Monday, March 31, 2008


In an earlier comment Miserly Mum asked what sort of meals we eat - huge apologies for not getting back to you earlier!

In a nutshell, we're basic, meat & 3 vege eaters. Pete is doing the CSIRO diet atm which is high in meat, low in carbs. I buy mostly staples and we eat very few processed foods. Bear with me while I take a small meander down memory lane and see how far I've come.

Growing up, Mum worked hard and wasn't really into cooking - meals were more fuel for our bodies than for enjoyment. So when I left home and moved in with a girlfriend, I was a pretty hopeless cook! I was working full-time & going to uni at night, so meals pretty much consisted of cereal, toast, pasta, frozen foods and take-away! (Needless to say I put on a lot of weight during that period!)

Things weren't much better once Pete & I got married - consider the scenario - 2 non-cooks, lots of disposable income, living within 5 mins drive of most of the take-away chains! We were getting pizza delivered several times a week at one stage - I shudder to think of it now! Our idea of cooking was to put frozen pies or cardboard fish, and frozen chips in the oven.. Or if we were feeling *really* adventurous, we'd brown some mince, open a jar of pasta sauce & cook some pasta. On the odd occasion I would cook a roast dinner - on the *very* odd occasion!

8 years ago we built & moved into our current house. We suddenly had a big mortgage and were living further away from the fast food chains. I had to learn to cook all of a sudden! I can't really remember what we ate, but I think it was still a lot of processed foods - jars of sauce, frozen pies etc. We'd slowed down a lot on take-away though and were learning to cook.

5 years ago - now down to 1 income, with a baby that would.not.sleep!! I stumbled across the Failsafe diet. I've no idea why it took me that long since my sister had been involved with it with her girls from very early on but in my defense she was on the other side of Australia and we didn't keep in touch much at that time. That got me more interested in cooking from scratch. I also found the Simple Savings website somewhere in that time - I wish I could remember when. From there I learnt lots of new skills & recipes - I didn't even know it was possible to make some of the staples that I found recipes for! From a eating healthy / being frugal interest, it's now broadened to encompass being mindful of our limited resources as well - and gotten me more into gardening etc. It's really just spun off (out of control??! Lol) from all of those.

Now we very rarely eat processed food or take-away. I make most of our bread & buns from scratch (I love yeast-cooking!), and all of our tortillas. I mince our own meat, make our own jam, sometimes make our own ice-cream. I make yoghurt with the Easiyo sachets - I haven't attempted to make it from scratch yet! I like to give myself some slack - I enjoy it if I choose to do it, but if I *have* to do it, sometimes it just becomes too much like a chore. I got a dehydrator for Xmas so have been using that to dry fruit when I have excess. I make most of our sweet stuff - cakes, biscuits etc, but I haven't found a savoury biscuit recipe that I can make work!

I'm actually struggling to remember what else I do, because it's such a habit now! I have at various times made my own coconut milk, my own yoghurt cheese, my own butter by whipping cream. These ones are things that I may not choose to do all of the time, but it's a skill that I know I could do if I have to and comes in handy when the cupboards are bare!

I still buy things like Thai curry and Tandoori pastes just because it's more cost effective at this stage to buy a small jar and use it every now & then, than to buy a whole heap of foreign ingredients! I haven't attempted my own tomato paste yet but it's on my list next time I have lots of tomatoes.

I buy some of our meat from the butcher (he makes awesome ham, bacon & sausages) and usually pick the rest up (beef & pork, we don't eat lamb) on specials at the supermarket. I usually just stock up on specials rather than buy marked-down meat - I've been burnt a few times with off meat so I rarely take the risk. I usually get chicken from the Steggles outlet shop near us. We're trying to eat fish once / week, which I'll either buy frozen from Aldi or get from the fish markets if we're near it - it's an hour away.

I mainly get fruit & vege at a local f&v shop, but will sometimes pick them up at the supermarket if I'm short on time (or energy!). I used to be the "peas, carrot & corn veges" and "ice-berg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber salad" type but am trying to be more adventurous with what we eat!

