I get enormous satisfaction from making my food and cooking stretch further than might initially be thought possible.  There’s nothing I like more, with our tight budget, than when I can pull together an extra meal for the four of us from bits and pieces I have left over.  Mr Good would probably look at what’s left in the pot and see nothing more than scraps for the dog or the meat left over from a roast as just a mid morning snack.  Instead I look at it and think I could add a bit of this or that and have a whole extra night’s dinner.  In a way it’s a fun challenge to see just how much I can get out of what’s in the fridge and pantry (this perhaps suggests I need a better hobby, but hey it’s working for me at the moment).  This kind of thing sure makes a difference to my grocery bill and also to how frequently I have to go to the shops (that in itself helps save money).  This is also why I love Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie cookbook which is built around this very premise.  For those on a tight budget it’s worth having a look at.

So I thought I would share some recent meals that have appeared out of not too much at all, but have been satisfying and healthy.

I made this slow cooker lamb chop casserole a little while ago, but I only had about 600g of lamb chops.  I upped the veggie content a bit instead of cutting back on everything to match what I had in meat.  This was fine when I served it first time around.  Everyone got a decent amount of meat and the sauce was so tasty.  But when I went to put the rest in the freezer I realised there was only ONE chop left in the dish.  So how do you stretch one lamb chop between four people?  Pull all the meat off the bone, shred it up, return it to the sauce and veggies and heat it up again.  Serve this over pasta and voila, a delicious, satisfying and healthy dinner.  Actually the kids preferred this to the first time they had it, but that’s because their pasta mad.  I was possibly a little too proud of myself after this effort, Mr Good started to think I had lost my mind a little…. perhaps he’s right.

As much as I have tried to reign in the food bills, I still prefer to buy meat that is high quality and ethical.  So I do this, recently ordering a bulk lot of free range chicken from Milawa Free Range Poulty, and then make sure I get the most out of it.  In this order I got two size 17 whole chickens.  I roasted one up on Saturday which we had with roasted potatoes, sweet potato and carrots as well as some peas and of course gravy.

1939847_718992454817857_4738301846606906392_n

I had 300g of meat left over which I stripped from the carcass.  If you have a look at the Save with Jamie book you’ll soon realise this is enough for two more dinners.  200g of that meat went into a pie.  I sauted a diced onion, carrots and celery in a little olive oil until soft.  Then I added a handful of button mushrooms halved and sliced and cooked these a little.  Lastly I added the left over peas and potatoes (which I diced up) and a couple of spoonfuls of the gravy that was also left over from the roast.  The gravy gives the sauce such a delicious flavour from the roast.  It did need a bit more sauce so I added a little home made chicken stock and some flour to thicken it a little.  Once the filling is cooked and the sauce thickened, pour it into a pie dish, top with a sheet of pastry (or make your own) and bake at 180 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until golden.

IMG_0268 IMG_0269

Instead of making this filling into a pie you could turn it into a chicken and vegetable lasagna or a simple casserole served with mash or dumplings, all suggested in Jamie’s book.  I’ll try one of those next time…. as long as I can resist the yummy pastry goodness of a pie.

While I was preparing the pie filling, I roasted the chicken bones and carcass and then added them to the slow cooker with some scraps of vegetables (onion and carrot peelings and ends, the ends of a zucchini, some celery tops etc), parsley, pepper corns and a little salt with lots of water.  Cook on low for at least 8 hours and you have a very tasty stock.  This is going to be turned into chicken alphabet soup after Easter as well.

So from one whole chicken we will have had three dinners for four.  Oh it makes me so happy.  Am I alone on this front?  Tell me how you stretch your food or work your magic to turn water into wine, so to speak.

Posted in cooking, Family | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Harvest Monday – 14 April, 2014

It was all about tomatoes this week as I started (or continued, to be more accurate) the garden clean up.  I pulled three of the tomato plants out, but there are still plenty more in the ground to come out in the coming weeks.

10176204_718981478152288_5394546054659022265_n

This is just over four kilos of green tomatoes, all of which are now spread out on trays on the spare bed to see if they ripen.  If not I’ll make pickles when I get back from my parents place after Easter.

