discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Monday, 27 January 2014

Week 5 of the money challenge

Today marks Week 5 of the money challenge, so go and stick in your 5 bucks in your money box and while you are at it, add any extra you can afford and mark it off the weeks in November/December that will be $40-$50 a week which might be a stretch for some of you.  If you would like to start it's not too late, better late than never!!  It's only $15 we have saved so far, so whack the whole lot in and come along for the ride....we will have over $1300 come Christmas, all the incentive I need.

This week also marks the return to school week for the vast majority of school kiddies....I don't know about you but I'm ready! I've been working on lots of posts but honestly haven't the time with the little person needing my attention.  It really has been a lovely long holiday, lots of cooking together, arts & crafts, trips to cousins, the beach, the gardens and resting.

Looking forward to seeing more of you from next week!

Ciao, Jan

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

this simple life - Part 5 lunchbox dazzlers

How many of you are dreading school going back next week? Or is this your first school year? If so, good luck!! Or it could be going to work and wanting to take your own lunch and snacks.  I know I've loved these long school holidays of lazy mornings and no rushing or thinking about being organised for school lunches.  Party is over, lets get on it.  This is the perfect week to start your stockpile in the freezer for real savings with school lunchbox dazzlers, or work lunches.

When I was working I would eat out for lunch one or two of the days when I worked full time, then when I went part time I ate out more as I saw it as a treat.  It was easily $20 a day, more if I brought a bottle of water, a few coffee's and then went to buy lunch.  Some people I know buy their lunch everyday, opting to spend over $100 a week just on lunch, coffee & water/fizzy crap.  That's where being organised and more mindful can really help with your budget.   $100 a week translates to $5,200 a year.  A quick google search of an accelerated mortgage payoff calculator showed that on a loan of $300,000 over 30 years, this $5,200 could save you $131,985 in interest and have you debt free 10 years and 8 months earlier.  That's quite sobering isn't it, still need your pad thai and double shot latte?

So now I have your attention, lets get down to it. 

School lunches are a no brainer as most primary schools, kinders and some daycare centres don't have canteens/tuck shops so you need to pack their snacks and lunches for them.  High school is different and when you work it's easy to just duck down the street and grab something quick.  I guarantee you that if you just allow a bit of thought on the weekend as to what's coming up, and turning the oven on to do the work for you, you will save real money.
Firstly lets tackle school lunches.  Small labelled containers and some old cutlery are you're friend when it comes to packing any lunches and snacks so go and stock up at the reject shop and get labelling.  When I'm packing my daughters lunch I always have a wrap/sandwich/roll, 2 pieces of fruit (or 1 fresh fruit and one container of tinned fruit), cheese and bikkies, dip and a muffin or biscuit.  The fruit is dictated by what's in season as it's always cheapest.  I looked at the pre-packaged bikkies & cheese slices at Aldi yesterday, 1 box of 6 packets of 3 dry biscuits and 3 slices of cheese for $5, I could buy 500g of cheese for $5.99 and a box of dry biscuits for $1.50 and make a few weeks worth.  It's these little things that will make the difference.

Here's a list of lunchbox ideas we use that are all homemade.

  • wraps/sandwich/roll with your favourite filling.  We do ham/chicken/tuna with grated cheese, mayonnaise/avocado/hummus, curried egg.
  • fruit, fresh, tinned or dried
  • rice crackers with cheese or cream cheese
  • sweet and savoury muffins
  • biscuits and slices
  • muesli bars 
  • hard boiled egg
  • left overs from dinner like chicken drumstick, meatballs with dip & flatbread, fried rice, noodles, pasta, homemade chicken nuggets
  • pasta or rice salad using left over roast chicken, bacon, peas, and fried egg
  • mini frittata
  • apple pancakes 
  • yoghurt
You get the drift.  Also have a look at the label lunchbox dazzlers and you can also read this article here on nude food and the impact on your kids lunchbox packaging and some other filling ideas.

You need to rethink muffins, frittatas and main meals.  They are a great way to use up some cheap fruit or vegies or whatevers in your cupboard or freezer without forking out for expensive pre-packaged muffins or muesli bars.  I brought a 6 pkt of apples from aldi for a few $'s this week which will all become cooked treats.  I think this batch of a dozen cost less than $3 and will last over 2 weeks allowing one each weekday, pretty good I'd say, oh and one or two as tasters just out of the oven.  Freeze them to add to the lunchbox and they will be defrosted in time for morning tea, your kids will love you for them.
I personally go for a thermal lunchbox and a freezer brick/ice pack to keep the inner goodies cold.  Frozen muffins, cakes and yoghurt can also be pulled out in the morning and popped in to help the thermal crunch.  