So basically, it's been a slow process, but if I can do it - anyone can learn :)

If anyone else would like to share their journey, feel free to link in the comments. It's heartening for those starting out to realise that not every one was born with a wooden spoon in their hand!

end of No Spend Month

I made it to the end! No spend month has been pretty much a success. I saved $50 from the grocery budget last fortnight so I'll be able to put that towards vegetables for the garden. I forgot to record it for the last week or so (I've been suffering from a distinct lack of motivation lately) but I think the only blowout was having the parents in law over for lunch at Easter. It wasn't too bad - they bought a chicken & buns, I provided salad & hot cross buns (homemade) so that was all fine. I forgot about buying soft drink though so had to send Pete for a last minute trip to the servo - $13 later. Ouch!

I also saved about $40 of my own sanity money and $50 in petrol money - that one was more good luck than good management as we didn't go far over Easter.

I'm pretty pleased with it though!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm now a sports mum!

I've now joined the ranks of being a "sports mum" - not a "soccer mum" but an "Auskick mum"!

Billy had his first session at a team sport on Saturday. We've enrolled him in Auskick - the junior version of AFL (Australian Rules) for 5 - 8 yos.

Saturday was a Gala day for the start of the season, so teams from all around the region were there. They split them up into teams and had 4 stations set up with different techniques to learn - ball-handling, kicking, catching & handballing. They did an hour of that (!) and then split them up again to play a modified game. Billy was totalled stuffed by the end of it!!

He was one of the little ones, most were older kids who had played last year, so he did ok for his first time - despite the fact that he suffers from my lack of co-ordination! I was proud of him because there were no tantrums, he didn't run back to us crying - he was obviously totally exhausted but kept going. That's big for him - he tends to be quite unsure in new situations. We had tears before we left because he said he was "a bit nervous".

The coaches were really good with the kids though - giving individual attention to each one. When they were playing the games Billy & another kid on the other team were totally stuffed and lagging behind, so not getting a touch of the ball and getting more dispirited. I noticed the coach made a point of including them, let them have a kick as well, at one stage one of the coaches lifted Billy up so he could catch the ball. I was very impressed. The emphasis was very much on fun not competition.

The players all got a free sausage sandwich and a drink, plus since it was a gala day he got a sticker & balloon. He was very happy!

Pete will be taking him most weeks, but I'll have to take him along on the weeks that Pete can't do. I have to say I'm looking forward to the days when Pete takes him - time to myself!! I worked out today that the last time I had more than an hour to myself was over 3 months ago.. Yes, I was feeling down and sorry for myself today :) Pete was down in Sydney watching the Swans and I was trying to pretend I wasn't there so that I could get 5 minutes to myself - Billy kept finding me though :(

Food Porn Meme

Katrina & Lis have both tagged me for this meme, which originally started with Rosanne.

Here are the really simple rules.

Answer each of the five questions.

Tag five bloggers you would like to pass the meme to.

Have them link back to you and to this post as the source meme.
You and they can take the graphic from here if they like.

1. What food do you consider the best “date” food? In other words, what meal or food item do you think is sexiest to eat in the company of someone you would like to look sexy around?
I'd have to say fettucine carbonara - but I can be a bit messy when I'm eating it, so it may not be sexy to watch *me* eat it :)

2. What well-known person would you like to share a meal with—with or without clothing. (saying whether or not clothes are involved is optional).
Australian author and gardening guru Jackie French. She likes food, gardening & I find her a fascinating person. Definitely *with* clothing!

Although if we're talking sexy fantasy, then I wouldn't say no to David Tennant (Dr Who) - sexy grin. sexy eyes, sexy Scottish accent! He could be sans clothes :)

3. What does your perfect breakfast-in-bed look like? (Food AND the details, please. Candles? Music? Flowers? Hot tub? Dancing girls?
The main detail would be that it would be brunch, not breakfast (oh to sleep in late!! lol). Alone would be good too. No music, just silence; my favourite comfort breakfast - poached eggs & toast (with soldiers to dip of course!), and a cup of white tea.

4. What do you consider the best application of whipped cream to be?
Hmm, not a huge fan of whipped cream. Maybe with sticky date (sticky toffee) pudding?

