Thursday, January 29, 2009

Book Review: Kitchen Garden Cooking with kids by Stephanie Alexander

I've been eyeing this book off for a while, so when I spotted it in the library the other day, I grabbed it.

The website explains it better than I could:

"Stephanie Alexander's philosophy is that there is no such thing as special food for children: if food is good, then everyone will enjoy it regardless of age. In Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids, Stephanie gathers together 120 recipes, all specially written for children, with simple instructions, a colourful layout and lots of fast, fun facts for curious minds. But while all of these recipes can be negotiated by a couple of eight-year-olds in aprons - with a bit of adult supervision - the dishes are anything but standard kids' fare: alongside the muffins and slices are homemade pastas, Indian curries, Asian tea eggs and vegetable rich winter soups.

Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids also tells the story behind the recipes - the inspiring tale of the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College. In 2001, Stephanie initiated a garden and cooking program in a large inner-city Melbourne school. Since then the program has given hundreds of primary school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food - freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.

In the same way that The Cook's Companion changed the culinary habits of a generation, Kitchen Garden Cooking with kids will challenge the way we think about the eating habits of our children."

It really is a wonderfully inspiring book. The first section talks about the way they set it up, and walks through the first few years of the gardening and cooking program. Then comes the gorgeous looking and sounding recipes! The recipes have got lots of instructions and even little tidbits of information that I found intriguing! I especially liked the way the recipes are set out by season.

It's now been added to my "purchase" list for sometime in the future, and it's given me the push to allow Billy more of a role in the kitchen. If you have kids, and like gardening & cooking - I definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sometimes you have to be sneaky..

For a week or so I've been asking Billy to start cleaning the shelves in his bedroom cupboard - I just wanted him to do 1 shelf at a time as I knew he'd get overwhelmed otherwise. Somehow it just hasn't made it onto his priority list :)

So rather than get angry, today I got sneaky. I just went in there myself and started cleaning - sure enough, a few minutes later "What are you doing? Can I do it too?" :)

Between us it probably only took about an hour and the shelves are now very tidy with strict instructions to keep it that way - yeah right! I only managed to throw out 3 shopping bags of rubbish - I could've got more if he wasn't helping - he's a hoarder but getting better. I also put aside a box of puzzles & toys to pass down to his cousins that he's grown out of.

So now there's room to start transferring stuff from some of the other cupboards where plastic toys are breeding...

I wasn't game to take a 'before' photo lol.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 26th January

Notes on last week's menu:
I tried a new pizza dough recipe which made great thin crust pizzas but the general consensus was the family preferred thicker... *sigh*

To use up this week:
* roast turkey
* I have a freezer full of unidentified meals - I'm trying to slowly use them up to make some space

Menu Plan this week:

Well, after a couple of unexpected social events this week where we supplied part of the meal, the money I had put aside for fresh stuff this week has been "eaten up"! I have about $2 in my wallet, and while I could raid other envelopes for money, I'm going to try my best to do without.

We have no:
* eggs - I have "no-egg" if I need to do some baking, or will find recipes that don't use eggs. I made banana muffins today so that will do us for a while. We'll just have to forgo eggs for breakfast!
* bread - I can make bread (made some today for today & tomorrow) plus we still have heaps of wraps. The yeast is running short, so can fall back on scones or pikelets if necessary.
* fresh fruit - this is the biggest one. I have heaps of tins of fruit, it just depends how many complaints I get about the lack of fruit pieces :)
* milk - I have powdered milk for cooking & my tea. DH uses milk on his cereal and won't use powdered milk, so I'll make some bircher muesli using yoghurt instead - or he can just put up with it! I'll bet this week Billy decides he wants milkshakes to drink :)

So a few challenges there, but we should be able to manage without too much hardship!

Monday - roast turkey (carried over from last night as we went to friend's place for dinner)
Tuesday - freezer meal & pasta / dumplings / rice - depends what it is when it's thawed out!
Wednesday - t-bone & chips
Thursday - BBQ thai spiced chicken, rice & veges
Friday - turkey & salad wraps
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - rolled roast beef & veges

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* Garden?? What garden??!

Planting this week:
* Not sure yet, need to sit down & plan.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Getting stuck into the house

It's been filthy hot this week, I've had a migraine most of the week, and we've been had a few days where we've had to leave early and got home late-ish. So the house is a mess!

It's cooler today, so time to get stuck into things. I have probably 3 loads of washing to do, clean the kitchen & hallway from all the things that have been dumped there. Plus I have a bit of paid work to try and get to.

Let's do it!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Guess who I met yesterday???!

Yep, that's right - Libby!

And what did we do together? Went hunting for poo !!

We went on a National Parks & Wildlife Discovery tour - "Whose Poo's that?" (with the kids lol) - at the gorgeous Tomaree National Park. The tour consisted on looking for animal tracks & poo, and trying to identify what types of animals had been there. As you can see we saw LOTS of rabbit poo!, but also tracks of birds, lizards & possibly wallabies. It was really interesting - I learnt some stuff myself!