You’ll all see two more little zucchinis which I picked when a cut back the plant.  The constant rain we had all of last week has made things pretty gross in the garden – lots of mould and fungus growing.  The zucchini had started showing signs of powdery mildew, I haven’t had any all season until now so that’s a positive.  I cut all the affected leaves off and binned them, dealt with the rotting, mushy zucchinis and picked these two.  I’m hoping to get a couple more in the next week and then that plant will come out too.

IMG_0265

I picked these beautiful cherry tomatoes this afternoon with the girls.  The yellow ones need a little more ripening, but I want to pick as much as I can until I need to pull that plants out altogether.

I still had lots of cherry tomatoes in the fridge, so I’ve experimented with roasting them and freezing them to use in a casserole or something later in the year.

My poor old dying Bay tree got a brutal pruning today to see if I can save the tree – I’m not hopefully but it’s worth a try.  I collected all the good leaves and will dry them to use as well.

The only other produce coming out of the garden is a few herbs, mint and parsley.  At least with all this rain both of them are thriving.

That’s it for me, for more go and check out Daphne’s.

Posted in Gardening, Monday Harvest | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In my kitchen – preserves

A couple of weeks ago I spent considerable time preserving some of the glut crops I had been picking from the garden including mountains of cucumbers, kilos of zucchinis and piles of cherry tomatoes.  I shared this and some photos on Facebook and at the time promised to blog some of the recipes and then promptly put that on the back burner when life got a little crazy.  So here goes, some recipe for preserving the crops of summer gluts.

First up is my Grandmother’s cucumber pickles.  I’ve included this recipe on the blog some time ago, link here, but it is such a tasty recipe that I make it every year.  If you have a yearly glut of cucumbers pin or bookmark this recipe, you won’t regret it.  I can especially recommend this to be added to your ham and cheese toasties on the cool Autumn days we’ve been having lately, yum!

IMG_0257

Next up was a new one to me and by the smell and look of it I think this will be another winner.  It’s a zucchini relish with red capsicum (I love the red specks through it).  This recipe was collected from my Aunt’s mother-in-law when she bought some to Christmas one year.

Zucchini Relish
1 kg zucchini, grated
2 tablespoons salt
1 onion, chopped
2 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
2 teaspoon turmeric
½ red pepper, grated
½ green pepper, grated
2 teaspoon cornflour

Sprinkle salt over zucchini, and barely cover with water.
Soak for 2 hours.
Drain water and place in a large saucepan.
Add onion, sugar, vinegar, spices and peppers.
Boil for ¾ – 1 hour.
Thicken with 2 teaspoons cornflour.
Bottle in sterilised jars and seal.

IMG_0254

Next up was a Cherry Tomato and Sweet Chilli Jam which came out of a book called Gifts from the Kitchen by Annie Rigg.  I copied it from my friend’s copy of the book, but it looks like a great book if you’re interested in home made gift giving.

Cherry Tomato and Sweet Chilli Jam

2 onions
750g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 gloves garlic, crushed
2 large mild red chillis, deseeded (if you can be bothered) and finely chopped
5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
250ml white wine vinegar
300g soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce (or soy sauce if making for vegetarians) (or missed altogether if like me you missed the final step before bottling)

Peel and finely chop the onions (in the food processor if you’re lazy like me) and place in a saucepan with the tomatoes, garlic and ginger.

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small, dry saucepan over a low heat for 1 minute or util aromatic.  Remove from the pan then grind in a mortar and pestle.  Add to the saucepan with the vinegar and sugar.

Cook over a low to medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the leat to a simmer and continue to cook until the mixture has reduced to a syrupy consistency, stirring from time to time.  Add the fish sauce (or soy sauce) and cook for a further couple of minutes before spooning into small sterilized jars.  Seal while hot and allow to cool completely before labeling and storing.

IMG_0256

The last one was a spiced plum sauce which I think is a Donna Hay recipe but was sent to me by the same friend that that gave me the cherry tomato recipe above.  I actually only made a third of this as I only had 500g of plums, it was very easy to reduce.

