This one is an easy one. I’ve written about my hubby & my amazing kids. So for this week, I have picked another member of my family. My nan.
My nan is an absolute inspiration. She turned 90 last year, she still lives on her own, drives her car, and gardens. She cooks amazing things like Jam Roll-Poly’s (dessert), Syrup Dumplings, Lemon Sago, and a variety of Jam’s and Chutney’s.
She still takes an active role in my children’s lives and will often take one of them for a few hours or my daughter has a sleep over at her house.
Her garden is her pride and joy, even if it is starting to get a bit big for her. She grows pumpkins, watermelons, guava’s, oranges and has a beautiful array of flowers out the front.
I’m so glad that I have my nan, she’s always around if we need her and I make sure I show my appreciation as much as possible, whether it’s a trip to Bunnings, a Caramel Latte at the Coffee Club or just taking around something for her dinner or lunch.
Nan is inspirational and if I’m half the woman she is when I’m her age, well,
I’ll be pretty damn lucky.
To see previous posts from the Gratitude Challenge, click the links below:
Last week, I decided to attempt to save some money on my groceries. 1 week later, here is my progress report.
Money Spent: I took out $180 (my usual budget) and have only used cash. When it comes to tomorrow (“grocery day”), I will take out another $180 to put in my cash envelope, and what is currently in my envelope has been moved to my “holiday” envelope.
4L Laundry Detergent – $13.00
2x 3L Milk – $6.00
1x Cucumbers – $1.00 (my kids eat these like they’re going out of fashion!)
500g Nectarine’s – $2.45
680g Granny Smith Apples – $3.40
1x Iceberg Lettuce – $2.00
1x Tub Philly Cream Cheese – $4.00
1x loaf of bread – $3.00
200g Feta Cheese – $1.65 (purchased from the Deli section is so much cheaper then the packets)
TOTAL SPENT: $36.50.
My biggest expense this week was obviously my laundry detergent. but it’s always allowed for in my regular budget. My biggest eye-opener was the thought of how much I’m spending “just because that’s my budget”. My family didn’t starve. I purchased items that probably weren’t necessary (Philly Cream Cheese & Feta Cheese for example) but overall, I was more intentional with my shopping and saved quite a substantial amount this week.
Lasagne & salad (used a large lasagne in my freezer, leftover salad ingredients etc, this meal done us for 2 nights)
Mixed Berry Crumble (1 bag frozen mixed berries and misc baking ingredients from pantry) – this actually done us for 3 or 4 nights.
Seafood Marinara – we didn’t have any wine, so just left it out and substituted 1/4 cup water and used spaghetti instead. This lasted us 2 meals, with the kids having Sausages and salad the second night (sometimes they just like a picking plate)
Chicken, Pumpkin, Quinoa, Basil & Feta “Salad” – I forgot that there was a pumpkin in the shed, and also discovered some unopened, still-in-date basil with cashew and parmesan chunky dip. We were also given a roast chook from a tournament hubby was involved in over the weekend – Bonus! So I had to use it up. Plenty leftover for dinner the next 2 nights as well.
Last night, because hubby had enough of just having the Chicken & pumpkin dish, I got out some steak and we had that with the chicken dish as a side. We could have easily had no steak as there was enough, but 3 nights in a row was too much.
Food Wasted/Thrown Out:
One bag of something from the pantry. It was possibly Buckwheat. It seems to ring a bell when I look at it, but no idea what it is or what I would use it for and because of this, I had to throw it.
1 and a half bags of Almonds
Half a bag of Veggie Crisps – these last 2 were full of weevils, which I didn’t realise until I packed some for hubby and he called to let me know. Oops.
This Week’s Amazing Discovery: Well, did you know we are apparently lolly hoarders. I have discovered a PILE of miscellaneous lollies as well as 6 Pez Dispensers – yes, SIX!!! For 2 kids. That rarely get Pez lollies. I have no clue why we have the amount of lollies we do, but I removed them from my pantry and after discussing with hubby, we tossed up between a) throwing the lot b) making ice cream treat cups or c) cutting up the chocolates etc and turning them into Cold Rock style Mix-in’s. We will be going with b I think and purchasing a 2L tub of ice cream and some disposable cups with lids, mixed-in the chopped up chocolates and put them in the freezer. Then I will throw out the remaining / not very nice looking ones.