The trick to turning these kiddy lunches into adult ones, is become a double batch queen or king.  Taking last nights dinner for your lunch will make you the envy of every lunch room as who doesn't want to chow down on something scrummy like spag bol over a vegemite and cheese sanga?
Also, make friends with salads and your nuts and seeds store.  Wash all your veg on Sunday and have it prepped, cut and ready to go for the next few days to throw together lunch in seconds.  Buy some tinned salmon and tuna to take to protein up at lunch.  Lettuce mixed with walnuts, some feta and a tomato with a side of last nights frittata will be a gorgeous lunch anyone would be pleased to have and at a fraction of the takeaway price.  Making stirfry, then make extra.  Have a look at the links to my labels down the right hand side of the blog for categories by ingredient for more simple, easy and quick ideas.  It's not rocket science, it's just some thought and thriftyness that will help save you those rainy day pennies.  

I hope some of these things help lessen your load for the coming school year and leave you less frazzled and more calm and organised, and save you a penny or a thousand :)

Ciao, Jan.

Monday, 20 January 2014

My super food immune boosting smoothie and week 4 of the 52 week money challenge

Every morning for awhile now I've been slurping on a smoothie for my breakfast.  I love walking out to the garden and picking the ingredients for this, and the herbs and spinach benefit from the daily picking as it encourages more growth. I've been unwell of late so have been drinking this to gain the  myriad of health benefits that are packed in it instead of taking an expensive handful of vitamins I feel I must be lacking.  It may not look pretty, as it is blended in it's pure form but it packs a mean punch which I actually really like and it keeps my tummy sated from breakfast until lunch. 

So whats in my super food smoothie?  A very generous handful of spinach, a small banana, a small handful of blueberries, a few stawberries that may be ready, a handful of both mint and parsley, 1 tspn of chia seeds, 1 tspn of flaxseeds, and filtered water.  Occasionally I will add a dollop of yoghurt also.  Pop it all into a blender and go your hardest.  If it's too thick just keep adding more water until you get it to a drinkable consistency.
Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients, namely protein, vitamin A, K, C, B, iron, folate, magnesium, manganese, fiber and antioxidants.
You do need to use it up quickly as little as 8 days after harvest it loses a lot of these super food qualities.  For this reason, grab yourself a big pot and grow some perennial spinach, it will save you $'s and be ready for you to keep picking for weeks and weeks each morning as fresh as a daisy.
Chia seeds are an amazing little seed.  They contain lots nutrients and lots of protein so keep you fuller for longer and is great if you are trying to move some of the Christmas cheer off your belly.  When a chia seed is hit with water, it forms a coating of gel, increasing it's size and weight without adding calories.  It is easily added to lots of your cooking~baking-sweet & savoury, salads, smoothies, cereal and anything you would use nuts or seeds for.  I love to dip a banana into them for an afternoon snack that really satisfies.  
Berries are a powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrients that aren't lost when frozen which is great as I buy an organic frozen brand of my blueberries.  They are low GI, improve heart health, high in Vitamin c, potassium and fiber and they have been linked to protecting your cells from damage that can lead to cancer and it helps that they look and taste great too.

Parsley has the potential to help keep your immune system strong, tone your bones and heal the nervous system as well.  It is packed with Vitamins A, B12, C and K, folic acid and is known the help with joint pain as it has anti-inflammatory properties.  Pretty amazing huh.
Mint has soothing properties that help the digestive tract and severity of stomachaches.  It is a strong diuretic and therefore helps eliminate toxins from the body.  Mint is high in Vitamin A & C, iron, magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, calcium and copper.

Flaxseeds are another amazing little fella.  They are hailed as being a fat burning seed as they can fire up your metabolism.  They have omega 3's, very high in fibre, rich in antioxidants, B Vitamins, potassium and protein.
Are you keen to give it a try?  Do you already drink 'green' smoothies? Your insides will thank you!  If you really can't stomach this type of smoothie for breakfast, you can have it for lunch or add all of these ingredients to a salad for a flavour packed bowl of deliciousness.
Week 4 of the 52 week money challenge so go and add your $4 to your money box.  It's not to late to start!!

Ciao, Jan.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

this simple way of life~ Part 4 Thrifty green cleaning.

I really do think that we are a marketing persons wet dream of germ phobes.  We as a consumer driven society have gone anti-bacterial mad and the supermarkets are rubbing their hands with glee all the way to the bank.  My reasons for going green and thrify with my household cleaners was a desire to stop coughing up a lung of fumes each time I cleaned the shower, and of course to save money on these high priced antibacterial supermarket varieties.  I knew from reading many blogs on eco-friendly cleaners and making your own was and option, so I decided months ago now to just give it one try and if I didn't like it, I could always go back to buying the over priced stinkers.