Spiced Plum Sauce

1 1/2 kg plums
2 red onions, roughly chopped
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups malt vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
pinch ground cloves

Place the plums, onion, sugar, vinegar, pepper, chilli, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a large saucepan over high heat.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until plum flash falls of the pip.  Strain through a fine sieve to remove pips.  Store in airtight jars in the fridge.  Makes 6 1/2 cups.

IMG_0262

It seemed like a lot of preserving to do in a week, mostly all in one day, but it’s stocked my preserves cupboard up nicely.  A batch of green tomato pickles in the next couple of weeks will finish it off nicely for this season I think.

IMG_0264

Now it’s sharing time, what’s your favourite recipe for preserving your garden gluts?

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

A Tomato Review

IMG_0134

This year I’ve grown a few new-to-me varieties of tomatoes and thought I should write a brief review of them and of growing tomatoes generally this year.

Firstly the varieties I grew included wild sweetie, lemon drop, black cherry, Amish paste and a couple of unknown varieties – one Roma like and the other a large cherry variety, both picked up at a charity shop without specific labels.  The growing conditions have been a challenge for tomatoes as for the rest of the plants in my veggie patch.  My first lot of seedlings got roasted in the greenhouse one unexpectedly hot day in October last year, the only surviving plant was one of the wild sweeties.  After I had planted all the seedlings and some seed which I sowed direct (in desperation) winter returned for pretty much all of December, a cold, wet month providing less than ideal growing conditions for the new plants.  And to top things off we had weeks of totally blistering intense heat in January and no substantial rain for months.  It was terrible for gardeners, watering became a mammoth daily task and being in the patch was unbearable some days.  Given all this, the successes I have had are so appreciated.

The jungle of tomato plants in their prime

The jungle of tomato plants in their prime

The wild sweetie, gifted by Skud and of which I grew two of, have been wildly successful.  They grow the tiniest bright red cherry tomatoes and I must have picked 100s, maybe 1000s of them.  They are superbly sweet, great snacks for the kids straight from the bush or in a little bowl and fabulous in a mixed tomato salad.  I think these are probably the best tasting tomato I’ve ever grown.  But there are two downsides to the wild sweetie.  Firstly it takes me forever to pick all those tiny little tomatoes, and I really mean that.  I must have stood bent over those two bushes for hours in total, and I have the back ache to prove it.  Secondly, they are very big sprawling plants that seemed impossible to stake and tie up effectively.  This meant they both took over my garden paths and grew way beyond the space I had allowed for them.  If I grow them again – which I hope to if my seed saving skills work out – I will put them in pots close to the back door.  I hope this will restrict the growth a little and make them even more accessible for the girls.

IMG_0200 IMG_0154

The lemon drop – another from Skud and a surprise yellow variety for me – grows the prettiest little yellow cherry tomatoes that have a little point at the end like a rain drop (hence the name I guess).  They look stunning in salads.  The taste is less intense than some other varieties and certainly less sweet than the wild sweetie, but it’s a fantastic salad tomato with a nice simple lemon and olive oil or balsamic dressing.  The plant is much more compact than the wild sweetie and if staked appropriately – which mine wasn’t – would make a good sized cherry tomato for a smallish garden.  My one criticism would be that it’s not a huge producer.  I only ever get a handful of ripe tomatoes at one time, but it’s still got lots of fruit in various stages of ripeness as we speak.

IMG_0148

The Black Cherry – I had to hunt for the variety because I had lost the label but I’m very confident this is it – makes the third variety of cherry in my mixed tomato salads and is a dark maroon/greeny colour.  The flavour is very satisfying and the colour is fabulous.  The plant initially grew very tall and was one that I used a tomato cage to contain instead of staking it.  This worked very well at first, but the plant has become so heavily ladened with fruit that it has just about toppled the cage over.  It is currently has branches drooping to the ground, some lying flat along the ground.  Needless to say this has been (weight-wise) the best producers with harvests of well over a kilo every week.

