Friday, December 29, 2006

Use it up Challenge - update 3

Well I was doing well with my use it up challenge. Christmas provided a great opportunity to use up some of the bits and pieces of melting chocolate that needed using up. I didn't buy any for baking this year. :-) Some of my other baking supplies were made use of too.

Our Easiyo sachets are now more "up to date". I had some that were in need of fast use but they're now gone and we're back in the "habit" of making yoghurt which is an added bonus.

I've just made 2 meals worth of chicken kebabs and used up a sample sachet of honey soy marinade. They work out to about half the price of store bought ones, although I didn't factor in the cost of the marinade as it was a "freebie". I'd like to try making some lamb kebabs and perhaps stretching the meat out by adding some vegies (if I can find some the kids will eat - they're not big fans of traditional kebab type vegies like capsicum, onion and cherry tomatoes). Will try some pieces of zucchini and perhaps some baby corn or something. We'll see.

Just checking my use it up list now and I really need to use up some bits of jam. Planning to make jam drop biscuits but it hasn't happened yet. Will have to wait for a cooler day. Or perhaps one day I could make up the foundation biscuit mix and freeze in logs. That way I can just bake a few at a time in the microwave (has a convection oven in it as well) as that heats up the house much less than the main oven. Don't you love how just writing things out can help you come up with solutions. :-)

Now for the challenge to the "use it up challenge". We seem to have accumulated all manner of food in the lead up to Christmas. I just can't seem to help myself - all those goodies on special. So for the month of January I'm going to play the "how low can you go" game and see how little I can spend on food. That way we should eat our way through some of what we have on hand and save ourselves a few dollars at the same time. I'll keep you posted on how I go.

How was your Christmas?

Ours was fantastic!!! Never before have I been so relaxed on Christmas Day. Nearly all the food was pre-prepared and took DH and I about 5 minutes to cut up some fresh salad and put everything on the table. It was awesome! And we had more than enough food without the "traditional" 6 meats and 10 or so salads.

I love caravan parks - the atmosphere is soooo friendly. I was surprised how many people were there. It wasn't full but there were quite a collection. The people next to us were making their way home slowly from WA to Sydney (they'd been in WA for 12 months and were returning "home"). Very lovely people. :-)

It was coldish for Christmas but the kids still went for a swim. I went for a power walk along the beach. Was supposed to be a run but nursing a sore knee at the moment.

It was different not being around extended family on the day but still quite nice. I enjoyed the freedom of not being surrounded by technological gadgets like TV's, phone's and computers. Not that I'd want to live without them but it's nice to take that break occasionally.

The kids were so well behaved (which made it easier to relax) and want to go back every year for Christmas. :-) Not sure we'll do that but we do plan to mix things around a bit and have some years with extended family and some years where it's just our immediate family.

Now we've got the travelling bug again after talking caravans with some people on the other side of us who have a caravan like we think we'll get (depending on finance naturally). They were very interested in hearing of our plans to take the kids out of school for a term in 2009 to do a trip up the Eastern Coast of Australia. I'm sure it'll come quickly enough (seems to be) but we're now looking forward to it even more. In the meantime we'll enjoy our times away in the camper trailer. Hopefully we'll get away at least once more this summer holidays. Then the plan is some regular weekends away during this year. Yah!

Hope everyone else had a great Christmas. :-)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Photo of Santa

Well it's taken me a while but we've finally downloaded our photo's onto the computer so here's a photo of our Santa in his fire truck.

I'm glad he was inside the fire truck as last night while we were out we had fierce winds and heavy rainfalls. We're glad for the rain but poor old Santa probably wouldn't have survived.
As I'm expecting this to be my last entry before Christmas I just wanted to wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! Hope you have a happy and safe one with your loved ones. :-)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Edible Playdough

My 5 year old has been wanting to make peppermint creams for quite a while now. I told her we could make some in the holidays before Christmas. So, today was the day. Naturally all 3 kids wanted to be in on the action so I set them up to make a batch each. That worked out great as the recipe suggests dividing it up to make 3 colours. This way they could make 1 colour each and I knew we'd have plenty for "taste tests" as well as some leftover for Christmas Day.