You might be surprised to learn that good old vinegar could be the answer to our money saving prayers.  It has all the properties you need to kill off mould, bacteria and germs due to its acidity levels.  It is also easy on our environment and as cheap as chips. Cheaper even.   This, some bi carb and a frugal objective will give you all that you need for a basic cleaner and at a fraction of the price.  You can get the easy peasy recipe here for the citrus vinegar that I use.  This link has 1001 uses for vinegar that will make your head spin.  Why have we given good old vinegar the flick? If you really are pushed for time and/or cash and you don't have a lemon tree to pillage, just use the vinegar as is, in the raw.

I now use this citrus vinegar diluted with a ration of 50/50 water to vinegar in a spray bottle as our antibacterial spray, as a floor cleaner, straight as a room deodoriser, window/mirrow cleaner with newspaper, or mixed with borax or bi-carb soda as a heavy duty cleaner in the shower, kitchen stove, and sinks with a bit of elbow grease and a scrubbing brush.  You can also read here how to clean your oven using this vinegar, some napisan and bicarb too.  This citrus vinegar I make for next to nicks.  A 2 litre white vinegar from Aldi is $1.09 and made into my citrus vinegar will last for months and months with this one product replacing at least 3 or 4 cleaners that I use to buy for approximately $25 every few months.  The lemons I get for free off friends trees or I use the skins off the oranges we eat as fruit.  I store the skins in an airtight container in the fridge until I have 3-4 oranges worth of skins and put them into a jar and top up with vinegar.  Leave for 3 weeks and Bob's your uncle. To make it even better it's as green as green can be.  Our environment will certainly thank you.

I thought it would be interesting to show you in cold hard numbers how much moolah we are really talking.  So I did a comparison with Woolies online on the price of their cleaners, keeping in mind it's costing me one dollar approximately to make the citrus vinegar.  They had over 1,000 products listed under household cleaners, what are we a bunch of micro-organism freaks!? Next time you are in the supermarket, just consciously have a look at the cleaning aisles, they are mind boggling.

Heres just some of their list
  • Airwick automatic spray $21.92 
  • Orange power manual spray air freshener $4.25 (FYI~I am using an empty bottle of this that I use to use to put my citrus vinegar in to spray in the toilet and other rooms)
  • Orange power bathroom cleaner, shower & tile 750ml $5.26
  • Pine-o-clean disinfectant 1.25 litre $5.34
  • Windex glass cleaner trigger 500ml $4.48
  • Ducks Fresh discs toilet cleaner 2x36ml $10.74
  • Earth choice floor cleaner wooden surface $5.36
Ok you get the thats a total of around $65 and I could buy 4 litres of vinegar and a bag of lemons for under $10, under $2.50 that will probably last me 6 months, if I got the lemons off a friends tree.  Thats $60 every 3 months I could be either paying down credit card debt, mortgage or other debt. Thats an extra $240 a year to use for something other that cleaning products.  I know to some out there they will be thinking whats $240, well its better in my pocket than in the supermarkets and that's all that matters to me!
Do you spend a fortune on cleaning products or are you open to changing to vinegar?  I dare you to give it a try and tell me honestly what you think  I know what I'm sticking with and that $240 will help with my 52 week money challenge!

Ciao, Jan.

Monday, 13 January 2014

this simple life ~ Part 3 My top 17 reasons to shop at Aldi

One of my darling nephews has a bit of a silver spoon in his mouth and won't go into Aldi and will hide slouched down if his parents dare to take him in to the car park for fear of being seen.  For Christmas one year I got him an Aldi shopping token and wrapped all his presents in their plastic bags, I don't think he thought it was very funny. Hehehehe I obviously did.

Firstly, let me just say, this is not a sponsored post.  I am posting of my own free will and am unfortunately not receiving any money or free products off Aldi for this post. I am a self confessed Aldi lover and have been since it graced our town many years ago.  