IMG_0208 IMG_0196 IMG_0151

Armish Paste – two words…. VERY DISAPPOINTING!  I have grown this in the past with some success, enough to make plenty of tomato sauce and passatta.  This year I am still yet to pick a single ripe tomato.  Granted it was planted a little later than some of the other (I have two growing) and one of them is in a slightly shadier position, but this is still a terrible result.  One plant (in the sunnier position) has never grown well, the fruit are all very small by comparison to the other, it has suffered blossom end rot when no others have been effected and it looks awful.  The other plant is big, beautifully green and covered with large (completely green) fruit.  So much potential in that plant for so little result.  It’s coming out this weekend and I’ll turn the fruit into green tomato pickles.

The other random roma-like plant has a good crop of fruit on it which has been ripening and harvested for several weeks but only in small numbers.  Some of the fruit have been quite small – I think due to the hot, dry summer we had – but they are lovely cut up in salads or cooked.  This plant grew quite tall, but was very compact.  It looks very much worse for wear now, but is still producing well.

IMG_0199

Final random cherry variety – this plant again is in a slightly shadier position and the fruit has been very slow to ripen.  When they do they are beautiful, big round balls of glorious redness.  I love them – I wish I had picked more, many more!  I would like to see what this plant does when grown in full all-day sun.  I’ll certainly try and save some seeds from this one as well and give it another go next year.

That’s my tomato wrap up.  And as I contemplate varieties, positions and planting timing for next year I realise that the VAST majority of all my current seeds (not just the tomatoes) are well past their used by date.  Time to restock….. so what tomato varieties have done best by you?  And where do you get you seeds from?

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Wednesday Reads – The one hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

It’s been a while since I wrote a Wednesday Reads post and it’s not because I haven’t been reading.  I just did think you wanted read a review on “Conceptualising the Good Teacher” or “What makes a good school?”  So instead I waited until I finished something a little more interesting and that came in the form of a book with a very long title.

13486632

I have a thing for books with long titles, I don’t know why or where it started, but if I’m hunting for a good book a long title will always spark my interest.  Over the years I’ve read some great books this way.  Books like The curious incident of the dog in the night time, The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society and A short history of tractors in Ukraine.  Actually now that I think about it I do know where it all began with me and long-titled books.  My favourite-read-it-a-thousand-times-until-I-knew-by-heart childhood book, Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Anyway my latest in this trend is a Swedish gem called The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  It was just what the doctored ordered to fill the reading gaps between the somewhat dull professionally intriguing journal articles I’ve studying for my uni course.  It’s funny, hilarious at times, it’s light and quirky in that special Scandinavian kind of way.

While I was reading this someone asked me what it was about, I answered “It’s about a one hundred year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared.”  Perhaps that’s how Jonasson came up with the title, being asked what his book was about.  This particular hundred year old man, Allan Karlsson, goes on quite an adventure after climbing out the window of his Old Folks home (on his birthday no less), joining up with a petty thief, a hotdog stand owner and a red headed woman with a a pet elephant and Alsatian.  In telling this story we also travel back through Allen’s hundreds years on Earth and are given quite the history lesson to boot as he befriends US presidents, Russian tyrants and Chinese communist leaders.

If you look at the reviews for this work it seems you either love it or hate it.  I loved it.  True the story line does become a little predictable, but in a sort of purposeful way.  You can see the next big historic event or figure Allen is going to become entwined with only because he’s there in all of the big ones – kind of like Forrest Gump was but without the cheesiness of that one.  What is less predictable is how Allen, as a centenarian, is going to wriggle out of his current spot of bother.  In the end everything is wrapped up nicely, but perhaps a little too nicely for me.  A small criticism, but one nonetheless.

For those who didn’t like it I think it was the absurdity of the story that disappointed them.  I liked that, the more absurd the better.  I was playing a game with myself in my head as I was reading, trying to guess how Allen was going to end up meeting this political leader or involve himself in that historic event.  I was never quite right – my level of the absurd clearly needs work.  This book is just downright fun to read, one I would recommend to anyone looking for a break from the humdrum of life.

And that’s it for this post.  There will be more, I have a pile of really interesting books waiting for my attention, but I can’t promise when the next one will be.  In the meantime, tell me what you’re reading.  I’d love to hear all about it.