Did you attempt this challenge? How did you go after 1 week? So far, so good and I’ll be going for another week yet at this stage.
Yep. My sewing room looks like I’ve been robbed. I need to seriously declutter, tidy and organise this room, but it’s soooo easy to put off. Yesterday afternoon – I made a start.
I started by getting organised a Donate section, a take to school section (craft items going to the school chaplains program), a bin bag and finally, I went against everything and I made a “put elsewhere” box and got started.
Of course, Once I’d completed the 1 hour I could dedicate to that task, and the kids had gone to bed, I sat down and tackled Pinterest for inspiration and ideas. Ohhhh a peg board! I want that! I knew I wanted to move my embroidery machine around to make room for my laptop and to set an actual “office space” up, but, I had one cupboard in my future office section, that I’ve been trying to keep clean or sort out ever since I moved my felt in there, off the bench – you know, to make it tidy (hahaha) – but I couldn’t come up with, or find a solution…..
This cupboard has felt sheets, postage stuff, office supplies and god only knows what else in there. I even threw out all my scraps a while ago in an effort to fix the issue. Oh dear. Pinterest and google searches weren’t helping at all. Until I come across a site that mentioned the sheets are “approximately the size of an A4 sheet or slightly smaller”.
There was lots of mentions and suggestions about hanging files and filing cabinets but I thought, they aren’t stiff like cardboard and will easily bend if not full (like some of my paper tends to do) and they will end up piled in the bottom of the folder – that’s no good. Plus my filing cabinet is the other side of the room, I don’t have room to move it, I don’t want to have to keep getting up (lazy much?!) – I need my stuff easily accessible when working. Maybe I could attach something inside the cupboard???
And then it hit me! I had 4-5 large folders with 4 D clips in, that currently holds patterns… I was going to declutter severely down to one or 2 folders (because I have them accessible to me at any time if I REALLY needed them, and most of the time I can’t find the pieces needed or it doesn’t occur to me I already have the pattern printed, so I re-print the pages as I need them anyway).
Inspiration hit – And guess what?? MY FELT SHEETS FIT!! I found a Felt Storage Solution that works for me. I can lay the folders down or stand them up. I can sort by colours, and place a different colour sheet in each individual pocket and they are neat, tidy, accessible and functional! I can even put a label on the edge with all the colours in the folder – easily accessible and I can view at a glance.
I’m feeling proud I’ve come up with a Felt Storage Solution that works perfectly for me, using what I already have. I still have a looooooooong way to go for this room. But I’ve made a start – and that’s the important thing.
This one is an easy one to write about. Around this time 8 years ago I had not long ago had an Ectopic Pregnancy which resulted in the loss of 1 tube, this was from our first and only “successful” IVF round. I had previously lost a baby at 18 weeks many, many years before. Hubby and I weren’t far off coming to terms with the fact we wouldn’t have kids of our own and considered/started researching adoption.
We started to plan a working holiday in Canada while we were young and thought we would just spend some time seeing the world. 6 months later, 2 blue lines appeared, much to our joy!!
After we welcomed our little girl into the world, imagine our joy when almost 2 years later we were so, so lucky to welcome a little man into the world, even though both deliveries were accompanied by drama and my husband missed the birth of both our children. We have our pigeon pair. They truly are the loves of our lives.
As for extended family, I am so lucky to still have my nan around (she celebrated her 90th birthday last year), and she takes an active role in our kids lives. Unfortunately both mine and hubby’s parents live a few hours drive away, they are supportive and the kids adore them, not to mention our many other members of our extended family (Miss S is the only girl grandchild on both sides). We truly feel blessed and overall very lucky, they are easy to be grateful for.
To see previous posts from the Gratitude Challenge, click the links below:
In light of my recent post about Grocery Budget Busting and trying to use up what’s in my pantry & freezer in an effort to save money, I’ve decided to share some tips on how to reduce your own grocery bill.
Yesterday, on my first grocery shop on my self-imposed grocery shopping ban, I noticed a few things
Those half-price (or sometimes better) deals are seriously there to draw you in. I was walking past and noticed one and immediately I was like ohhhhhh and made a direct beeline for that product (I can’t even remember what that was and it was only 24 hours ago, so obviously I won’t die without it)
I started to question if previously I have just been spending $180/week on groceries because “that’s my budget”. Regardless of if I had to purchase meat or not, I always managed to spend AT LEAST that amount of money.
