Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vegetable gardening

This broccoli was harvested from our garden.  It is so exciting to be starting to eat food regularly from our vege patch.

We have more broccoli growing and nearly ready to eat.

 It actually looks overgrown, but it's just full of food, and 'almost' food.

There are tomatoes beginning to flower.

Fresh iceberg lettuce straight from the garden tastes amazing!!

My parsley has recovered after it was nearly demolished by the possum.

There's rosemary in one corner.

The cos lettuce is delicious in caesar salad.  We pick leaves as we use them so they are going to keep feeding us for some time yet.

We also have purple carrots growing, beetroot, snow peas, zucchini, and I was hoping some capsicum would come up [I sowed the seeds with the tomato seeds but no sign of them yet]. It really is an experiment for us, we've never successfully grown vegetables before [on purpose].  I am starting to plan what we will plant next.  I can see how gardening becomes addictive!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Miss 3's birthday cakes

 Miss 3 loves yellow.  So for her third birthday we had to have not one, but two yellow birthday cakes.  One for her 'party' with her family, the other for her 'party' with her three little friends. We had yellow balloons, yellow food, and played 'parcel parcel' as she calls it [pass the parcel].
Almost each day since her birthday, I have been told that now she is a 'big girl'.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My new strawberry patch

We planted a strawberry patch 6-8 weeks ago.  Three different varieties of strawberries, hopefully will extend our harvest as we have one early, one mid and one late-season variety.  We got 4 strawberries off recently, then the night before we harvested our second lot, a possum ate the lot.  Not happy.  Hence the netting to protect our fruit from possums and birds.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Little Red Riding Hood cape

Recently I was delivering the children's address at church, and I needed to recount the story of Little Red Riding Hood to help to illustrate the verse.  I made up this cape to help to illustrate the story.

It was extremely easy.  I used this free pattern and whipped it up in an hour or so.

Now we have a Little Red Riding Hood dress-up.  Very satisfying to run up when I haven't felt motivated to sew anything for a while.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

my laundry system

People often ask me how I 'do it' with four children.  Funnily enough, I have also asked this question of other mums, usually when I see them doing things well that I struggle with.  I am generally a fairly organised person [one has to be with a larger family] but it doesn't always come naturally.  I think it is learned, or perhaps something I have chosen to do to cope better.

One of the things I have always struggled with is washing.  Not the turning on of the washing machine, that's easy.  But actually washing clothes, getting them dry, folding them and putting them away every time I wash.  I don't know what it is, but I just struggle to get every part of the process complete.  I always seem to have clean unfolded clothes in a basket [or three] hiding somewhere, dry washing hanging on a line inside or out for days on end, ironing in a basket not ironed etc. etc.

I have been working on trying to improve this reality for many years.  While my current system is not perfect, IF I actually follow it I am able to keep more on top of the ridiculous volume of washing that a family of 6 seems to produce.

Basically my system is made up of two parts:
1) I do at least one load of washing every day no matter what [sometimes I have Sundays off]
2) I wash only one or two people's clothes in a wash [makes it easier to sort and fold]

I usually end up needing to do two loads a day, more if I miss a day.  I also tend to put two people of very different sized clothes in together, so it is very easy to work out whose socks/singlets are whose.

I also try to fold straight off the washing line, because otherwise I never seem to get back to the folding!!

Do you have a laundry system that works for you?  I'd be interested to know how you tackle this issue.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Doing it all

Sometimes people ask me how I do everything I do, or make comments like "I couldn't do what you do".  I have always been uncomfortable with these conversations, but never sure why.  Then I stumbled upon this blog post  about the great myth of having everything together and being able to "do it all".  People who comment about what I do must think I have my entire life "together".  Reality is so different.  The fact is that no one can do everything [even though sometimes I wish I could].