Posted in Books | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Harvest Monday – 7 April, 2014

A short and sweet harvest Monday today as it’s been a busy start to the Kinder holidays and I have sour dough still waiting to be kneaded.  This week the garden provided us with….

More and more cherry tomatoes.  Many have been given away this week, it’s getting too much for me to deal with.  The majority of what’s left will be turned into another batch of tomato and chili chutney a some stage this week.

IMG_0208 IMG_0209

The final two cucumbers, picked as I was pulling out the plant.

A few handfuls of strawberries eaten as we played in the garden and without contemplating photos – isn’t that the best kind of harvest to share with kids!

A few herbs.

The variety has dropped considerably and I feel a rather long hungry gap coming up.  Oh well, we can only do what we can do, right?

Sorry for the lack on photos other than the tomatoes, just one of those weeks, busy but in the good way.  For more head over here.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Garden Share Collective – April Update

Once again the new month has ticked over and I find myself offering up my monthly garden update.  Sadly the garden, and my newly planted seeds/seedlings have been fairly neglected with other parts of my life taking over far too much this month.  And of course this is being hosted by Lizzie at Strayed from the Table, where you will find other glorious garden delights.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix

This last month finally saw me get to planting some seeds for the winter garden in seed trays.  Unfortunately I had a terrible success rate, two trays had not one seed come through at all, and I neglected the ones that did come through so by the time I planted them in the garden they were very leggy and droopy.  I don’t hold much hope for them, but I have planted them out anyway.  These seedlings included: Red Russian Kale, Rocket, Chinese Cabbage, Red Cabbage, (one) Cauliflower, and Green Sprouting Broccoli.  I’m wondering if I would have more success planting seeds straight in the ground as I did with my tomatoes and eggplants in Summer.  What do you think?

Of course in order to plant out my seedlings I had to clear out one of the garden beds I still had summer crops in.  So out came the rocket, lettuce and pak choy all gone to seed (I collected some seeds and hopefully some will self seed too), the corn stalks and the cucumber (picking the last two cucumbers in the process).  I left in the silverbeet, still going strong, some cosmos and a few white radishes.  This is also the bed that house the potatoes I dug up earlier in the month (the harvest was a bit disappointing, mostly very small spuds, but they are delicious!).  I will plant broad beans in this spot soon as well as in the section along the fence.

IMG_0201 IMG_0202

The rest of the garden looks like the Amazon jungle with sprawling tomatoes and an ever expanding zucchini plant.  I will tackle some of these soon as many of the tomatoes have died back considerably and have just about finished fruiting, others are still going strong.  I have one plant absolutely covered in fruit, all still very green.  I have a feeling I’ll be picking them green and turning them into green tomato pickles.  My cherry tomatoes have done extremely well this year, but the larger varieties have been pretty disappointing.  The zucchini still looks like it has a lot of life left in it.

IMG_0205 IMG_0203 IMG_0204

My plan for these beds include: a combination of beetroots, turnips (and other root veg if I have seeds) and  more winter greens, snow peas and purple sprouting broccoli in another section and the some more cauliflowers and broccoli in the final section.  Given my terrible history with seeds I’ll do a combination of seeds in trays, seeds in the ground and if all looks lost I’ll buy seedlings.

My harvests over the last months have included the potatoes, pumpkins (six in total), lots and lots of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, corn, a few strawberries, herbs and some greens.

IMG_0198 IMG_0200 IMG_0199 IMG_0196 IMG_0194 IMG_0149 1901506_705183429532093_747611832_n IMG_0141 IMG_0154 IMG_0152

On the to-do list is to finish off the garden paths (an ongoing job it seems), a big clean up of the rest of the garden beds, more and more planting – including some flowers out the front – and sorting out my pots.  I have one big half wine barrel waiting for something to go in it.  I thought I might re-pot my lemon tree into this one as it is a bigger pot.  (Speaking of the lemon tree, it is looking much better so thanks for all the advice.  It’s covered in flowers, but still is a little sparse on leaves.)  Sadly, my potted bay tree which I’ve had for years curled up and died overnight.  I tried topping up the potting mix and giving is some slow release fertilizer and worm wee, but nothing has helped.  I’m not sure what happened there, but I guess I’ll have to find another plant for that pot now.  My blueberry is also looking rather sad in its pot so I think it might be time to plant it out in the garden.