So here are some tips to help reduce your own Grocery Bill:
Before you go, have something to eat. Take a bottle of water with you and chew gum if you have to. This way you are shopping on a full stomach.
Join rewards programs if the shop offers it. Here in Australia, we unfortunately don’t have access to Coupons (I wish we did!!!). These programs are free (Woolworths Rewards and Flybuys are 2 that I know of and Flybuys I use all the time), they give you money back, just for shopping. I’m always surprised when someone doesn’t have a rewards card. IT’S FREE MONEY PEOPLE!!! (sorry for shouting, I just don’t understand it hehe) I usually try to save my Flybuys dollars up for Christmas. But I have been known to cash in some money when I have been a bit short before. Also, with Flybuys, you can connect your activity tracker and receive 10 points every day you reach 10,000 steps. There are other programs you can link to your card, and you can use Flybuys at Coles, Coles Service Stations (when you get your fuel), Target, Kmart, Liquorland and First Choice. Every 2000 points = $10. This all adds up for doing what you do usually.
Menu/Meal Plan. Yes, it can be long and sometimes painful, but this is the only way you will know what you need to buy! When the catalogues arrive, look at the specials and compare, then choose where you will shop and what goes on your menu. Ask the kids what they would like for dinner. If the answer is Chicken nuggets and chips, put potato’s and chicken on the list. (my kids love it when I cut the potato’s using the peeler and put them in the oven. They taste and look like potato chips and they think it’s a real treat!) Some of our family favourites that go a fair way or can be stretched are: Shepherds Pie, Lasagne, Taco’s, Sausages and Veggies, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Chicken (it’s so versatile you can use it for anything really), Casseroles/Stew/Slow-Cooker Meals (especially in Winter). I love adding Dumplings to my casseroles as that makes the meal stretch quite significantly especially when teamed with pasta or rice and it’s full of veggies.
Make a list. Write out everything you need, but be sure to STICK TO IT!! Again, it’s easy to be sucked in to the ohhhhh specials!! Those tags are designed to be eye catching!!!!
Check what’s in your pantry/freezer and use that first, also, cross reference your list you’ve just made and cross it off if you own it. Sometimes (like me) you may be able to get away with a small shop because you have no room in your freezer or pantry. Do you actually know what’s in there? What’s lurking in the back? Or that top shelf? Are you doubling or tripling up on some things? Shop at home first at least once a month to use up what you can and have a “top up shop” only. Imagine only doing a top up shop once a month and only spending $50 instead of $180 – that’s a savings of over $1,500 per year!! Fun Fact: That’s almost enough to fly a family of 4 from Brisbane to New Zealand and back 😉 Holiday anyone??
Look at the price. Now this one seems obvious, but with packages being all different shapes and sizes, sometimes what first seems the best deal really isn’t. Look at the 100g/100ml price and compare. Don’t be brand loyal. I have started trying Coles brand products and 9 times out of 10 I don’t know the difference and a lot of the times, when looking at the nutritional label, there IS no difference. I’m a bit of a snob with my coffee, so I do spend a little more but when I’m only having 1 per day generally, I figure, life is too short to drink terrible coffee. Oh and toilet paper, I like the brand I like, so I won’t compromise. But milk, flour, sugar, etc are absolutely fine being the home brand and work just as well. Also, compare prices in the Deli per kg to the pre-packaged. I can generally buy Chicken cheaper from the deli then the meat section and sometimes Chicken Drumsticks are on sale for $2-$3/kg – When this happens, I stock up and buy a few kg’s worth. It makes for an easy dinner and you can use them a few different ways. (as of right now, Chicken Drumsticks are $3.50 per kilo at Woolworths, 2kg would easily make 3-4 meals for our family depending what I make with it, that’s around $2 per meal or 50c per person)
Use leftovers. I love leftovers. It means I often don’t need to do anything except heat and serve. It makes for easy dinners on those days when you’re running late or you just can’t be bothered. You can purchase Chinese containers for $10 for 25 at Coles or Woolworths (same price at both) if you would prefer to freeze and have a stockpile of ready to go meals, but don’t forget to use them!!!!