I thought it would be fun to list some of the many things that I don't do:
- I don't knit, I've always wanted to, but I don't have the time or patience to bother trying
- I don't play with my children nearly enough
- I don't exercise
- I don't get enough sleep
- I don't use my time as wisely as I could [I'm always choosing to watch tv or browse the internet over other things]
- I don't read enough [my growing tower of books I want to read on my bedside table is proof]
- I don't read to my girls enough
- I don't keep on top of my housework ... ever [my house is really dirty]
- I don't keep in touch of my friends/family the way I'd like to
- I don't remember birthdays
- I don't dust. Ever.
- I don't eat fruit [unless my kids are watching and then I have to]
- I don't keep on top of my photo albums [Miss 3 and Miss 5 don't have baby albums at all yet!!]
- I don't put the washing away until I run out of baskets [and I own heaps]
- I don't positively parent my kids the way I'd like

So while I have four children, keep busy running my home, helping in the classroom, leading bible studies, helping out at church, bake and cook from scratch, and sew and garden when I get the chance, I am far from  doing it ALL.  But that's okay.  I have a Lord & Saviour who makes up the difference for me in all the areas of my life where I don't measure up.  I am so thankful for Him.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gluten free orange cupcakes - thermomix

These are SO yummy, and despite using the skin and pith are not bitter at all.  I am really enjoying making these cakes at the moment.  If you don't have a thermomix you could try it with a food processor, but it may take a little longer to blitz/process.

Whole Orange cupcakes

1 whole orange cut into quarters (skin and all)
225g butter
3 eggs
1 cup [200g] sugar
2 cups [300g] gluten free flour blended with 2 tsp xanthan gum

2 teaspoons GF baking powder

Put the orange and butter into thermomix bowl. Blitz for 7 seconds [speed 8]. Scrape bowl and repeat.

Add eggs, sugar and flour. Mix for 20-30 seconds [speed 4].

Spoon into cupcake papers, bake at 170 C for 15-20 mins or until cooked. 

Dust with icing sugar or [my favourite] top with chocolate ganache.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

menu planning

I have been menu planning for years.  It is one of the many ways I cope with my crazy schedule.  I like to plan at least a week at a time, but I prefer a fortnight, or even a month.  That way I can make my grocery list and I'll have everything I need in the house for each meal I've planned.  When I'm busy I just recycle my grocery list and menu plan from fortnight to fortnight or month to month.

Recently I was finding that having to refer to a handwritten list, or a note on the computer, was becoming a problem.  I kept forgetting to check it early enough in the day to defrost meat etc. so now I am using Google calendar for my menu plan.

Now I have added an additional calendar that is purely for menus.  So each morning when I look at my calendar I can simultaneously look at what is planned for dinner.  I am loving this.

Do you menu plan?  What tools do you use to help you?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Playing with my thermomix

I've finally had a chance to 'play' with some of the basic things the thermomix can do.  It has been great fun.  These are things that they recommend trying in the first month or two that you own a thermomix.  I've had mine for 6 months and haven't stopped using it, but just skipped over the basics [I'm not so good at following instructions... oops].  I have to say that I wish I'd tried these things earlier as we could have been eating them for 6 months!!

I've made my own butter:

 Made yoghurt [from scratch - SO easy]:

 And boiled eggs in this amazing little machine.
I have to say I am extremely excited. It will be fun to make flavoured butters and yoghurts from this point.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


My sister told me about an amazing health ice cream that is not ice cream.  You take a couple of frozen bananas and whip them in a food processor or blender with a tablespoon of cocoa until it's soft and creamy.  That's it.

I tried it and she was right - it works and it is amazing.  I added some chocolate chips after I took this photo. 

This is well worth a try if you have a couple of gross overripe bananas lying around.  Stick them in the freezer overnight and then make yourself this yummy dessert!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

apple tea cake - gluten free

This is not a pretty cake, but it is very moist and delicious.  I used my thermomix to mix this cake, but you could use a food processor.

60g butter
200g milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
190g gluten free flour [110g rice, 50g cornflour, 30g tapioca]
2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder [I make my own from baking soda and cream of tartar]
100g raw sugar
4 medium apples, cored and cut into 8 pieces
cinnamon & caster sugar

Preheat oven to moderate and grease & line a round cake tin.

Place apple [skin & all] in thermomix or food processor and chop into small pieces.  Add some cinnamon & caster sugar to taste.

Melt butter in thermomix [or microwave] for 2 mins 90C [speed 1].

Add milk, vanilla and egg and process until well-combined [speed 7].

Add flour, baking powder, and sugar.  Mix for 10-20 seconds [speed 5-7].