During the tour, the day changed from the occasional spits of rain, to a light drizzle, so that put a stop to our plans to go to the beach. So we headed for shelter and went to Fighterworld, an aviation museum at the nearby Williamtown RAAF base.

The kids got to sit in the cockpit of a couple of fighter jets (don't ask me what they were!), look at lots of jets coming in to land and take off, and try out the ejector seats.

We were very tempted to leave them strapped in while we went and had a coffee, but refrained!

It was a great day - it was so nice to meet Libby, Amy & Christy - Libby & I have "known" each other for years online but this was our first meeting in real life. I'm pretty sure it won't be the last!! The kids got on well, and I felt so comfortable with Libby like we'd been doing stuff together for years.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Finances and pocket money

I bought myself a copy of the Simply Budgets program after hearing some good reviews of it, so I spent last week entering budget details and trying to get my head around the program. I've been a fan of Microsoft Money for years for tracking expenses, but it's budgetting side was quite atrocious (in my opinion!!)

Simply Budgets doesn't track expenses - it simply forecasts your cash flow. They use the analogy that tracking is like driving while looking out of the rear window - which I had heard before but is quite apt! With Simply Budgets, you enter in your regular expenses, starting dates, cycles etc and it forecasts your cash flow. You can select that you'll be paying things via credit card if you want.

One of the good things about it is the long term savings forecasts for things like fridge replacement, car tyres, car batteries etc. You enter the life of the item (it suggests a length for many things), the cost and the current age, and it tells you how much you need to save to have the money when you need it.

I really like the way you can set your own cycle for things - I have a 6 weekly chiro appointment and it really used to peeve me in Money that it could only be monthly or 2 monthly. This one you can set a 'number of days' cycle.

One of the hardest things for me to get my head around is that it doesn't track expenses. There is nowhere to enter an 'actual' figure - you simply roll the budget over and change the opening balance of your account. I'm still trying to decide if this is good or bad! The only times I tend to look back at expenses is to work out a) did I pay something and / or when, and b) how much was something. I'm not sure if bank records will be good enough for this, but time will tell.

It has made me realise that we have a $1000 hole coming up in April that needs to be plugged before then! It's also made me think about the way my accounts were structured, so I've done some reorganising in that area.

It's only been a week, but so far I think it will be a very useful investment.


Bel reminded me that I hadn't updated on my grand pocket money scheme for Billy that started in December. Well, its so far so good! His room has never been clean for this long before - I suspect some of it may be surface clean - I haven't gone delving under cushions and things, but I'll accept that for now!!

His chart consists of 2 things he has to do each day to get the full amount of pocket money each week - keep his room clean, and be good. 'Be good' is of course a relative term - as long as he doesn't have a complete melt-down and isn't consistently bad then he's ok! I have just added an extra line this week - 'clean teeth'. I added that one after realising his hygiene habits have slipped somewhat lately - he was 'sprung' when I found his toothbrush still packed away 4 days after we'd gotten back from holidays!!! (Yes, no 'mum of the year' awards here for not checking lol!)

So most weeks he's gotten the full amount of pocket money ($2) - he loses 10c for each square not stamped. While we were away it got spent a fair amount on lollies since we were at the corner shop every day or so buying bread. I consider it a learning exercise though - he still got to work out what he could afford and he started to see that some things were better value than others. Plus the pride on his face as he was offering around lollies that he'd bought 'with his own money' was priceless!

This morning he had $11 in his wallet when we went shopping - and boy was it burning a hole in his pocket!! I talked him out of buying half of the toy shop (we went in there to buy a nephew's present), but he finally ended up buying a Disney magazine with a WALL-E pencil case while we were in the supermarket. He's still coming to grips with the idea that once he spends it, it's gone - he was still talking about going back next week and buying a toy that he *had* almost had enough money for! Oh well, better to learn that at 6 than 26!!

It's also cut way down on the stuff I would usually buy for him - now when he starts harping for something I just say "do you have enough money for that?" and it usually stops him in his tracks!

So all in all, it's successful so far!

Menu Plan Monday - 19th January

Notes on last week's menu:
The souvlaki was quite a nice recipe and will go into rotation, the chow mein was quite salty and nothing at all like I expected. Probably won't do it again.

Having a day set aside to use up leftovers is working well.

To use up this week:
* roast beef

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - beef & salad wraps
Tuesday - meatballs in tomato & basil sauce
Wednesday - chicken curry & rice
Thursday - leftover roast with salad or veges
Friday - pizza
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - roast chicken & veges

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* Garden?? What garden??!

Planting this week:
* Not sure yet, need to sit down & plan.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back to school!

We started back with our school work this week - just because we could lol! It'd been a while since we'd done anything formal - with our November trip and then the lead up to Xmas, we'd gotten pretty relaxed with things.