You don't have to be Einstein to realise you can save some good money shopping there.  Here are my top 17 reasons to shop at Aldi apart from saving money.
  1. They have a green conscience  and proudly support environmental sustainability with a no bags given policy, you take or buy your own and they have in place a green action plan which includes being the only Australian supermarket to stock only Australian made and phosphate free laundry products and using environmentally friendly packaging.  
  2. It saves on brain power as there is only one or two choices of any one product and they are always in the same spot.
  3. They have a growing range of gluten free products without a hefty price tag.  
  4. They offer a double-back guarantee on most food items.  If a product isn't up to scratch, they'll replace it AND refund your money.
  5. The shopping trolleys are free and take a token or 1 or 2 dollar coins.  This also makes everyone take their trolley back to its rightful place.
  6. Aldi have won a host of awards for many of their products mainly their dairy and olive oils.  
  7. They have big aisles of fuss free shelves and not a multi-buy in sight.   
  8. They have consistent quality, in my opinion.
  9. They don't rob Peter to pay Paul and so have genuine low prices each week.
  10. Their growing Organic product range is great and at an affordable price.
  11. Aldi have a committment to supporting Australian suppliers.  One example is they have supported SPC Ardmona by making their entire range of 825g tinned fruit to Australian made.  There are other examples you can read about here,
  12. No artificial colours for the vast majority of products, except pet food and some non-food items.
  13. They have a product range of MSC certified labelled fish to support sustainably caught varieties.
  14. Aldi have a partnership with Planet Ark to recycle batteries.  They are the first supermarket in Australia to offer free recycling of batteries in every store.  Batteries are toxic monsters and need to be disposed off properly and not thrown in the bin.
  15. They have reduced their own energy consumption throughout existing and future stores by fitting them out with eco friendly lighting, refridgeration, air conditioning, heating and freezers.
  16. Its quick and easy to get out of! Their checkout operators are like speedy gonzales.
  17. Their carpark is big, free and in my experience a road rage free zone.
I read a great article by Jo at Down to earth mother about the eco buys from Aldi with a smile on my face.  They have a very good growing 'Just Organic' range that I add to my shopping and stockpile each week.  
Organic produce comes at a high price but I understand why.  What I do think now is I try my best to make my shopping dollars count.  When I can I buy as much Organic as we can afford.  I started by just switching to a couple of items each shopping trip where I could.  Below is an idea of what I've been buying on the organic front.
I've  struggled with the whole to go organic or not go organic guilt trip.  Give me another spoonful would you!  The answer for me, at this stage is this.  On one wage, I'm  incorporating organic into my shopping trolley as often as I can. Organic and Australian made is the bee's knees for me.  If I can't afford organic then the next best option for me is Australian made.  I don't compromise on eggs or chicken~they are always freerange and/or organic. If I can I get my eggs direct from a local farmer I'm happiest, until that special day when I will have my own girls clucking away in my yard.

What I have been trying to do is when I run out of something, say extra virgin olive oil, I will pay that bit more that week for the organic version or at the very least Australian made.   Slow and steady will win my race.  Knowledge is key, but you have to be realistic too if you are trying to be frugal and get the most from your shopping dollars.  Do what works best for you and your family, don't worry about anyone else as you really could go crazy worrying about it all.

Here are some price's for any of you non-Aldi shoppers to think about. Aldi prices
Vinegar 2 L $1.09 (product of Australia)
Organic butter  (made in New Zealand) $2.89
Freerange whole chicken 1.870 kilo $10.63 (product of Australia)
Organic pasta  $1.65 (made in Italy)
Organic tomato paste 140g $0.99  (made in Italy)
Organic diced Italian tomatoes  $0.99 (made in Italy)
Organic fair trade milk chocolate 100g $1.99 (made in Germany) 
Organic extra virgin olive oil (made in Australia!! Yay!!!) around $6 
Organic soy milk 1 Litre (made in Australia!! double Yay!!) $1.79
Organic natural yoghurt $5 per kilo (yep made in Australia)
so 5 out of 10 are Aussie made.

I have to admit to shopping at my local independant or one of the other big boys to do about 5% of our top up groceries and luxury items, but it's becoming more and more less frequent.  It's usually for cold meat like a hunk of ham or sliced freerange chicken breast as I don't like the cold meat of Aldi's nor do I like any supermarket chicken 'meat' as I hate to think of whats in it.  

So what are my favourite items from Aldi? Here is an idea.

  • dippits, wholegrain rice crackers, rice cakes, sao's and cruskits
  • all their nuts
  • tinned peaches and pineapple
  • gluten free almond crunch cereal
  • all of their organic range
  • their hommus is the best apart from yummi's but at half the price
  • greek honeyed yoghurt and squeezy yoghurts for lunchboxes
  • free range whole chicken
  • 1kg raw frozen prawns at $10 are a bargain
  • organic butter
  • bags of 5 or 6 avocados, bananas, truss tomatoes, bags of carrots, sweet potatoes, purple garlic and zucchini's
  • wholegrain wraps
  • face wash and moisturiser
  • glad wrap, foil, baking paper, garbage bags, freezer bags
  • toilet cleaner, vinegar, baby wipes

So tell me my dear readers, do you shop at Aldi? Or are you a duopoly big boy supermarket only shopper?

Ciao, Jan.

this simple life ~ Part 2 The beautiful benefits of baking

It isn't any secret that cooking and baking from scratch will save you money and give you a new world of pleasure.  Making your own bread alone can save you $10 a week, then add to that making your own cakes, muffins, lunchbox snacks and you are probably up around $20 a week, if not more.  I know some of you out there will be thinking who has the time? Seriously, I challenge you to put aside 2 minutes at night to get your bread mixed, less than 5 minutes in the morning to get it in the oven, 20 minutes on the weekend to get a banana loaf or 2 while you are at it,  mixed and into bake and some cookies or muffins made and you are done.  Two trays of muffins (if they are 12 capacity) will give you a muffin a day for nearly a month.  Not only will your family love you for it, it will be healthier for them as they will be preservative and additive free.  There are many easy recipes on my blog, look under lunchbox dazzlers or sweet treats and go your hardest.  I promise you the recipes are so super easy and quick, you will never buy a $5 muffin again.  