Tip half the batter into a tin and sprinkle the apple mixture across the cake.  Pour the remaining batter over the top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Dust with extra cinnamon sugar just prior to serving.  Serve with a dollop of cream.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

the final winter coat

Here is Miss 3's new fleece coat.  She was so disappointed when I presented Miss 5 with her pink coat, that I had to make one for her too.  This one went together much faster than the first one.  It's very cute.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gluten free lemon syrup cake

I recently tasted a delicious lemon syrup cake my aunt made, it was so delicious I had to ask her for the recipe.  I tried to convert it to a gluten free version, and it resulted in a hard-based, eggy cake/slice, so I am not going to give you the recipe, but instead try again, and post a recipe that works.  We all have failures in the kitchen sometimes!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rice & lavender filled heat packs

I have just finished making up some new heat packs.  We seem to lose them with great regularity in our home.  Admittedly the last lot I made ended up keeping the baby chicks warm last winter [instead of using a heat lamp].
This time I used a soft towelling fabric, and made a variety of sizes and shapes.  They contain rice and dried lavender so should be lovely and aromatic while warming up our sore muscles/acting as hot water bottles in bed.

Have you ever made yourself rice or wheat packs?  They're super-easy, just sew the shape you're after and fill with rice or wheat.  You can add dried lavender, as I did.  Far cheaper than buying them, and you can make them as pretty as you like!!

I've always intended to make plain calico ones, and then make a pretty cover for them, so that if the cover gets dirty I can wash it [you can't wash them filled with rice/wheat].  But again I haven't done that this time... I always seem to be rushing to get some made up when myself or one of the family has muscular aches and pains, or another urgent need for a heat pack.  Just another incidence of my sewing things in a rush, last-minute!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gluten free lemon meringue pie

Every year I make a lemon meringue pie for my mother instead of a birthday cake [it's her favourite].  Because two of my girls are coeliac it has to be gluten free, or course, so over the past six years I've been perfecting the GF lemon meringue pie.  It really isn't as time-consuming or difficult as you may think.  Well-worth giving it a try. 

Here is the recipe I use.  It is based on a Women's Weekly recipe from an old WW cookbook.


1 1/2 cups GF flour
3 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp xanthan gum
140g butter
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
approx. 2 tbsp water

Mix pastry ingredients in a food processor until it forms a dough ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 mins while preparing lemon filling.

Lemon Filling:
1 cup corn flour
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 cups water
3-4 teaspoons grated lemon rind
6 egg yolks
120g butter

Combine cornflour, sugar, juice and water in saucepan [or thermomix] until smooth.  Stir over heat until mixture boils and thickens [it will be very thick].  Turn off heat.  Add rind, yolks, and butter and stir until butter is melted.  Cool while blind baking pastry shell.

Roll pastry out between two sheets of baking paper or cling wrap.  Use the paper/wrap to help you to lift the pastry into a pie dish.  Blind bake pastry shell at 180C for approx. 20 mins.
Pour lemon filling into pastry case and cool to room temperature.

6 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar

Beat egg whites in bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Gradually add sugar, beating until dissolved. Gently spread meringue over the top of the lemon filling.  Bake in moderate oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.  Stand 5 minutes before serving.

The pastry and filling can be made up to 24 hours ahead, but don't make the meringue until just before serving, or you may find it will sweat and go soggy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

pink fleecy coat

A few weeks ago I was wandering through Target and they had 30% off kid's coats and jackets.  I found a beautiful taupe trench style coat for Miss 9 and then this lovely grey fleecy coat for Miss 7:

Then I realised Miss 5 had also grown out of her winter jackets.  So I traced a pattern off the grey coat and made her up a pink fleecy version:

It's so cute.  Miss 5 loves it.  Of course the first thing Miss 3 said was "Where's mine?" so I get to make another one now!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gift wrapping storage - genius!!

Look what's hanging in my wardrobe today.

Can you guess what I have made myself?

It's a hanging gift wrap storage/organiser.  I have had the pattern sitting in my stash for years [bought for another project included in the pattern].  I noticed the photo while staring at the back of the pattern envelope and realised it would solve my gift wrap storage dilemmas.

As well as the long pockets on the outside for long rolls of paper it has plenty of room inside the zip to store gift bags of every shape and size.

Then on the other side are loads of pockets of various sizes that hold pens, tape, scissors, cards, ribbons and anything else one may need for gift wrapping. 

Before I filled this today my gift wrapping stuff took up twice this amount of space and was always getting damaged/lost.  I am so excited to finally have it all organised and IN THE ONE PLACE.

It is constructed from canvas as I had some lying on my shelf asking to be used.  You could use any heavy duty fabric for this project.  It's just a suit bag with external pockets.  Brilliant.  I wish I could say I had come up with this idea myself.