Monday, October 31, 2011

Roll Up, Roll Up! The circus is in town!

The Moscow Circus that is. I checked with Mum and she seems to remember that she did take us to the circus when we were quite young but I don't remember. It felt like the very first time for me when we went to the Moscow Circus on Saturday afternoon. I was just like a little kid. We were lucky to get a family ticket from my in laws which they gave the kids for their birthday present.

There was the sky bike.

The amazing Brazil Brothers

The Globe of Death with 4 motorbike riders

Juggling, balancing, clowns, little ponies, magic, artists, the entertaining ringmaster. All thrilling and loads of fun. My children, aged 7 and 5, I thought, were a little young to see it but there were a few times they were enthralled with their little mouths and wide eyes open. The show went for over 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission which I felt was a little long for them. They were getting bored. There were quite a few young toddlers in the audience and I felt it wouldn't have been appropriate for them. It was warm in the tent with the afternoon sun shining on it but still a great day out. I highly recommend it.

[photo source]

For details of show prices, dates etc here is the web site.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pinning & Singing - Children's school friend & teacher Christmas gifts

As part of my plans in the lead up to Christmas, I like to get a head start on the 60 or so gifts that I'd like my children to give their school and kindy mates and teachers. I like it to be a heart felt gift from my child so their involvement is imperative. Most of the other kids give candy canes and that's okay but my kids finish up eating candy canes until June so I just like to give something a little different. It's usually something sweet as well but maybe with a small message. I've got nearly 30 for school and over 20 for kindergarten. There's also 3 school teachers and 4 at kindy.  Busy days ahead.  Here's a few ideas I've pinned this week.

Reindeer food

Coated marshmallows (or sugarplums if you like)

Thank you note stationery with child's personally drawn image

Chinese takeaway container full of fortune cookies

Hand cream holder

Marshmallow poop

Source: via Anne on Pinterest

Recycled containers full of sweets

Gumdrop (or soft jube) Christmas Tree on a stick

Gumdrop (or soft jube) Santa on a stick
Source: None via Anne on Pinterest

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Noses
Source: None via Anne on Pinterest
Macaroni Christmas Decoration

Linking up with:

Mama Syder @ The Syders
Tina Gray @ Tina Gray dot me


Saturday, October 29, 2011

10 ways to use up mangoes

[photo source]
Summer time in Queensland = mangoes and they're already hitting the stores, big time. No damaging storms as yet to ruin the crops so, hopefully they'll be around for a few more months at a half decent price. (Unlike the humble banana. The price is starting to drop to around $6 per kilo, which is still very high.)

Growing up in Queensland, everyone had a mango tree in their back yard. It always attracts the fruit bats so the two go hand in hand. When you hear fruit bats squealing at night, mango season is around the corner. We got rid of our mango tree as it hadn't produced any fruit, ever, but at any given time we could walk around the corner and collect them off the ground of many a house in the neighbourhood. What to do with all those mangoes? Here's a few ideas.

Basically mix chopped mango with anything. Things like finely diced onion, chilli, coriander, garlic, lime juice, pineapple, capsicum, avocado or tomato and serve with grilled seafood, fish or chicken.

Pureeing mango on its own and freezing is usually enough. The pure taste of frozen mango is like liquid gold. With the addition of a vanilla or Greek yoghurt makes it creamy. I also do one by half filling the icy poly mould with mango puree and then freezing. Then add a layer of cream which has had a small amount of mango puree mixed through and freeze again. Really yummy! (And a copy of those 'other' famous mango icy poles.)

Use mango on it's own or with any other tropical fruit such as passionfruit, pineapple, lime juice and zest, kiwi fruit or strawberries with the addition of macadamia nuts for a truly tropical taste sensation.

A delightful Indian fruit ice that is hard to beat. A favourite with a lot of Indian households and better still no fancy ice cream makers required.

Not one that I've ever tried to make before but it won't be long before I do. This recipe from the famous Dorie Greenspan's cookbook "Baking: From My Home to Yours" looks and sounds absolutely delicious. If you give it a go, let me know. (That's if I don't beat you to it!)

This is a traditional Thai dish with the typical hot, salty, sweet and sour flavour sensation. Perfect for when you have an abundance of green mangoes. The secret is to finely slice, grate or julienne the mango for this deliciously light salad.

Probably one of the first things I think about when I have access to a lot of mangoes. It's as common as toast for breakfast but how about adding some other fruits like strawberries, pineapple, kiwifruit, banana, blueberries and throw in some chia, wheatgerm, honey, flax seed oil, spirulina, protein powder or brewer's yeast. A wheatgerm shot is all the range at the juice bars. Just blitz any of these with a few ice cubes, milk or yoghurt for an all-in-one healthy breakfast on the run or afternoon tea treat for the kids.