5. Oh-God-No, Biff, the yacht is sinking! You are sent to the galley to retrieve the food. What luxury food items do you snatch first? The champagne? The caviar? Smoked Salmon? Truffles? Chocolate? Or something else?
Well if the yacht is sinking, anything will become a luxury very quickly! So to be practical, water & non-perishable foods.. To be frivolous, belgian chocolate...

I tag:
Mrs P at Golightly Place
Milk and Cookies - my favourite food blog
Miserly Mum
and Katrina

If anyone else wants to do it, consider yourself tagged.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My dream..

Thank you again for all of the encouraging comments.

I want to write. When I was kid I used to write the most imaginative stories - I'd fill an exercise book with each story. I wanted to be a writer (and a teacher and probably more lol). I remember writing a long story in 3rd grade all about a friendly dragon - my teacher wrote a comment like "excellent story but please make them shorter".. That comment has stuck in my mind for almost 30 years and I think of it as the beginning of the end of my creativity :( I became a master at writing succintly - to the point that in Yr 12 I had to get tutored in essay writing because I just couldn't write them long enough!

For a long time I've had the urge to write but it's been a vague yearning, with no concrete idea. I'm always writing in my head - either a blog post, a "conversation" with my email friends or a scene - but I had no "big idea". A month or so ago though I had an idea for a children's book that has inspired me. I have to get past the idea that I'll never be the next J.K.Rowling lol, and just enjoy writing it for myself. Even if the only person to ever read it is Billy, I'm going to give it a go.

I've been writing notes about the characters and ideas for the last few weeks, and today I just jumped in and started writing. I've done 200 words - not much, but it's a start!! (That was as far as I got before I got interrupted!) I've since decided that I need another character (my hero was getting lonely talking to himself) so I need to go back and add her in now. My mind is buzzing with ideas!

Thank you all for giving me the proverbial kick and telling me to go for it!

Out of routine!

Pete went back to work today - he had yesterday off as a Picnic Day or something - so it feels like Monday to me. I'm trying to get back into things but my body wants to stay on holidays! It's 10:40, I have at least had a shower, had breakfast and made the beds. Dishes need to be washed, floors swept, morning tea made (must have some fruit today to counteract the chocolate!). I'm in the process of unblocking a toilet (it looks like "someone" has used a whole roll of toilet paper in one go!!) - not a pleasant task...

I think I need a cuppa!! (and to get off this computer!)

Mud Puddles and Yellow Dandelions

This poem was in my chiropractor's latest newsletter - I thought it was very fitting given my last post.


When I look at a patch of dandelions, I see a bunch of weeds that are going to take over my yard. My kids see flowers for Mum and blowing white fluff you can wish on.

When I look at an old drunk and he smiles at me, I see a smelly, dirty person who probably wants money and I look away.
My kids see someone smiling at them and they smile back.

When I hear music I love, I know I can't carry a tune and don't have much rhythm so I sit self-consciously and listen.
My kids feel the beat and move to it. They sing out the words. If they don't know them, they make up their own.

When I feel wind on my face, I brace myself against it. I feel it messing up my hair and pulling me back when I walk.
My kids close their eyes, spread their arms and fly with it, until they fall to the ground laughing.

When I see a mud puddle I step around it. I see muddy shoes and dirty carpets.
My kids sit in it. They see dams to build, rivers to cross, and worms to play with.

I wonder if we are given kids to teach or to learn from?
Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.


Thank you for all the responses to my self-indulgent post. I'm "digesting" them and will reply shortly.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What if I fail??

**** Warning - self-indulgent, reflective post that I had to get out of my head *****

I'm a perfectionist. If I can't do something well, I just don't do it.

Academically I've always done quite well. At school I was always in the top few in the class. Don't get me wrong, I worked hard but it wasn't a real struggle. When I went to uni I failed a subject in my first year - I was mortified. Failure didn't happen to me!!! The truth was I was .. *ahem* too preoccupied with other things in my life and arrogant enough to think that I didn't need to study for the exam lol. I even went to the lecturer convinced that he'd made a mistake - I couldn't fail! He hadn't and I did. It was the only time, I made sure of that!

I'm good at my main chosen profession of programming, and also good at my 2nd profession of teaching adults. I'm accustomed to doing well at things.