Baking snacks for your child's lunchbox instead of buying pre-packaged ones, making one large slab of cake cut up into portions and frozen or a few dozen muffins or biscuits will surely save you money.  Not to mention, they are just as convenient in the freezer as they can be grabbed at a moments notice at the shops or supermarket and can be defrosted in time for snack/recess or lunchtime at work or school and act as a freezer brick to help keep other things cold in the lunch box.  

I bake bread every other day, something that is now a lovely ritual that never ceases to thrill me each time a gorgeous loaf comes out of the oven.  
I love that going from this 
to this
to this
becomes this
or this

or this! Just remarkable.
I really have fallen in love with baking.  The gentle act of measuring, mixing and then baking I'm finding addictive.  I think too, not working for money or a boss, baking provides me with an outcome of the day, a sense of completion and purpose that goes with paid work.  
Until my introduction to the simple life, I rarely baked sweet treats.  I never dreamed I'd be making breads or even pizza dough for that matter.  A voice in my head had convinced myself that I couldn't do it or it was too hard.  But that story wasn't true.  To this day since I took those first steps at getting out of my comfort zone, I've baked most days of the week and I've only had one failure.  My first step was bread.  Bread is one of those things that provides us with breakfast, lunch and dinner if we want it too.  
It is the cornerstone of our lives really isn't it.  It was the thing that got me started on this simple life (you can read more about that in Part 1 of this series here) as I'd wanted to try it but was stopped by fear of failure.  It seems silly now, who cares if we waste a bit of flour and water in the name of trying something new?   After many trials I've settled on the Laucke Multigrain 10kg bread mix.  It contains the yeast as well (with enough over to make my pizza bases too! as its right purpose is for bread machines and recipes that call for more yeast then I need for my recipe :)) to make around 10 loaves of my double batch or 20 loaves of the original  no knead bread recipe.  

I double this recipe now, as making a bigger loaf works better for hubbies beloved toasted sandwiches.  So its 6 cups of flour, 1/2 tspn of dry yeast and almost 4-5 cups of water. (the salt is already in the bread mix, I learnt that quickly :)) It works out to being $2.30 a loaf, so around a dollar for the single recipe which I think is a bargain for bread that has no preservatives  and is a pleasure to make.  I can tell you I genuinely smile every time I get that bread out of the oven and I must have made dozens and dozens by now.  At the risk of sounding like a preacher, it is so simple I feel a bit of a fraud when friends and family ooowww and ahhh over it.  I can make a white version using organic flour for less than $5 a loaf which isn't bad considering I've seen them fetch up to $8 or $10 in speciality stores. 
Baking is also a way of sneaking in some fruit to your blissfully unaware cherubs.  I micro-plane, blitz or chop apples, bananas, pears, frozen berries, rhubarb, oranges, lemons or whatever is in season into as many sweet goodies as I can.  I do try and buy organic as much as I can but, if I'm honest, its hard justifying spending big $$'s on a box of organic fruit that will only last a short amount of time as much as I'd love too.  I know the obvious benefits health wise but, but, but....if you are like us and on one income, you understand my dilemma.  What I try and do, is when I get my organic produce I make the most of it by eating some raw and baking cakes and muffins with some for the freezer...but its hard to go past a big bag of over ripe banana's for $2 at the fruitier that I can turn into a banana and chocolate loaf, muffins or smoothies to feed us in snacks for a week.  i just try and do my best, thats all I can do.

Baking from scratch will provide not only a monetary winfall but also the aromas, sense of pride and satisfaction on feeding your family will linger as long as the smells from the oven.  They will be preservative and additive free and thats certainly a huge incentive to crank the oven up and get baking!
It's also week 3 of our money challenge so get too and plonk you're $3 in the money bank.  I've added an extra $20 this week to it and marked it off one of the later weeks in the year.  It's not too late to start if you haven't already, you can read about it here.

Ciao, Jan.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

C.T.F.D my parenting aha moment

When we decided to have a child, it wasn't from a burning desire of parenthood that we craved, it was the sense of family and the adding to ours that was important, and my clock was ticking, loudly.  Our first baby was a golden Labrador, and I was smitten.  I thought it would take a lot to push him outside away from a bassinet and our 'real' baby, but it happened.  We fell in love instantly with our girl, but love doesn't pave the road of ups and downs of the new born roller coaster.  I think being well into my 30's didn't help either.  I was selfish, self indulgent, had a great job, great husband who allowed me my freedoms and I thought I could control and handle anything.  

I couldn't have been more wrong.  On so many levels.  