Mango chutney is one of those things I have in the pantry at all times. It's a great accompaniment to Indian food plus it's good to have on hand for a party. Mix a little with cream cheese, Greek yoghurt or sour cream and serve with crudites, crackers or bread for a tasty party snack. Mango chutney is also good served with cold meats or a salad. Make it as spicy or as sweet as you like.

I'm not really one for fruit in a savoury dish but I will make exception for mango in a salad. Let your imagination go wild with this one. Think chicken, seafood, beef, pork, tuna, salmon tossed with salad greens, maybe a sprinkling of nuts, some thinly sliced or diced mango and a basic vinagrette of equal quantities of exta virgin olive oil and vinegar of some kind in the form of a white or red wine, balsamic or even plain vinegar if that's all you have. Add fresh herbs, chilli, seeds, cheese. Anything.

Pavlova is traditionally a dessert eaten in the Australian summer and one that appears at a lot of Christmas dinner tables. The addition of mango to the decorative topping is so delicious. Again, use your imagination to what other summer fruits you can put on top.

10.  Just eat them!

This probably has to be my most favourite way to eat a mango. We really are spoilt for having easy access for a well priced, seasonal, tropical fruit that is like eating sweet butter. I always loved getting it all over my hands and face and then worrying about a good clean up afterwards. When there's just too many mangoes, try some of those other recipes I suggested.

For more great ideas, check out:


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Table

This isn't some wise tale about a table nor is a witty blog post about....a table. It's just a table. Not just any table. It's a table with a story. Probably not a very interesting one to some people but nonetheless it is to me and might be to you.

I first found this table under my mother's house about 20 years ago when I was scrounging looking for things to put in my new apartment I had moved into.  This table was painted yellow and the paint was peeling off.  It was covered in empty plant pots, potting mix and gardening tools. I thought it had potential and Mum was willing to part with it.

I had it moved down to my apartment and proceeded to smother it in paint stripper, which didn't work too well, trying to remove years and years of different coloured paints. I borrowed a belt sander from work and it seemed to do the trick. A quick couple of coats of timber stain and the table was worthy of a place in my apartment.

It's not the nicest thing to look at, it's probably not worth any money but it's just followed me all over the country, wherever I've gone. Up until recently, it was our main dining table but I felt like a new (second hand) one which matched our decor better so this table went downstairs, again.

It's one of those pieces that you just can't get rid of. It's so versatile. It's served it's purpose but it's too valuable to part with just yet. What about all the memories?

Scratches from toy cars, knives, forks, scissors etc

My daughter's first attempt at painting her nails, aged 3

Wet paper stuck to it from many a glued project

It's served it's purpose well but it still has a way to go. I'll make room for it under our house and it will continue to be our homework, dressmaking, craft, gift wrapping, laundry folding, sorting, painting....table.

Do you have a piece of really functional furniture you don't have the room for but just can't part with?


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chocolate Chia Muffins

It was time to stock up on the school/kindy lunch box treats last weekend and I thought I'd do the usual muffins (of some type) and then I remembered I'd 'won' a packet of chia seeds. I added them to my basic muffin mix along with some cocoa and I had a lovely healthy little bundle of goodness for the kids (and us grown ups).

In case you hadn't heard, Chia seeds are the new wonder food on the market at the moment. They're not so new though.

Chia seeds (Salvia Hispanica) is the richest known plant source of Omega 3, the essential fatty acid (almost 20%). It is one of the most powerful, functional, and nutritious superfoods in the world! Chia seeds are also rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins and minerals.

Chia seeds can be eaten in fresh raw forms (sprinkled on salads, cereals, icecreams, etc) which are an excellent source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids and fibre which help in your digestion, known as dietary fibre. Chia seeds have more Omega-3 than salmon, more anti-oxidants than fresh blueberries, more fibre than bran flakes, more calcium than milk and more protein, more fibre and more calcium than flaxseed.  Chia seeds can be grounded and the grounded Chia can be eaten with porridge. If you soak Chia seeds in water or fruit juice, you can get to taste a tasty liquid which is known as Chia fresca in Mexico and part of South Western US. Chia seeds can be used to make into gel which can be a good substitute for oil and fats in your food. This gel can also be added to jellies, baked foods and sauces.

(Source:  Chiatrition Chia Seeds)

Cross section of muffin - told my daughter "look, no seeds"
Chocolate Chia Muffins

2 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup oil (I used Canola)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg

1 tbs Chia seeds
2 tbs hot water

Soak Chia seeds in hot water until a gel forms. Combine all ingredients, mix lightly and pour into cupcake papers and bake in a 180 deg C oven for 15 minutes. Makes a dozen large sized muffins, 18 cupcake sized muffins or 24 mini muffins. (I usually bake without cupcake papers. Just spray oil in the muffin pan so they don't stick.)

(By the way, if you need a new mixer, here are some Kitchen Aid coupons.)