Physically though it's an entirely different story. I'm crap at sports - can't run, can't catch, can't throw. (I sound like Joe the cameraman!). So now that I have a choice I just don't do those things. I don't put myself in a position where I can fail or look incompetent. I had too many years of being the last kid picked on the sporting team :( Now at family events, when everyone else is out playing cricket or basketball, I'll be the one you see on the sidelines volunteering to look after the younger kids or washing up in the kitchen. It doesn't stop me from wishing I wasn't so self-conscious. I'd like to play sometimes but I can't get over the feeling of everyone watching and laughing.

Creatively it's the same. As much as I'd love to draw or paint or sing, I just can't so I don't. It's only in the last few months that I've given myself "permission" to sketch things - no matter how bad it looks. And you know what, I enjoy it! It's in my private journal, not to see the light of day, but hey, it's a start.

Why am I writing this? I have a dream of something creative that I want to do, but I'm scared of starting. I've only told one person, and she'll be asking me very soon how I'm getting on with it, but the truth is, I'm scared. I have all of the excuses under the sun - too busy, too tired, child is too needy.. Really though, it's hard to take that first step - what if I'm not as good as I think I will be? Can I cope with the failure? How do I get started?

Friday, March 21, 2008

The lady and the watermelon

Once upon a time, there was a lady who grew watermelons for the first time. She pored over the internet, trying to decide if her watermelons were ripe. She concluded one at least was, so picked it and bore it triumphantly into the house. Proudly she gathered her family around her for the great unveiling.

The knife sliced through, the melon parted - to show light pink flesh and white seeds "oh no, it's not ripe yet"...

The disappointment was almost more than she could bear. The longed for treat was not to be.

So back to the internet she went to find out what to do with an unripe melon.. Recipes anyone??

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Spend month Day 18

Monday - grocery shopping today. $94 for groceries, fruit & vege to hopefully do us for the fortnight. I'll probably need to buy some ham at the butchers later in the week (our butcher makes the nicest ham!) I've taken the rest of the money out of my wallet and tucked it away so it won't get "accidentally" spent..

Tuesday - I sucked!! I'm blaming hormones :( My hair was driving me insane needing a cut - I was seriously considering grabbing the clippers and giving myself a #2! I still haven't heard back from the LETS lady to organise a time to cut my hair so I succumbed and went to the hairdresser.. $23 later - but boy it felt good!!! My morning had been really busy and frustrating - everything I touched went pear-shaped. I was dropping things, burning things etc etc.. Once I dropped Billy at drama I had to go and buy Easter eggs for the Easter bunny to deliver - and I was powerless to resist the diet coke & chips that jumped into my basket :( So all up $28 I needn't have spent yesterday.

Onwards and (hopefully) upwards!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick's Day (for yesterday)! Apologies for the quality of the photo - I took it last night with the flash on so it's washed out a bit.

I found these great worksheets at Enchanted Learning - they're colour-by-number sheets, but to work out what colour to do each bit, you need to work out the sum first eg 2+3=5 which is red (for example).

Oh and happy birthday to my BIL for yesterday :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another thing to strike off the shopping list - coconut milk..

I wanted to make a thai curry on Friday night but didn't have any coconut milk. I remembered reading somewhere that you could make coconut milk from dessicated coconut so I did a bit of search and found you could!

I found multiple ways of making it - the simplest being just to soak the coconut in boiling water and drain it out to extract the milk. I ended up using this one from Recipezaar (because I like to find the most complicated method possible lol):


  • 8 ounces desiccated coconut(dry)
  • 3 1/2 cups water


    1. In a medium-sized pot, place dessicated coconut and water.
    2. Mix and allow to soak for ½ an hour.
    3. After ½ an hour, turn heat onto low and bring to a gentle simmer.
    4. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
    5. Turn off heat and leave pot on element for ½ an hour.
    6. After ½ an hour, transfer coconut mixture to blender or processor and process for 45 seconds.
    7. Put a large sieve over a bowl and empty coconut mixture into it.
    8. Press down hard on coconut solids with the back of a spoon to remove as much coconut milk as possible.
    9. This method produces approximately 2 cups of coconut milk.
    10. Can be made up to 2 days before use in a recipe and refrigerated, covered. The milk will separate in the fridge, forming a creamy ‘fat’ layer on top, and a thinner ‘liquid’ layer underneath. Not to worry, the fat layer will melt into the liquid when heated and form a lovely milk.