Stick to your Menu/Meal Plan. If you make a meal plan, stick to it as much as possible. Sometimes, you will unexpectedly end up with extras, or you get a random invitation to a BBQ (it is Summer in Australia after all), so some weeks you won’t end up making every meal on the plan. Therefore, when this happens, make sure these meals are the first thing to be added to next weeks meal plan. You already have all the ingredients after all.
So this is my list and 8 easy tips to save yourself some money. My top hint is definitely taking advantage of Rewards Programs and taking the time to discover what other things you can link to it. Get the most you possibly can out of these free programs that can end up giving you $100+ (depending on your general shop) come Christmas time. I have used Flybuys to purchase Christmas Presents and Christmas lunch for the extended family and I haven’t had to dig into my budget for this.
I hope this has helped, and I plan on sharing some of my family’s favorite recipes over the coming weeks while I use up what I discover in my freezer and pantry! On the menu tonight is Spaghetti Marinara.
Usually tomorrow (Friday) is my grocery day! But this week, tired of the overwhelming mess in my pantry, I’ve decided to challenge myself by not grocery shopping – or at least drastically reducing the amount spent.
The plan: Use as many items in my fridge/freezer and pantry as I can.
Exceptions: I am allowed to purchase Milk, Bread/Wraps, fresh salad ingredients and fresh fruit (lunches and snacks). But ONLY when I’ve run out of the items we already have.
I have plenty of items to bake snacks for school – biscuits/cakes/slices, my freezer has enough meat and misc. items in there, as does my pantry. There were some things I’ve purchased because they were for a recipe that I never made (Tamarind Paste anyone).
My normal grocery budget is $180/week to feed a family of 4 (2x adults, Miss 5 and Mr 4). Overall, I would love to cut that down if possible.
To save as much money as possible from my grocery budget.
Stop unnecessary overspending.
Get creative with my recipes using food I currently have available.
Declutter my freezers (we have one fridge/freezer combo plus an additional freezer).
Declutter my pantry.
Become more intentional and smarter with my grocery shopping and hopefully get my budget down as much as possible.
What I will report back: Recipes used, actual money spent on purchasing groceries and what I bought, updated pictures of my pantry, a list of anything I’ve thrown out (because of out of date etc) and amazing discoveries (because who knows what’s actually in the freezer & pantry).
CHALLENGE: Look in your pantry and freezer – could it do with a clean out? Instead of throwing out and being wasteful, could you maybe skip a week (or 2) grocery shopping and save yourself some money? What difference would this make to your family?
Another Challenge I will be participating in is inspired by The Caffine Gal (what can I say, her blog name just calls to my coffee-loving heart). However, I am choosing to do this challenge a little differently, as I don’t want to over-commit or limit myself and only post about this for 31 days straight.
I’ve decided to spread this post out a bit and keep the variety of my posts going (because there will be days where I just want to write about cake! haha) and so I will continue to write when inspiration hits.
I’ve also chosen to skip day 1 as I have done an Introduction post when I first started blogging, so straight onto day 2: 20 facts about me.
I have brown hair & brown eyes.
I have curly hair which I really dislike most days, but then there are other days when I simply love it, especially when I need a nice up-do quite quickly.
I was married at 23.
I had my first born (Miss S) on my 27th Birthday. Yes, I delivered my first child on my birthday.
Mr L was born almost 2 years later, but I was only 28.
I’ve had 2 c-sections, both emergency, one under general and one under spinal block.
My husband has missed both births of our children.
My husband and I have been married for 10 years this year (2017)
I endured 2.5 years of IVF.
But both children were conceived naturally without outside help.
I have 4 nephews, but no neices.
I have a handmade sewing business (Little Cherry Owl) that focus’ on Girls Clothing, but I also do embroidery and make all types of things from embroidered t-shirts, hooded towels, felt masks, finger puppets, keyrings, personalised items (e.g.: library bags, chair bags etc). I’ve been sewing for over 5 years as a business, but Little Cherry Owl is only 2 years old with this year being my make or break year!
I really enjoy going to Gymnastics, even though I’m not fantastic at it, I still love it.
I have only ever left the country once, which was for our honeymoon on a cruise.