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A nice (budgeted) day out at Ikea

I had the opportunity to meet a lovely Queensland blogger today. Nee Say and we tried to decide on a place to meet for a coffee that was half way between her and I and it seems the Ikea store at Logan is halfway for everyone which I'm glad about. Nee Say is just as nice in person as she is in the blogosphere. I encourage you to check out what goes on over at her blog, The Menagerie & Me.

Back to our meet up. We were quick to take advantage of the free coffee you get when you are an Ikea Family Card member. We then went on our merry way, ducking and weaving through the many nooks and crannies of the store. Some beautiful kitchens including a to die for walk in pantry. Nee and I had visions of being able to lock ourselves away in something like that for a few weeks before anyone found us. Ah, bliss!

I set myself a tight budget. With two birthdays next month and having to sell one of my arms to pay for things coming up at my daughter's school, I've got to tighten the purse strings but I could've easily gone crazy at Ikea. It seems we always need everything we see and somehow we always do find a purpose for it. How did we ever cope without it?

Here's what I bought:

KLISTRIG Place mat - $3.99 for pack of 4

SNÖDRIVA Pastry cutter set - $4.99 set of 6

MÅLA Drawing paper roll - $4.99 (Family member price)

FRAKTA Carrier Bag, Medium - $0.99 each

DROMMAR Baking cups - $0.99 for 65

There were quite a few things I could've easily thrown in the trolley but I showed restraint. I have them on my list for next time I go and in the meantime I'll just try to manage life without these things.  Nee did really well too, picking up a few things she really needed so it was a productive trip, washed down by all those free coffees and some Swedish meatballs to finish the outing. Thanks Nee for a great day. Hopefully we'll get to do it again sometime!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Listography: Top 5 Toys for Kids

[photo source]
Kate from Kate Takes 5 has a doosie (is that how you spell doosie?) of a Listography this week. She's asked us to list our top 5 toys. Kate says, "I'm not going to go into age groups - just list your Top 5 toys of all time. Once all your lists are in I will compile the Top 10 Toys for Christmas as voted by Parent Bloggers* list and put it up here. If you want the final list to share on your own blog just come on over and take it." I've come to the conclusion that I'm not getting anymore toys for the kids this year, aged 7 and 5. Oh well, maybe one or two but not like I have in year's past. I'm being more practical with the gift giving. I'll let you all know how that goes!

I can totally relate to this Barbie!
 1.  Barbie

My number one choice for favourite toy by me or my daughter would be Barbie. She was my favourite for many years and now is fast becoming my daughter's favourite. It's a little bit of escape for all of us. Perfect figure, gorgeous long hair, fashions, camper trailers, Princess Castles, you name it. Wouldn't it be nice?

[photo source]
2.  Doll's pram

Ever since the kids could 'toddle', they had a doll's pram, even my son. They'd take their dolls, cars, toy monkeys, dinosaurs, whatever, on a ride around the yard. The kids got so much use out of it.

3.  A ball

Even when they were tiny weeny babies, the kids always had a ball. Whether it was a soft squishy fabric ball, a beach ball, a blown up balloon, a rugby football or soccer ball, they've always loved playing with them. They're getting a real kick out of the tiny little bouncy balls at the moment. I can remember how much joy a humble old tennis ball gave me all those years ago.

[photo source]
4.  Plastic or stuffed dinosaurs

These little guys (you know the ones that get left on the floor and finish up an inch into your foot) have given both my kids (especially my daughter) a lot of enjoyment over the years. Since she was two years old, my daughter wanted to be a paleontologist. She's slowing starting to change her mind to something a little more accessible like a hairdresser. This little $2 packet of dinosaurs has kept her amused for ages as well as the stuffed kind plus the character dinosaurs from shows such as "Land Before Time" and "Dinosaur Train". I believe they teach the children to have a good sense of time and what effect the weather has on the environment.

5.  Lightning McQueen and Cars

I couldn't do a blog post on my kid's favourite toys without putting Lightning McQueen and his friends on the list. It's every merchandiser's dream to have a such a range of toys and related products. I know my son's room looks like the inside of Lightning McQueen's trailer Mac but he absolutely adores Lightning and his friends. We haven't gone right into a lot of the larger packaged items like race tracks etc but he has quite a few of the Matchbox cars and he and his sister play for hours with them.

The kids have been into a lot of different character toys over the years and we've bought the occasional stuffed toy or movie promotional toy but the above have been what's stood the test of time. You could also add paper bag, crinkly paper, wooden spoon and saucepan and bucket and spade to this list because they've also had a lot of fun with those simple things too.

Head on over to Kate Takes 5 Listography to see what everyone else's favourite 5 toys are for Christmas this year and what the final Top 10 will be.

Update: 11 November 2011

This list has finally been compiled. You can find the top 5 toys, as voted by parent bloggers, on Kate's blog.

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