I remember being in hospital after a horrific labour (lets face it none are pretty) being terrified I might hurt her accidentally or drop her or miss a minute or forget to feed her without timing it or wash her bottom wrong, the voice in my head was in overdrive.  I wanted it all to be perfect and it wasn't.  If you don't already know, breastfeeding is hardwork, it is natural but that doesn't mean it's easy.  I was in a hospital and an era that didn't allow dummies and frowned upon formula.  Second wake up call was babies actually don't do as the advert says "sleeping like a baby".  In short, sleep deprivation is a bitch, it's used for torture for a reason.  I was very fortunate to have a supportive husband who was scared of the new born baby but was more than happy to cook for me, clean, do washing, grocery shop and listen to me through my tears.

Don't get me wrong, I loved my little lady. Dearly, heart-breaking love like I'd never felt.  But that crying and being out of control with a little person who you were totally responsible for and who depended on you for everything was so scary.  I was used to my dog, who didn't answer back, went out side and weed on command and allowed me 10 hours sleep a night, uninterrupted.  I'll own up to trying to be Super-mum, miss perfect, but it served no-one most of all myself.  

Fast forward almost 7 years and there are days I still battle with parenthood.  The problem for me is perfectionism and control.  I hate mess and I sweat the small stuff.  When I worked it was terrible.  My alarm would go off and I'd hit the ground running and shouting, barking orders like a drill sergeant to get out of the door by 8am.  Now I'm not working, I'm still nagging orders to get to school on time with a list of things that is needed for one school day.  But I'm trying to relax a tad.  But gee it's hard!

This year, one of my new years resolution is to try and not sweat the small stuff so much.  To let go of sweeping the floors each day and wiping the little fingerprints off the fridge every morning.  I had learned over the past few months the benefits of being mindful and living in the moment, but man I find it hard.  I figure I really need to walk the talk.  

Photo taken by Bek of  Bex Photograph 
One thing I really find challenging is playing.  I'm not sure why but I get hot and clammie the moment my girl asks me to play a game.  "Um, in a minute honey", "you start and I'll join you" but I rarely do.  Am I alone with this?  I don't think so.  I marvel at those families that can sit down and play scrabble or play schools without the need to do anything else inbetween.

I had a really big a-ha moment, Oprah would have been proud of.  I read a wonderful, if not funny article that's been flying around facebook. You can read the article here but be warned they do drop the "f"bomb, but the sentiment I'm running with....CTFD! Its's my new motto in my head "Calm the F#ck Down" and it refers to us parents not the children.  I've been instilling this CTFD attitude for a few weeks now, and wow it really is helping and working!  I'm working on lowering my expectations of how my house 'should' look and trying to concentrate on what is actually 'happening' and trying not to miss it.

I really am enjoying putting my super hero pants back in the knickers draw where they belong and living a more real mindful life.

Ciao, Jan

Friday, 10 January 2014

this simple life ~ Part 1 From little things big things grow

This series of posts is going to be on living a simple life, saving money in the kitchen and around the home~in particular baking from scratch, making your own household eco-cleaners, menu planning and a few others that will help along the way. It's also a way for me to document my new way of life.

These are the things I wish I had of implemented earlier but either didn't know how or just hadn't realised what was right under my nose. I sadly felt the risk of failure which held me back from trying many things, losing control wasn't an option before.  It's so true that when you know better you do better and I'm wanting to share some of it with you.  I certainly need to make it clear, I don't profess to know it all, nor do I expect anyone to live like me.   Your journey is just that, yours.  What works for me may not work for you.  This has been my ride.  I am married with a young child, have a mortgage and one income.  I will have different priorities to you.  You may be young, old, rich, poor, single, gay, or a multitude of things, but if like me you want to find more meaning in your life, save some money and reconnect and feel real contentment with your lot then read on. I just want to share some things I wish I had of worked out sooner!! But then again, its been a great time muddling my way through it all and the thought now that  I'm also here to learn more and do more, I find really exciting.

I've worked full time for most of my adult life and during high school I held down a casual job as a checkout chick. My parents and extended family have always been hard workers, although many of the influential woman in my extended family were SAHM's.  I always envied their children as my parents divorced when I was in early primary school so both worked full time and did the best they could.  I had much love around me, but my mum was always too busy.  I craved those home made meals and a fridge or pantry filled with slices, cakes and scones.  I remember trading my twice weekly lunch order of a meat pie and big M with a friend whose mum lovingly sent a sandwich and zucchini cake (I thought that was SO exotic) but never a lunch order to her daughters serious disappointment.  We were a match made in heaven and it was a win win situation!!

Throughout most of my life, like many of my peers, I have always felt like something was missing.  Just a little feeling.  I felt like I just was always searching for something but didn't know what it was. When the idea of a simpler life came to me, I didn't realise it would be so profound in different areas of my life.