The first time I ever got on a plane was the day after we got married to go on our cruise.
I have only ever visited Queensland and New South Wales. I haven’t been to any other state in Australia. (but hoping that will change in coming years)
My favourite movie is Dirty Dancing. I have seen Dirty Dancing on stage twice, the first time was for my 21st birthday, the second was more recent. I much preferred the first one.
I’ve seen Bon Jovi in concert – and LOVED every second of it. (I’ve also seen Roxette)
I’ve always said I was born in the wrong era, I love older movies (think Dirty Dancing, Grease, Labyrinth etc) and older songs (Queen, Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams)
My brother-in-law sung our first dance song at our wedding. She’s The One, Robbie Williams version. He is so talented and it was such an emotional moment.
Well there you go, 20 facts about me. It was easier then I thought!!
What can I say about my hubby? We got together when I was 20, started living in sin at 21 😉 married at 23 and this August we have been married for 10 years.
What first attracted me to my hubby in that bar all those years ago? His eyes, he has these amazing blue eyes that I get lost in. Every. Time. He wasn’t my “usual type” but that hadn’t worked in the past, so I thought, lets have some fun…. almost 13 years later, here we are.
In this time we have made our house a home, we’ve painted, renovated and boy have we had some fights and heartbreaks, but also some immense joy and of course – love! We have had so many new experiences together but also enjoyed time apart with our friends.
Why am I grateful for my husband?
We have bought 2 beautiful little humans into this world (Miss S & Mr L) and we certainly have our own carbon copies in these 2, with Miss S exactly like me and Mr L like hubby – and imagine my joy when he kept those beautiful blue eyes!!!
He’s my other half, he is the one that made me complete and I love him to pieces (even in those times he’s driven me CRAZY, and vice-versa).
He works hard and allows me the luxury of staying at home while the kids are still young, letting me be involved in the school,
He supports my hobbies/business ideas like sewing from home for the last 5+ years (and of course, his encouragement is one of the reasons I started blogging!)
He let’s me sleep in when he knows I need it, and has, on occasion even taken the kids out of the house when he knows it’s been a particularly rough week and I need that time. Just the fact he knows when I need it I appreciate so much.
He’s supported me through the ups and downs of IVF (even though both children were conceived naturally, but that’s a story for another time), and held me all those devastating times when we thought we weren’t going to have children.
He truly is my rock and I’m not sure I would have been able to mentally cope through all of the hard times throughout the years without him.
He’s a smart man who knows when to bring wine 😉
And of course, he married me!
I have so many reasons to be grateful for my husband. At the end of the day, I always appreciate that he is in my life, I couldn’t imagine sharing it with anyone else if I’m really honest.
Luckily, loving him is (mostly) easy
To see previous posts from the Gratitude Challenge, click the link below:
As you would have seen from my post yesterday, Thursday was Mr L’s 4th Birthday. He loves all things Avengers/Superheroes. He originally wanted Spiderman for his cupcakes, and with the effort this one took I’m so glad that I saved my effort for this cake.
First I baked the cake. I chose a Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake and baked in a rectangle brownie pan which was nice and deep (about 5cm).
Once cooled. I printed out a colouring in page from Google. I just searched Spiderman Face Colouring Page and chose my favourite. I then re-sized in Microsoft Word to fit an A4 page, printed and then cut it out.
Placed the piece of paper on the cake and then trimmed the cake using a serrated edge knife.
Do this to both layers (if using 2, which I did).
Chocolate Cream layer in between cake layers. To make this I put some thickened cream into my bowl (maybe about 200-300ml), 1 tablespoon each of cocoa powder and icing sugar and whipped until stiff. This was kind of an accidental genius moment as the result tasted like chocolate mousse and it was DELICIOUS!!!!! Put the second cake layer on top.
Crumb Coat. I used Wilton’s buttercream recipe for my icing most of the time. Otherwise I just use regular butter in a packet and icing sugar with a splash of milk and play with the quantities until I’m happy with the consistency. The Crumb Coat isn’t supposed to be neat, and it isn’t supposed to be pretty, it’s designed to suck up and stick in the crumbs so that your top layer can be beautiful and smooth with no crumbs showing. Cover the cake and all the sides in icing, it doesn’t have to be a thick layer of icing, just thin enough to catch those crumbs, then put in the fridge for at least half an hour or so. Yes, it’s a pain in the bum step, but you’ll be glad you have done this when you get that perfect smooth crumb-free final look! You won’t regret it – I promise!!! I do this even if I’m piping on the cake instead of wanting a smooth finish, as it helps the piping stick to the cake.