IMG_0206 IMG_0207

That’s it for my update, be sure to follow the link at the top and see more.

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Harvest Monday – 31 March, 2014

I’ve been a bit neglectful of my garden this week and my new seedlings have really suffered… looks like my winter planting is going to be a bit sparse.  But I have managed to pick a few things including…..

Six French Squash Pumpkins

IMG_0194

More and more cherry tomatoes, plus a few bigger ones

IMG_0196 IMG_0199 IMG_0200

A couple of cucumbers (I thought these were the last on the plant but noticed two more this morning)

IMG_0198

1 zucchini – still a few more coming on

IMG_0195

Parsley, mint

I really need to start thinking about getting the garden ready for the next season, but I’m not sure when that is going to happen.  My first uni assignment is but on Monday next week so perhaps after that.  I hope your garden is still going strong or is coming into a productive period.  To check out others head over to Daphne’s.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Winter Proofing the Good House

We possibly chose the stupidest time of year to move to one of the coldest places in the state last year…. mid July.  We very, very quickly discovered that what we thought was cold in Melbourne was quite mild by comparison.  We also very quickly found that our house, as cute as it is, is a b**ch to heat.  It cost us a fortune – a reality we’ll have to get used to I fear – and we were still freezing.  The heat escaped through our drafting windows with their cheap haphazard coverings and through the gaps in our floorboards and what heat there was tended to stay at the 12+ft ceiling and never ventured down to where we humans were existing.  It was less than desirable and we have been on a winter proofing and energy saving quest ever since.

Over the summer we have been slashing our spending budget to within an inch of its life and have gone without lots of things.  I’ve started shopping regularly at Aldi something that I’ve never done before but that I have found a good experience so far.  I can find loads of Australian made products, some free range small goods, the quality is usually pretty good and the shopping trip is quicker (less brands means my choice is made faster).  The only product reject we’ve found so far is the cat food – our cat won’t touch it. (Please feel free to pass on your best and worst of Aldis if you shop there.)  I still make trips to my local independent supermarket for a few things I can’t get and shop at the green grocer and butcher, but overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised and so has the budget.  This along with far fewer treats, dinners out and the like has seen us save a considerable amount to put towards some winter proofing solutions.

First up is dealing with the ineffective heating system – the expensive bit!  I thought we’d be better off going for a couple of space heaters and extra blankets on the beds in the then unheated bedrooms and not using our central heating.  But after a trip to our local heating specialist – also where we got our hot water system last year and where service is exceptional – it has been suggested that upgrading our current ducted system might be the way to go.  If we can put in a better and more effecient unit, add a zoning capacity and move the return air vent (all of which we should be able to do for less than two space heaters which we would need otherwise) we should be able to get it working in our favour and pushing that warm air down to human level.  However, to be sure this is a) possible and b) cost and energy efficient they are coming out this week to have a look and do a full quote.  Whatever the solution turns out to be it should be in place before winter (which felt like it actually started today!).  I’m excited about that.

The second winter proofing solution is floor coverings.  I love the floor boards we have, they’re light, full of character (read slightly scruffy) and easy to clean.  But they’re also cold, fulls of gaps and noisy.  So we have found a local place that will do a good deal for two big rugs for our two living areas and a hall runner.  These are not cheap, but are good quality, thick and hopefully warm.

The third task is searching for more heat-saving window coverings.  Our current collection of window furnishings include wooden Venetians – there’s nothing heat-saving about them! – ill fitting and poorly installed, cheap Roman blinds which don’t even cover the gaps between the doors and windows.  Again this does nothing to keep the heat in and cold out.  The rest of the curtains are a motley collection of cheap tab top ready made curtains and proper curtains that are falling apart and on runners that need fixing.  Clearly the whole lot need to be replaced…. that’s not going to happen this year.  But depending on how much we have left in the budget, the worst of the lot – venetians and romans – will be ditched to be replaced with good quality lined and professionally made and installed curtains.  I’ll work on the rest over the next year or so.