  • It looked like coconut milk, smelt like coconut milk and tasted pretty darn good too! I don't know if I'll stop buying the tinned stuff altogether but it's nice to know I can make an alternative out of the pantry.

    Oh and I used the coconut to make a coconut cake today, so the coconut milk was basically free!

    No spend month Day 16

    Wed - stayed home.

    Thur - packed yet another picnic lunch to take to the park with a homeschool group! Paid $15 for a book I'd ordered last month.

    Fri-Sun - home - no spend.

    I've made it through this week without buying groceries! I had to soften some butter by mixing it with olive oil to make spreadable butter for the week, and I made some coconut milk because we didn't have any and I was craving Thai chicken curry but everything else has been pretty normal.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    The Story of Stuff

    I just watched this quick film - - after I read about on Libby's blog ( Certainly some interesting stats in it - very alarming to hear some of the figures, and interesting to hear about the planned obsolescence. If you're watched it what did you think?

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    No spend month Day 11

    Saturday - filming, lunch was provided so no-spend. Tick.

    Sunday - stayed home so no spending. Tick.

    Monday - Pete's on a course this week with work, so his lunch is provided. That will save some money on packing lunch for him! Tick.

    Unfortunately we had to pay a toll fine for the trip we made to Sydney last month - apparently we somehow went through an eTag Toll Booth and since we don't have an eTag we got charged the $1.30 toll AND a $10 "administration" charge.. Not happy Jan.. Especially since the eTag spot was on the entry ramp between 2 free roads so we didn't actually travel on any toll roads at all :( Cross.

    Tuesday - a few essentials - parking, chiro, health-food shop. Unfortunately we were out for the day and I couldn't be bothered making a picnic lunch - I've made too many lately :( So we went to Hungry Jacks for lunch :( In my defense I did plan it, and it was paid for out of my allowance but still.. Cross.

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    I have seedlings!!!

    I'm so excited!!! Just over a week after I planted my seeds and most of them have sprouted. So far I can see some of the basil (photo above), one of the lettuce (Rouge d'Hiver), silverbeet, oregano and cauliflower. The other lettuce (Freckles Bunte), parsley and broccoli are yet to make an appearance.

    I've being doing a little happy dance :) That's the first time I've managed to germinate little seeds - I'm fine with big ones like peas that just go in the ground, but these ones needed nurturing :) Now to keep them alive until they're big enough to plant.

    My set up was quite simple - I planted the seeds in seed-raising mix in egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom. That looked to be drying out too much so after the first couple of days I covered them with a sheet of clear plastic to make a little glasshouse (held down with a couple of spare pots). Then just watered them a bit more every day. Looks like a winner!!

    Saturday, March 08, 2008

    It's a wrap!!

    The short film that I've been mentioning recently was filmed today. What a fun experience! It took about 7 hours to film what will turn out to be a 5 or 10 minute segment :) The kids were really well-behaved and did so well. They were filming George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River and the battle of Trenton. It's part of a longer short film being made by our local Art Gallery and somehow has a tie-in to our local area's history (we're being kept in suspense until the completion of the project!).

    We had 16 kids ranging in age from 4 to 15. 12 were homeschoolers, with a couple of 'ring-ins' brought along to swell the numbers on filming day. The kids have been involved (at various levels) with designing & creating the costumes & props over the last 4 weeks. It's been a great learning experience of both American history and also how movies are made, not to mention the kids getting the opportunity to work as a team.
    I can't wait to see the final result - luckily it's supposed to look like a group of kids putting on a backyard play rather than a professional production :)

    How to make an 18th century American farmer's outfit...

    Well, my version anyway!!!

    Take one old business shirt (make sure hubby has finished with it first!!). Remove collar and buttons ..

    Soak in coffee overnight to make it brown..

    Do lots of cutting & tacking to make it fit a 5 year old, sew up the bottom half of the front seam , thread leather thonging through the top and sleeves. Then team with a pair of black trackpants, long black boots, and a 'fur' hat from the dress-up box (it was supposed to be winter!) Oh, and the ever-popular hessian bag :)

    For an outfit that cost me nothing, I'm pretty pleased with it!!