It was such a simple recipe that it was perfect for even the 3 year old's involvement (with a bit of help from mum of course). His favourite part was the rolling and he made all kinds of shapes. Just like playdough really. Only it's safer to eat the finished product. :-)

For anyone interested, here's the recipe:


1 egg white
300g icing sugar
few drops of peppermint essence
food colouring (we made white, green and pink)

Whisk egg white in a bowl until light and frothy

Sift icing sugar and add gradually to egg white

Add peppermint essence and food colouring (if desired) - at this point you can divide your mix into 3 parts to make different colours if you desire

Kneed into a smooth ball - and until food colouring is evenly mixed

Roll into smooth balls, place on a baking tray and flatten with a fork

We plan to half dip ours in melted chocolate when they're set

I'm sure the kids are going to love eating their own creations on Christmas Day. And what's better is that they're so cheap. I usually spend around $6 on buying after dinner mints to have for Christmas. We already had the peppermint essence and food colouring and free eggs from our chooks so all up these cost me less than $1.00 to make the 3 batches. A little more if you count the chocolate but dark chcolate is on my list of "use it up" items so as an added bonus I get some help using up ingredients I'd bought for past baking adventures.

Monday, December 11, 2006


My 3 year old likes to be like dad in as many ways as possible. So instead of calling me mum, he now calls me "honey". It sounds so cute I nearly want to cry when he says it (happy tears of course). It's especially cute when they're both leaving together (DS likes to go with dad to check the sheep) and he sticks his head back in the back door just before they go and says "see ya honey". LOL. Kids are great aren't they.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Simplifying Christmas

I'm one of those people who has always loved Christmas. I remember when I was about 7 or 8 saving up the lollies my grandma used to give me (we saw her every second weekend) and then dividing them up so that I could give my older cousins a Christmas present. They thought it was "cute". LOL. When I got into my teenage years and had a little bit of pocket money I'd always buy gifts for my family and friends. Nothing very big. I didn't have a lot of money. I just love giving people gifts.

This is one of those "good traits" that can turn into a "not so good" trait. I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to buying gifts, particularly for my children. We have had years where the kids haven't even "discovered" all of their new things until weeks after Christmas.

Gifts aren't the only part of Christmas I love. I love the Christmas music and decorating and cooking. My mum was never really into buying and giving gifts but one thing she was into at Christmas time was FOOD. To her you can't have Christmas without 6 or 7 different types of meat and about 15 salads. Add onto that about 4 choices of dessert and numerous nibbles and drinks and you have a feast fit for a king. :-) I think I've inherited her ability to "overcater". If we have Christmas here it's always a big affair taking heaps of time to prepare for and then days of "headache" trying to use it all up without too much wastage. In fact this year we were still using up snacky type stuff I had bought in October. Admittedly that was because some of it got "lost" in the back of the top shelf of the pantry cupboard.

In the past few years we've been trying to gradually simplify our lives. It's been a very slow and sometimes frustrating process. I think it's one of those "ongoing" things we'll always be striving for. Especially when it comes to "stuff". I've been doing better at not "overdoing" things on the present front when it comes to our kids but other than that I haven't really tried to "simplify Christmas".

So this is the year we're working on "simplifying Christmas". I started by not buying too much too early in the year. I already had some things in the cupboard but I made it somewhat of a "rule" that I wouldn't buy toys in the mid-year sale unless they were more heavily discounted that the usual 20% off. That wasn't an easy decision to make as we live a long way from department stores so we don't always have access to those kind of sales. My problem was that I'd buy too much too early and then the kids would ask for something else so I'd end up buying extra and in the end we'd have way too much stuff. Stocking fillers were even worse. I'd pick up things throughout the year and end up with enough to fill at least 2 stockings per child (and our stockings aren't small). They especially get left until late in the year and that's cut down dramatically on my overbuying. We've also tried to include a lot more "practical" and "consumable" type gifts to cut down on clutter but still have a number of packages for them to open come Christmas morning.

The next part of our simplification of Christmas has taken the form of cutting down on gifts bought for extended family. While this does cut down on costs, it wasn't the motivating factor in us making this change. I do enjoy buying gifts for people but being a perfectionist, I'd put a lot of time and stress into trying to find the "perfect" gift for each person. That gets harder as you all get older and really have more "stuff" than you need. I like the idea of homemade gifts and do do this a bit, especially for anyone we're going to be seeing Christmas Day. Most of our family members don't really appreciate "homemade" gifts if they've bought you something so we figured it was time to just make the break from the whole gift thing. We still buy for both sets of parents but there is no real "expectation" thing happening there which makes it easier. We also buy for my grandparents and also our nieces and nephews. I do love kids gifts because you can spend a small amount or a large amount and the kids still love it (at the age my nieces and nephews are anyway). I've gone for charity style gifts for the parents and grandparents this year with just a smaller thing for them to unwrap. Hopefully they like the idea.