So what are your best winter-proofing solutions.  And what is it that you’re squirreling away a few extra dollars to put towards?  I really can’t wait for the day when our budget is not quite so tight, but for now we’ve made the decision to live meagerly so we can have better family life balance.  Even so a bit more financial wriggle room will be nice eventually.

Posted in Lifestyle, Renovation and decorating, Tree Change, WInter | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

The neglectful blogger….

For the last six months, since we made the life-changing move from the city to the country (well, regional city at least), I’ve blogged a lot – a lot for me, more than I have in the entire three years I’ve been doing it.  Actually I’m not sure where that three years has gone some days.  The last two weeks I’ve blogged twice, both with a brief list of what the garden has been providing, nothing particularly interesting or time consuming.  It’s not that I have writer’s block or nothing I want to blog about, it’s just that I’ve had lots of other cool things going on.  It’s been nice to do those things and put this on hold, I think I’ll blog less from now on (narff77 that will make you happy, good luck getting through the rest of you RSS feed).  I’ll still bore you with my harvest and monthly garden updates, I’ll still write about great books but as my reading has slowed that will no longer be weekly, and I’ll still write random posts when I feel inspired or cranky (like this one), other than that, I’ll do cool stuff in my rest of my time.

That cool stuff lately has included……

1. Starting a Masters in Educational Studies and feeling inspired and a bit frustrated (at the system) and like I’d like to see change happen on many fronts in education.  Reading the academic papers, researched based with real evidence and not filled with buzz-word vagueness that you get from departmental program materials has been wonderful.  Teachers should be given time to do this instead of the crap those at the top of the education system deem worthy of our precious time which are generally meaningless, lacking in evidence-based effectiveness and tossed aside whenever the next fad or change of government comes along.  The waste of time, energy, resources and professional capacity is staggering!!  See… that’s passion right there, I wonder if I can do something worthwhile with that?  Anyway, I love studying and I excited but also apprehensive about this new, challenging course.

2.  I’ve rediscovered my childhood through my kids…. well a bit of it anyway.  I’ve been waiting nearly five years for this to start.  Introducing my kids to the stories, books, games, shows and so on that I loved.  As I don’t remember much of anything before age five, I really needed to wait til my children got to that point before the nostalgia really kicked in.  This week Miss Four (who is five next month, gulp) and I listened to Enid Blyton’s The Folk of the Faraway Tree on audio book.  Instead of the tv coming on after kinder, we would get snacks and a blanket and curl up on the couch together for half an hour to listen to the next installment of the story.  I had wanted to start with the first book – The Enchanted Woods – or the Second – The Magic of the Faraway Tree – but it was the third book that was available so we went with it.  Miss Four was still engrossed and has been talking about the characters ever since – she particularly likes Whatshisname.  Now I will have to find copies of all the books and the Wishing Chair books as well.  She has been ready for longer chapter books for a while, but I haven’t gone there because it’s hard to read just to one child and Miss Two doesn’t have the concentration to last through a chapter of anything.  Soon enough I’ll be pulling out my much loved Roald Dahl books and I can’t wait.  We’ve also been watching some classic cartoons on youtube.  Things like Superted, Mickey Mouse (and Minnie of course, a favourite of the girls’), Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Smurfs (hard to find episodes on Youtube) etc.  Still on the list is Danger Mouse, Roger Ramjet, Inspector Gadget, Cities of Gold, Bananaman, Garfield…. okay a few.  But then again I did grow up in the Saturday morning cartoon era.  It was Six’s Super Saturday Show with host Glen Ridge for me having grown up in Western Victoria with only two stations, 6 and ABC.