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    No spend month Day 7

    Thursday - meat & eggs - $78.35. There's at least 16 meals worth of meat there, so I shouldn't have to buy meat or chicken for a few weeks. I did manage to escape from the supermarket with only that - despite having a 5 year old with me! I've turned into mean mummy (again)!!!

    Friday - a quick trip to Aldi for essentials (bread, milk, cheese, flour etc). Oh and 2 packets of wafer biscuits for Billy (65c each - $1.30) as a treat for a good week. $18.60. That's the grocery budget for the fortnight gone now - no spending next week on food at all, but we shouldn't need anything. We have enough meat for a couple of weeks so with a bit of planning I should be able to save a lot next fortnight. Today was the 1st day in absolutely ages where I worked out the prices *before* I went to the shops, so I could adjust it according to the money I had to spend. It got reworked a few times before we went to fit the most in!

    Must . be . strong..

    Digger's seed catalogue arrived.... *drool* ..... Must not buy.....

    Send me some "be strong" vibes please!!!!

    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    No spend month Day 5

    Monday was a successful no-spend day. All I bought was chicken from the outlet chicken shop, & fruit & veges from the greengrocer. I'm trying to avoid doing a full shop until at least next week - unfortunately for the rest of the family that means powdered milk to drink! (I don't mind the taste so it doesn't worry me at all - that's all I have in my tea now anyway). I will need to buy meat later this week, but have found a couple of meals from the freezer. With Pete being on the CSIRO diet (low-carb, high-protein) atm, it makes it hard - I can't just fill everyone up with pasta or rice :(

    Tuesday - all I spent was $10 for sheets at the op shop (and you'd agree they were essential spending if you saw our current set!), and $3 for parking at drama - the classes are in the CBD so I can't avoid parking fees. I usually go to the cafe next door while Billy has his lesson and buy a drink and something to eat - not necessarily because I'm hungry but just for the chance to have an uninterrupted snack! Instead I took the thermos that Mum & Dad gave me for Xmas on it's maiden voyage! (After burning my hand AND my tongue I now know that it keeps the water quite hot lol)

    Today we stayed home so no spending.

    Boo on yet another interest rate rise :(

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Garden update

    The melon vine trying to take over the world - or at least the vege patch!

    We have melons!!! There are about 4 bigger ones and a handful of tiny ones on the vine. It's the first time I've grown melons, so I'm pretty excited - if only I could remember what type I planted lol.

    The peas & snow peas are growing well. I also have a pumpkin vine that's growing - it has some flowers on, but no fruit at this stage. It was a seed planted out of a store-bought butternut as an experiment, so we'll just have to wait and see. There are also some volunteer potatoes growing up in the vege patch - no idea how much is underneath!

    I finally got around to planting the seeds that I'm raising as seedlings - broccoli, cauliflower, silverbeet, lettuce, parsley, oregano, basil. For some reason I've been putting it off for a month - I think because I've always just direct sowed or bought seedlings and I'm scared I'll stuff it up - it took me about 20 mins from scratch once I got a round 'tuit'! I don't think I'm keeping it moist enough though so I'm going to rig up some sort of glasshouse with a sheet of plastic.

    Monday, March 03, 2008

    No-Spend Month

    I know Simple Savings had their No-Spend month in Feb but I'm a bit behind the times! I'm declaring March No-Spend month for me. I'm sick of playing catch-up with money all of the time - I have a list of things that we've spent over the budget this year and extra money is going to pay for stuff we've already purchased - rather than saving for it and then purchasing. I want to try and build up a buffer and not get further behind.. It's not helped by the majority of my clients thinking that "We appreciate your payment in 14 days" on the invoice doesn't apply to them :(

    So nothing non-essential this month. So far we haven't been anywhere in March which helps! I saved probably $30 by NOT going to the craft show yesterday! I was going to have a haircut tomorrow but have just trimmed the bits that were annoying me and will wait & get it done by a LETS member when I get a chance.

    Got to go and pack snacks & drinks to take to storytime!