I initially wanted it to ease my 'busy' brain from the boredom I felt at not working due to illness and having too much time on my hands.  I knew I had to try and slow down and enjoy this period of my life of being at home without guilt or fear, but how?  How was I ever going to enjoy doing dishes and I certainly didn't want to start watching day time TV! Not to mention that feeling of ground hog day hanging over my head.  I felt anxious and lost.  I'd never done this before.  I have always worked, apart from maternity leave, full time for over 20 years and at times had 2 jobs.  I was always busy going nowhere and searching for happiness in the usual places without success: shoes, a house, a holiday, over eating, under eating, a social life, a husband (but he is a keeper!), a baby (I do love her so though), a dog (don't underestimate the happiness a loyal old dog will give though!) oh the list went on.  

Don't get me wrong, some of these things did make me happy and I would be lost without most of them as they are cherished and loved, but I was after for myself that  content, happy I was always eluded by.  Now, almost 8 months has past since I first put in the words 'simple life' into google to see if I could find something, anything that might help me.  I didn't know what exactly I had been looking for but I had to try something or I'd go mad.  What I found, after many hours of reading and refining my search was another world of possibilities.  The biggest find for me was a wonderful blog written by  Rhonda Hetzel called down to earth.  I read it everyday that Rhonda blogs and I still find it a source of inspiration.  It was here that her gentle words of wisdom started to resonate with me and my journey began.

I wanted desperately to know where and how to start.  Just tell me someone and I'll do it!! But, as I quickly found out, it doesn't work like that.  How it does work, if you are open to it, is to just start with changing or learning one thing.  One thing that you are genuinely interested in learning or changing in your life right now, this minute.  For me, I wanted to change some of the things we brought on a regular basis to homemade. The first thing that sprung to my mind was bread making.  I had wanted to bake bread years earlier but thought I couldn't do that nor did I ever have the time.  Now what was the excuse? I couldn't think of one, well except failure.  But no-one would be watching.....

As much as I love food, I don't like to be a slave to the kitchen and I tried a few types of bread but fell in love with this 5 minute no knead bread recipe.  I tried a variety of flours off the supermarket shelf and have now settled on Laucke Multigrain 10kg sacks from South Australia which are stocked at the bigger supermarkets and your local independants. I make this every couple of days, a double batch which I've now easily perfected and my family love.     I would love to say I use organic flour but it's too expensive at almost triple the price, but it is a goal.  I figure I'm making bread from scratch without preservatives or sneaky numbers or additives and that's got to count for something.

At the same time I had already started making all our meals from scratch, but I started writing down a menu plan for the week.  If I'm honest,  I still struggle to stick to it.  I find our garden dictates a lot of what we eat and sometimes I might not feel like whats on the plan, but with a flexible model it is still helping shopping for meals rather than just shopping for food.  I started to stockpile and gradually built up a good supply that has helped when we have needed to steal some grocery money for a big bill that was forgotten about that rudely arrived on our doorstep.  I can't now imagine not having my bounty, it makes me feel secure knowing I can possibly feed our family for a month if I needed too.  This then led to readng about our eco-footprint and being more 'green' and the benefits of going organic.  I felt like I had opened Pandora's box.  It actually was quite overwhelming at one stage as I just naturally am a people pleaser, and want to do my best. I couldn't see how we could afford all this organic produce and not to mention using the right sort of plastics, being more mindful with waste, and the list went on and on.  I really only have hit the tip of the iceberg and that in itself is both mind-boggling but a challenge.  All anyone can do is your best with what you have, get educated and that is where I'm currently at with these bigger issues.

Once I had bread on my radar, the next thing that I thought about changing was my cleaners.  The main issue I had was cleaning the shower and being suffocated by the fumes.  I was lucky enough to have a steady supply of oranges and lemons for some time so now my homemade lemon/citrus cleaner aka vinegar is stocked up quite well.  

Even though I am relatively new to this simpler, frugal life, I can already see the benefits and the changes occurring with not only me, but my family.  The reason I gather, is because it is making me live more mindfully which then makes me slow down and enjoy everything that I am doing, taking my time as I'm on no time schedule rushing from place to place and getting nowhere but flustered.  The housework is going nowhere and once I realised this it took the pressure off my perfectionist's unreachable goal of getting everything done in one day.  Forget perfection, take pride in all you do but let go of the 'must, should, and could' and see how you fair.  Now I'm trying to be more deliberate, take my time with every chore and get a rhythm to my routine and the results are speaking for themselves. 

Look for the treasures hidden in your day to day, turn the mundane and humdrum into gratitude and thankfulness for all you have, with some attitude adjustment, your life and happiness is there for the taking.   Take pride in what you do whether it's paid work or home work, don't belittle whatever it is you have chosen. If it is making you miserable, do something about it, now.  We only get this one life, one chance to live this one day so make the most of it.  Begin to take note of the precious little things, the I love you's, the pleasure you get from hearing your child or family say they loved their meal, the unconditional love around you, and the gentle waves of contentment and happiness will surely find you.  For the first time in a long time, I'm loving this journey of my simple life.