3.  I discovered a new blog all about buying nothing new for a year (2013) and decluttering and that sort of thing.  It’s great, highly readable and quite motivating.  It also helps that I have a few things in common with Mama Fearce – both teachers, both with small child(ren), both looking for ways to escape consumerism and buy more conscientiously or ethically etc.  The motivating part of this has so far seen me nude up my email inbox a surprisingly cathartic process – though I did delete an important email from uni.  I put blocks of loads of crap that was filling my inbox, deleted literally 1000s of old emails and created two folders, one for archive emails – those I need to keep for whatever reason – and one for this to-read or to-do which will then get deleted or archived depending.  The trick to it seems to be regularly clearing it out so it doesn’t ever get overwhelming and setting aside a little ‘me time’ to read the emails I’ve filed.

The second big move is on the decluttering front.  I’m by no means a hoarder, I never have been, but I’ve still accumulated too much stuff.  I’ve had piles I want to get rid of in the spare room for months gathering dust and things that I’ve held onto for whatever reason that need to be reconsidered.  So I’ve listed a bunch of things of freecycle (I hope they go, but if not most are op-shop worthy and a few will get tossed) and I’ve listed all my maternity clothes on ebay.  I’ve pretty much decided against more children and if that changes I’ll purchase second hand maternity clothes when I need them.  I only had one small space bag full after two pregnancies – which I thought was pretty good in the first place – but it still worked out to be about over 20 items which I listed in group lots to sell.  I’ve put the minimum amount on them plus postage so theywill sell, but it would be a bonus to get something decent to put towards the winter-proofing-the-house fund (more on the later).  This move also got Mr Good considering his hoarding ways (way worse than mine) and has listed ten (of the probably 10,000!) Star Wars collector cards he has carted from house to house since university days.  This is a stunning and surprising turn of events, hopefully he has success selling them and will continue on with the rest of the boxed up, dust gathering collection.  The decluttering will continue with baby clothes, toys, my clothes etc.

The next bit of motivation came in a post about leveling up or life hacking.  Not something I had heard of before and definitely something I will be investigating further, but the premise is to find ways of simplifying your life or changing something you do so you add to life without adding to responsibilities or burdens.  Her examples were listening to audio books in the car on the way to work to use that wasted time more productively and enjoyably – something I wish I had thought of last year, now I drive so rarely and for such short distances it would take me six months to get through something. She also started to do the dishes nightly with the husband so they could reconnect AND have a clean kitchen to wake up to.  I mentioned this to Mr Good and he thought ‘Yeah we should do that’.  I was mighty excited – clean kitchen has been part of my duties since I stopped working and I was great until about Christmas, then it started getting on top of me.  I think doing it together will be good for getting the work done with less effort on my part and less time in total and also for Mr Good and I to actually have a conversation.  There’s lot of other cool info and links on the site (most of the links I haven’t followed yet, you can only do so much) so do go and check it out.

4. Visitors, I’ve had lots, I love visitors.  Lots of cups of tea, chats about kids/kinder/my old school workplace – not regretting moving on from there right now.  My mum bought a tin of chocolate chip biscuits, yum!  I babysat two of my friends kids one evening so she could enjoy a function (which she was MCing) without bouncing a baby on her hip.  Neither of us have family in town, so for now we will be that for each other!  Love that connection.  We also squeezed in a local foodie night – yummy local produce platter and great music, though a freezing night – followed by a hot chocolate and (second) dessert at a restaurant I’ve been eyeing off.

5.  A crafty night with a fellow blogger who moved to ‘The Rat’ recently and some of her friends.  It gave me time to pick up my much neglected crochet and it was fun!  I was late due to the whole scrubbing kids clean after feeding them a nutritious meal part of my life, but that is neither here nor there.  There was great 90s music playing and interesting conversation (much of which I followed vaguely, drop spindles? tv shows based on Sherlock Holmes? tumblr?)  I was a little lost in the detail at times, but hey I’m usually the last one to discover such things…. or miss them altogether.  At those times I just smile and nod, smile and nod…. and hook a bit more.

Well that’s some of my cool non-blogging stuff, what’s happening in your ‘real life’?  New blog discovery?  Random bit of inspiration, motivation…. procrastination (it’s a fine line!  I’m looking at you Pinterest!)

Posted in Blogs, craft, Ethical shopping, Family, General, Lifestyle, Tree Change | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments