil case is quick and easy to knit (no increasing or decreasing required). The pattern calls for five colours to be knitted in randomly alternating stripes, but you could really use any colour combination you like (I used six colours). Inserting the zip and lining is a little on the fiddly side, though. I handstitched the lining using a small blanket stitch (just because I like blanket stitch), but I'm sure a simple slip stitch would be just as good.

For an added decorative touch, I decided to try my hand at crocheting a flower. I have never learned to crochet, so I was being quite ambitious, really. However, thanks to modern technology, I managed to whip one up fairly easily that I think looks pretty good!

My inspiration for the flower came from here. I found some videos on YouTube to help me figure out how to 'sc', 'dc', etc. I only went as far as two colours for my flower, as I thought the three-coloured version would be too big for the pencil case. I'm pretty sure I made some mistakes, but overall I'm happy with the way it turned out and I am now keen to try my hand at more crocheting!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

What a week we have had! I have to admit that I am failing dismally in my quest to simplify my life at the moment. My husband is starting up his own business, so I have been very busy helping him get things sorted out. Hopefully things will settle down again soon!

It hasn't been all work in the last few days. On Saturday, we adopted this little lady from the local animal shelter...

She is 8 weeks old and is a real sweetie. I've had a cat just about my whole life but have never had a kitten (well, I got my first cat when I was around 5 so I don't remember him as a kitten). We weren't really interested in getting another cat, as it's only a few weeks since we lost our old, much loved cat. That was until I saw a mouse in the house! Hopefully Kitty with have a long life like my other cats - my first cat lived to 17 years and my second was 19 when we lost him.

So here is what we'll be having for dinner this week:

Monday: Slow Cooked Beef Bourguignon
Tuesday: Carrot & Ginger Soup
Wednesday: Tofu & Vegetable Stir fry
Thursday: Cauliflower Quiche
Friday: Fried Rice
Saturday: Chicken Tikka curry
Sunday: Red Lentil & Pumpkin Soup

Feel free to check out other menu plan ideas here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mikey & Molly Monkey

For Christmas last year, I made my (then) almost 3 year old boy/girl twins a set of monkey twins named Mikey and Molly...

The FREE pattern for Molly Monkey can be found here. The pattern includes a few accessories, like a beret and shoes, but I ran out of time to make these. I think she looks gorgeous enough without them anyway!

The pattern for Mikey Monkey is available for purchase here. Mikey has two shirt options - a T-shirt or a shirt and tie, which I think is just adorable. His pattern also includes some cool accessories - a baseball cap, tennis shoes and a pirate set. Again, I ran out of time to make these, but given how much my son adores his monkey, I might just surprise him with these one day!

Both patterns were designed by Larissa at mmmcrafts. I just love her work (I have also made her Tooth Fairy Pillow), and have found the patterns easy to follow.