Ciao, Jan

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Top posts of 2013

I am affectionately known as a Blondie to some friends and I am sure this is just one of my blonde moments....I had this post ready for the new year and promptly forgot about it until I stumbled across it today, so better late than never.

I thought It would be fun to list the most popular posts of mine for 2013.  All of these posts resonated with many of you for whatever reason, and I'm sure there are lots of you who haven't read any of them.  So without further ado here they are.

June Hello Blog world  June only had the one post in it, but it would have won hands down for that month.
July My solo adventure
August deliciously moist orange cake
Sept roast pork sliders
Oct The break up with the supermarket challenge
Nov a pretty berry cheesecake
Dec scrooge's Christmas 3 ingredient mini Christmas cakes

It really made me smile going back over the past 6 months and seeing my blog transform.  I started off using pictures off Pinterest to hide behind but since around October, so 3 months in, I changed tack to just using my own photos as I felt not authentic.  My hubby told me a friend had said he liked the blog but the photos were poorly lit and so that spurred me on to do better, which I think I have done.  I could have gone back and fixed the early photos, but that's cheating and I also like to see the change and growth.  It really has been a wonderful ride I never thought I would be on.  The actual winning post was the 'deliciously moist orange cake' post, which is still one of my all time favourite cakes to not only make but to eat.

This photo reminds me of the winds of change that are possible.  I look forward to the next 12 months of sharing my blog journey with you, again my dear readers, thank you for coming in and reading, it really warms my heart.

Ciao, Jan.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Robyn's Rhubarb cake

There seems to be a bug epidemic lingering in my neck of the woods.  Sorry to bring it up, I especially apologise if you are tucking into your museli.  I've had 2 bouts of gastro in 4 weeks so the thought and smell of food hasn't had it's normal pull quality for me sadly.  It really has been terrible, I've missed my kitchen and its soothing ways.  I have still been cooking for my family but not the usual cooking with enthusiasm and gusto.  

Yesterday I woke and all I wanted to do was bake! I knew I was better :)  I made a loaf of bread, bread rolls and then this cake recipe, although I think it could just be pudding.  It was shared to me by a friend Robyn, so I hope I do her cake justice. The recipe sounded so easy and yummy with the spices and rhubarb in it, I was almost tempted to forgo eating my lunch and start with this instead. 

I had harvested the most beautiful rhubarb from the garden and had everything at the ready.  It was game on.

Robyn's rhubarb cake
1 1/2 cups or 340g sugar~I used dark muscovado, ramadura and brown in 1/2 cup quantities
1/2 cup or 125gms  softened butter
1 egg~I used 2 :)
2 cups plain flour
1 tspn bi carb soda
1 tspn vanilla
1 cup of sour milk (add 1 tspn of vinegar to 1 cup of milk to sour or you could use yoghurt or butter milk)
3 cups of chopped rhubarb (you can also use 2 cups of rhubarb and 1 cup of apples)
1/2 tspn salt
2-3 tspn of spices like ginger & cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar~I used muscovado
1 tbspn softened butter
I also added walnuts to half, my girl doesn't eat walnuts so it was a compromise!  She forgot that she doesn't eat rhubarb though so I let that one slide.

1.  Place all ingredients in a bowl except the rhubarb and mix well. (I creamed the butter and sugar first and sifted the dry ingredients)
2.  Add rhubarb and fold into mixture
3.  Put into a greased and lined tin. (I used a round spring form tin )
4.  Topping: Add walnuts to the top of the cake.  Mix butter and sugar together and sprinkle, well dot really, over the cake.
5.  Bake in oven at 180c for around 1 hour

I couldn't help but put my own stamp on it with a few addtions, thats the way I roll.  If licking the batter was anything to go by, I was in for a treat!  

We had it hot from the oven after lunch with honeyed greek yoghurt and some of Lana's garden Rhubarb coulis and Oh Em was amazballs!!  It might look a big dark or burnt but I assure you its the dark sugars that have worked their magic.  The cake has a pudding gooey moistness that was killer.  I'm sure it will be good as a cake cold but I'm not sure I care to try it like that.  A huge win is getting my child to eat rhubarb and call it rhubarb.  I've been using Lana's rhubarb coulis on everything and she thought it was raspberry and strawberry as according to her rhubarb is blahh, hehehe. I love a food victory!  Score 1 Mum!

So thank you dear Robyn for sharing this recipe of yours with me.  It will be a firm favourite and rolled out in winter instead of crumble I have a guess.  Anyone else got some recipes to share with me, I don't want my mojo to go away!

Ciao, Jan.
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