Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Big Wet

The long awaited wet season has finally arrived and with a vengeance it seems.  After hardly any rain for 4 months we are now in the middle of a flood with creeks and rivers rising as I type and road closures all over Southern Queensland.  This has been caused by a slow moving low pressure system which is the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Oswald.

We are safe here, being sensible and staying indoors and off the roads as instructed by police and emergency services.  All unnecessary travel has been cancelled, airports closed, churches and some stores closed too.  Thankfully it's the weekend so most people can stay home and stay safe.

Above are some photos of our backyard.  The lawn is finally lovely and green and the vegetables and fruit trees have all had a really good drink but the poor ornamental grasses have really taken a bashing from the rain and gusting winds.

It's a long weekend too as most Australians celebrate Australia Day across our nation.  For me it means I have an extra day to try to get my washing dry as I don't have a clothes dryer.

Yesterday I took one of my prepare ahead baking mixes from the fridge and made these Muesli ANZAC biscuits.  It has been just the weather enjoy a nice coffee with some homemade snacks and my knitting.

Bureau of Meteorology Radar Image
Stay safe everyone in Queensland


Monday, 21 January 2013

Latest Knitting Projects

I wanted to show you some of the projects that I have been working on for Christmas and a friend's birthday but until now I was sworn to secrecy as the recipients might  would have read this and the surprise factor would be zero.

My youngest son wanted to buy his sister a grey beanie for Christmas and I offered to knit one instead. I already had everything I needed so it was just a matter of him picking a pattern and me doing some stash diving to find the best yarn.  He was thrilled with the result and so was his sister (sshhh she still doesn't know it was a handknit).  The pattern is Sugar Maple Hat which is a free Ravelry download for members.

I also made this pair of socks as a gift but with no-one particular in mind and so I still have them waiting for just the right person.   The pattern is the Yarn Harlot's  'A Good Plain Sock Recipe' published in her book 'Knitting Rules' and the yarn is a discontinued 'Opal - Silk' that I had in my yarn stash.  One of my resolutions this year is to knit from my stashed yarn exclusively and try not to add too much new yarn to it.  I have enough yarn that it is starting to take over our craftroom/office space

This lovely shawl was made for a very dear friend's birthday.  It is the 'Lazy Katy Shawl' pattern and is knit from a Schoppel Wolle Zauberball.  I am so pleased she loved it just as much as I loved making it for her.  I've even promised to wash and block it for her whenever she needs it done as she is not a knitter herself and the blocking on this was was a little tricky.

Knit on


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Prepare Ahead Baking Mixes

So the holidays are drawing to a close and pretty soon I will be saying how busy I am and how I don't have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do........

I've begun preparing for the busy times ahead by organising my pantry and making ready mixes. These are just like buying a packet cake, muffin, slice or biscuit mix but without all the preservatives and additives.  My homemade mixes are just as convenient and I know exactly whats in them and what my family are eating.  I can also eliminate any ingredients that are known allergins to my family.

I took some of our favourite recipes, mixed the dry ingredients together in a ziplock bag and wrote the remaining ingredients to be added, on the bag.  When I need to bake I can just take out a prepared ahead mix, add the rest of the ingredients and voila......almost healthy convenience snacks!

Cranberry and White Choc Biscuits

Dry Ingredients (mix together in ziplock bag)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cups self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
150g white chocolate chips
150g dried cranberries

Write on the bag - "Cream together 125g butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence & an egg".  "Mix together with dry ingredients.  Bake 180C 12 minutes."

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Make these as the recipe above but substitute the white chocolate chips for milk or dark chocolate and the cranberries for walnut pieces.

Honey Oat Bars

Dry Ingredients (mix together in ziplock bag)
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sultanas or raisins
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 raw sugar
1/2 cup dessicated coconut

Write on the bag - "Melt 1 tbsp honey & 155g butter together.  Add to dry ingredients. Press evenly over base of baking tin. 180C 15 - 20 mins.

Muesli Cookies

Dry Ingredients (mix together in ziplock bag)
1 cup muesli
1 cup coconut
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)

Write on bag - "Add 1 tbsp honey, 1 egg & 185g melted butter.  Drop teaspoons of mix on baking tray.  Bake 180C 10 - 15 mins.

Basic Muffin Mix

Dry Ingredients (mix together in ziplock bag)
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flavourings (if dry like, spices, nuts, dried fruit)

Write on Bag - "Add 1 egg, 1/4 cup oil & 1 cup milk.
Bake 180C approx 20 mins

I laid all my ingredients out on the kitchen bench, wrote on all my bags and then started to assemble the Prepare-ahead mixes.  I made each mix separately, measuring the ingredients into a bowl and mixing them thoroughly before adding to the zip-lock bag.

In about an hour I had 9 mixes all labelled and stored and the kitchen cleaned and tidied again.  This will give me 1 mix per week for 9 weeks which is almost to the end of the first school term here in Australia.

I made 2 of each mix above and 3 of the basic muffin mix to which I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the first one.  I will cut up a fresh apple and add with the wet ingredients when I bake that mix.  The second mix I added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup dried cranberries and for the third mix I added 1/2 cup coconut and 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots.

Happy baking

Friday, 18 January 2013

Organising Ideas Around The Home

I've recently been of a bit of an organising spree and the nerdy side of me loves to have things labeled and in order. "A place for everything and everything in it's place" is my motto.  I find life just flows easier if I can reach into the drawer and the scissors or sticky tape, pens etc are right where they should be. However as organised as I like to be it is not always the case around here, we can only do our best and sometimes life gets in the way of an organised tidy home.

My son is diabetic son and I know it is much safer if I can easily find his glucose meter, or emergency medications very quickly when needed and I'm not racing all over the house wondering which cupboard or drawer they have been shoved into this time!

I saw this great idea on Pinterest and knew it was just what I needed to organise our vitamins and medications
When children are small it is good for them to know that everything has a place where it is kept. Getting them to help pack up their toys into the toy box or basket at the end of the day reinforces that things go back where they belong. My husband and I both work at schools and we have found that many children are not taught that they should look after their belongings or return things to where they got them from.  This then becomes just another lesson that needs to be learned once school starts and lets face it, school is a big enough transition on it's own without having to learn basic life skills as well.

How to share with others, manners, looking after what you have and other basic life lessons are best taught at home, but if they are not then kids will learn them at school, as a classroom of 30 little people can not function otherwise. It makes it harder on the little people that haven't learned these lessons yet.

When I was a stay at home mum with 4 little kids I would get weighed down the feelings of guilt if my home wasn't clean and tidy and of course everyone with little kids knows right there, that's an impossibility to achieve 100% of the time.  I eventually learned that your home only needs to be as clean and tidy as you and your family and lifestyle expect or need it to be.

Do you need your home to look like a display home?  Do you need it to be ready for visitors at the drop of a hat or just clean enough that a quick tidy on short notice will suffice.  Maybe it doesn't matter to you if your house is organised chaos most of the time, visitors or not.  Actually I find I feel more at home and able to relax when visiting someone whose house is in less than pristine condition.

Too many coffee cups in the cupboard so my husband installed hooks to hang some of them and create more storage space.
Recognising what I expected of myself, and knowing that my husband really wasn't bothered by what state the house was in, set me free from the pressures that I was putting on myself to be some sort of super mum and housewife.
I decided that I needed my home to be clean enough that if someone dropped in unexpectedly I wasn't embarrassed, but homely enough that I wasn't driving the whole family crazy with nagging about mess. I had to find my happy medium.

Now there is only 3 of us at home and the house gets cleaned properly once a week and just quick cleaning and tidying for the rest of the week.  Most of the time this is enough to keep it looking nice.

December and January is our Summer holidays in Australia and therefore the time I have my break from work.  This is when I try to give my house a super clean in preparation for the school - work year ahead.  I clean walls, windows, airconditioner filters, ceiling fans, ovens, fridges and freezers, clean and tidy cupboards and declutter as much as possible.  Things that are broken and beyond use go into the rubbish, others useful items are given away on Freecycle and some things go to the local Thrift Shop.