Probably the biggest step we've made in simplifying Christmas this year though will be our plans for Christmas Day. Every year we go through the "which family will we be with this Christmas". There's 1000km between them so doing them both is mostly impossible (unless they both come to us which we've sometimes done). This year we're going camping and avoiding the whole "big family Christmas" thing. It'll be just the 5 of us (DH, me and the 3 kids). I'm really looking forward to it. Camping lends itself to a more simplistic style of Christmas food too. DH and I discussed it today and we're going to have 3 meats (corned beef, turkey roll and bought shaved ham) and 3 salads (potato, noodle and tossed). Preparation should be easy and because we have to pack it all up to take with us I won't be making huge amounts of anything. Christmas morning there should be very little for me to do other than the tossed salad.

I've even given the baking I usually do the flick this year and have just bought a small box of shortbread (I usually make shortbread which is a lot cheaper than buying it but fairly time consuming). The kids want to make peppermint creams but that's the only baking I plan to do this year unless the fancy takes me to do something else between now and then. The main thing is I'm not putting pressure on myself to achieve a "to do" list a mile long.

So, I've always been a big fan of Christmas but this year I feel like I'm looking forward to it even more than usual. :-)

Monday, December 4, 2006

Santa has arrived

Last Christmas was our first Christmas in our own home on our own farm. It happens to be along the major road between two towns so we decided to start a tradition of putting Santa in one of our front paddocks for those who drive past to see. I bought a Santa suit from Cheap as Chips for $8.95 and we made a papier mache head for him. Last year he sat on an old bulldog tractor.

Yesterday we resurrected him and put him in the front paddock, this time he is sitting in an old truck that used to be a fire unit (an on farm fire unit). He's even got a hose in his hand.

The kids got home from school today and were saying that all the kids on the school bus noticed him when they stopped today and were talking about how they remember him being on an old tractor last year and how this year he's putting out fires. LOL. We quite quite a lot of comments from the community last year so it'll be interesting to see if we get any this year. It's a lot of fun for not a lot of $$. :-)

We also put up the Christmas Tree and decorated the house and yard a little. I guess you could say "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...."

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

That's about all I feel I can manage at the moment. After starting the week feeling so positive, it hasn't been the easiest of weeks. I think in part because my body is trying to deal with the allergic reaction I seem to be suffering from. That and DS having croup the past few nights. There's nothing like interupted sleep to knock the stuffing out of you is there?

A friend in one of the yahoo groups I'm part of has been using the phrase "make it better" in her home. I guess it's a recognition that while we'd like to have things "perfect" in the home, it's not always possible. I've been adopting her philosophy a bit these past few days. Just because I don't have the energy to clear the table right now doesn't mean that I can't pick up a couple of things on my way past and at least "make it better" than it was. It never fails to surprise me how much difference a "bit here" and a "bit there" can make.

December always seems to be a crazy month. It doesn't matter how organised I try to be or how much I attempt to "simplify" my life, there's no getting around the fact that it's a busy time of year. So for now I figure the best thing to do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and do what I can to "make it better".

Saturday, December 2, 2006

My Baby is 3!

When you first have kids people try to tell you how quickly they grow up. It's hard to believe until you actually experience it though. Yesterday our youngest turned 3! He seems so grown up now! :-)

We managed to pull his birthday together for very little outlay this year which is helpful in our current situation.

For his presents he got:

* ride on tractor - DH managed to wheel and deal it as a "freebie" with a bigger purchase earlier in the year.
* fireman dress up set - bought from Cheap as Chips about 18 months ago and stashed in the cupboard
* fireman book - left over from my Learning Ladder sales kit
* 2 T-shirts - bought in September for his summer wardrobe
* packet of white freddo frogs - the only outlay of money I really made for this birthday

The cake was homemade and assisted me in my "use it up" challenge as I had some bits and pieces (lollies etc) from other decorating projects in the past 12 months. Also reused a Winnie the Pooh cake decoration that one of the other kids had.

I think he ended up having quite a good day.