I'm working on doing about an hour's "formal" work each day - the rest is learning from life. Our focus in Term 1 will be:

  • English - Billy still writes mainly with capital lessons - or a combination - and while his writing is ok, it's not going to win any neatness awards! I'm planning to spend a lesson each week going through a handwriting book I have and getting him to do the exercises - he was quite excited to be awarded with stickers when we did it this week :) On the reading side, he's doing the library reading challenge at the moment, and the usual reading each night - us reading more advanced books so he gets a feel for better sentence structure and grammar, and him reading smaller books to us.
  • Maths - we're working through the Year 1 Leap into Maths book - 1 unit each week.
  • Science & Tech - we still have a couple of things to do to finish off the Weather unit from last term, and then we'll be doing a Push / Pull unit - basically forces in air & water & gravity.
  • HSIE - Prehistoric man and early civilizations
  • Creative & Practical Arts - Drama classes, playing musical instruments at home
  • PDHPE - (Physical Education) - He's starting a circus class learning basic circus skills!
This week we did:

  • English - Worked on lower case 'a' in handwriting, lots of reading.
  • Maths - Year 1 Leap into Maths Unit 15.
  • Science & Tech - tried to make crystals using a crystal kit he got for Xmas - it looks like a dismal failure atm!
  • HSIE - He made a dinosaur lapbook - this was our first ever lapbook and I can see the attraction now! I just had to put aside my perfectionism and my ideas of how I thought it should look!
Front of the lapbook

Inside the egg is a baby dinosaur printout

Inside the lapbook - the top left printout shows where dinosaurs used to live. The right hand side has print outs showing how big dinosaurs were in comparison with other dinosaurs & man. The top right one shows how they defended themselves with armour, spikes etc

The middle books open out to show information about carnivores and herbivores - the front page has Billy's definition of each, and then subsequent pages have printouts of various dinos of that type.

On the left hand side, the blue book opens out to show the 3 periods of dinosaurs - triassic, jurassic and cretaceous, and when they were.

The yellow booklet has information about how they died, and then subsequent pages show fossils and footprints. I took pity on him and typed those as he dictated - otherwise we'd still be there next year!

Ta da - our first lapbook! It was a great way to summarise our learnings - we hadn't studied dinosaurs out of the text-book as such, but had read lots of books about them, and did activities at a couple of dinosaur exhibits. I was pleasantly suprised at how much he had retained.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Several bloggers I read have chosen a word to represent this year, and for me, it has to be balance that I'm trying to achieve. Balance between the needs of me, family, work, homeschooling & home (with everything it incorporates).

I think I say this every year, but maybe if I make it my theme it will help me focus on it.

I started pulling back from some things last year that were taking a lot - not necessarily in time but emotional energy. I resigned today from another organisation that while I still think is a great thing, just wasn't a fit for me at this particular point in time with that particular group.

I'm trying to get more organised but I'm recognising that I like to go overboard with "systems", so have pared back to a basic notebook and calendar. As I commented to a friend - I know what I need to do, I need to stop looking for the perfect system and JUST DO IT!

This week has been good. We started back with school work and spent (on average) an hour each day on it (more in a later post). I've been able to get some paid work done through the day - sometimes locking myself away for an hour to concentrate, other days just working when I could. I've spent several nights knitting and other nights reading! Most mornings I did a few minutes of stretching after my shower - I've made a note to look for a Yoga DVD in the library so I can get back into that. The house is reasonable - still lots to do but slowly. The garden hasn't had a lot of attention lavished on it due to a few HOT days this week (41C one day!), but I have been out watering and got a bit of weeding done. I haven't wasted any food this week, and cut up some leftover veges to freeze tonight. I've worked out where we're up to with our finances and haven't spent anything over budget.

It's been a good week!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 12th January

Notes on last week's menu:

To use up this week:
* roast beef
* tin tuna

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - souvlaki & salad wraps
Tuesday - sausages & grilled vegetables
Wednesday - chow mein & rice
Thursday - leftover beef - not sure what yet
Friday - tuna mornay
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - roast beef & veges

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Eating from the garden:
* Garden?? What garden??!

Planting this week:
* Not sure yet, need to sit down & plan.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Refreshed, relaxed and ready to go..

We got back early this afternoon from our trip away. Having the 2 weeks away made it really relaxing as we weren't rushing to fit everything in. We had fantastic weather for much of it too.

I did lots of this:

and this (I taught myself to knit using a kid's learn to knit book, and made myself a dishcloth & a puppet for Billy):

Billy did lots of:

and a bit of this:

He had a fantastic time playing with lots of kids from the caravan park - he was old enough that I could let him roam a fair bit (under strict rules lol and not near the water).

Pete did lots of this:

(I didn't have a picture of him drinking beer or playing on his computer - I'll leave that up to your imagination!)

A few other highlights were - watching the dolphins swim up the river a few mornings right outside our van:

* a magician came to the caravan park and put on a show - B got to be one of his helpers!

* we ventured out to the Pet Porpoise Pool at Coffs Harbour for a great morning out.

Now there is a pile of stuff in the hallway to be unpacked, the garden has been severely neglected and I need to start thinking about work - but it was good while it lasted!!