This is possibly one of the best ideas I've seen on Pinterest.  My baking cupboard was always a mess with these trays and tins falling and slipping around.  
Going through this ritual each year sets me up to balance work and home life more easily.  I always feel better once I've decluttered because for me I find that an uncluttered home equals an uncluttered mind and I don't feel as stressed.
Now the cupboard is tidy and there seems like so much more space to store things.  I don't have to worry that a tray is going to fall out when I open the door.
For a bit of fun, this year I've been following along with The Organised Housewife's 20 Days to a clean and organised home challenge.  It's been fun because I don't have to think about what to clean or organise I just do what I'm told :D

Do you have a time of the year you do a deep clean on your home?


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Holiday in Western Australia

The first week of our holidays was spent visiting friends and family in Western Australia.  It has been over 7 years since I was there last and 9 years since my husband has been back.  That is way too long and it was lovely to see how places have changed and especially lovely seeing people that we haven't seen in a very long time.

R to L Impressive storm clouds,  kangaroo joey, WA Christmas trees
We had some impressive storms while there and this one was brooding and looming for quite awhile and made great photographic opportunities.  The joey in the next photo was rescued from his mothers pouch when she was hit by a car.  My sister is looking after her until she is of age to be independent and can be released.  The orange blossomed trees in the bottom photo are called 'Christmas Trees' and are native only to Western Australia.  They are thus named because they only flower at Christmas time and it was lovely to see them again after so long as they are a part of my childhood and bought back fond memories.

One day we caught the new train line from Safety Bay into Perth city and had a bit of a wander around the mall and arcades.  It was quite lovely and so quiet and non-congested compared to many other cities.
London Court, Hay Street Mall, Perth CBD
I was particularly pleased to see that London Court is still there.  I remember going to Perth with my Mum and grandmother when I was just a little girl and I loved London Court even then.
Mandurah Foreshore, Marina and Boardwalk
We also spent some time in Mandurah which is close to where my family is from.  It is a small but beautiful city and I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Western Australia.
Brunswick Junction - the heart of dairy country
Western Australia is well known for it's dairy industry and one of our driving tours took us through Brunswick Junction which has a comical display of dairy cows placed randomly throughout the town and local area.  I just loved them!

It was a lovely week and a great way to kick off our holiday break.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Rest Relaxing and Resolutions

Well here we are, another year over and a new one just beginning.

I have been on a long holiday break from work and I've also taken an extensive blogging break.  It has been lovely to spend time with family and friends, to relax and to get a few of those little jobs around the house done that we just never seem to get to during the work term.

Did you make any New Years Resolutions?  I'm not one for making them myself but then again I  have tried to put some goals into place for this year so you could call them resolutions I guess.  I love that saying that if you aim for nothing you will usually hit it.

I am starting a business where I can work from home but I can't quite leave my external job just yet so I have to be doing both for awhile.  However my goal is that I will be working from home by the middle of the year or at the very least by the end of 2013.  My rule is that I need to be consistently making the same wage from the home business as from my regular work before I can leave.

I know this is going to make me extremely busy once I have to go back to 'working for the man', so I'm putting a few procedures in place to make things as easy as possible.  I've done some organising of our home and new storage ideas and I'll blog about those another time.

I've also been preparing to go back to work by getting the house cleaned up, doing all those deep cleaning chores that will help with general cleaning and free up my time.  Windows, walls, cupboards, ovens, fridges etc have all been cleaned and at the same time I've been able to declutter.  Things we don't use anymore or that are broken, or food and medicines that are out-of-date have been given away, thrown away or otherwise disposed of.  I find that an uncluttered house for me equals an uncluttered mind.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to any new readers and members.  I love readers to participate in the blog via comments and ideas which can help us all along this path.  Who doesn't need to know how to make life that bit easier, more fun or more beautiful?

And of course for all the regular readers I hope the new year is treating you well so far and I'd love for you to join me again this year at Monarch Place.

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