Now it’s time for your final icing layer – I use the angled spatula that you can see, it’s so much easier to get that awesome smooth look. See that beautiful finish…. isn’t it pretty??
To get the web placement right I used my wire cake leveller but you could use a knife, floss, clean fishing line etc to lightly mark your cake in sections.
Now, here is where the hard work starts and your muscles get a work out. I used Wilton Black Sparkle Gel for the web. I used a skewer in the end to poke the hole as opposed to cutting the end off the tip for a finer result. Follow the lines you’ve made in step 8.
Next do the little dips in between each part of the web until the top is covered. Mine isn’t perfect, but the end result is effective. This is the part where I put the cake back in the fridge because my arms were killing me.
Next follow your lines down the side, start at the bottom and work your way up until you’ve finished all the way around. I kept telling myself it will be worth it in the end. My arm muscles certainly got a workout anyway 😉
Next is the eyes. I have made Marshmallow Fondant before and if you are completely covering a cake I highly recommend it! The taste is amazing and sooooo much better flavouring then the store bought stuff. Although, if you need black, purchase it. I have tried and tried again to successfully make black and it always turns out grey. I have been told to purchase the black powder, but am yet to try this. These fondants are purchased. I went back to my print out and cut out the eyes (but don’t throw out the face yet). Roll out the fondant (use icing sugar on baking paper and continue to move it as you’re rolling it out to keep it workable and not sticking to anything). Use a sharp knife to cut around the paper (I have a little tool that I use that is like a super small knife one end and a point at the other end)
Trim the paper again and do the same with the white.
Almost finished with the eyes…. Use water lightly on your finger to clean off the icing sugar and stick the white fondant to the black. Don’t use too much, it’s better to not use enough and add to it, you can’t take it back. Also, wash your hands after you touch the black – every. time. Trust me on this. It’s tricky to get black fingerprints off white fondant. It’s possible, but I prefer not to do it.
Last step….. can you hardly believe it?!? Use the original face with the eyes to cut out to work out roughly where the eyes should sit. DON’T lay it down on the cake, just hover it over and get a rough idea. End result – Mr L LOVED IT!!!!! (I also had to make him a Spiderman outfit to wear to dinner, he thought his Lego Spiderman was so cool!
I’ll do more step-by-steps as I do more cakes and cupcakes throughout the year. Hope these inspire you to make your own cakes, even if they aren’t perfect, the kids still love them and I bet they won’t even notice or remember the imperfections, they’ll just remember that super cool Spiderman Cake you created with love.
Thursday was my little man’s 4th Birthday. This time has just flown by, but one thing I do love doing every year is making my kids birthday cakes.
First is the cupcakes from Pre-Prep Wednesday. Spiderman was the request, looking back, I’m so glad that I didn’t go down this track. His main birthday cake was Spiderman and it took a LONG time.
I used my go-to cake recipe for all my vanilla cakes from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book. I have the revised anniversary edition and it’s in a very loved condition hehe so I had to take a photo from google, but I remember my mum baking me cakes from this exact book. It’s full of memories and hope to pass those memories onto my own children!
But, if you aren’t a make-from-scratch kinda person, then I have also used the 75c packets of Butter Cake mix from Coles or Woolworths, and these work perfectly fine (I also usually put in an extra 2-3 tablespoons of Self-Raising Flour just to bulk it out and be the consistency I prefer). Now, back to the decorating.
I use the Wilton Colour Gel as it gets an amazing colouring that I just can’t achieve with the Queens Colouring in those bottles (you all know what I’m talking about). For the cupcakes I’ve used Royal Blue for one batch and Leaf Green for the second, for the icing i used Christmas Red & Royal Blue. I decided against Spiderman as I had run out of time, so using my Wilton 2D piping tip I piped from the outside in going upwards as I went (Similar to a soft serve ice cream cone but nowhere near as tall). These went down well with the kids.