Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Listography - Top 5 things about the summer holidays

The resort pool at Noosa we stayed at last summer.
Kate from Kate Takes 5 thinks she's pretty good, starting Listography back with the top 5 things about the summer holidays when she's just got back from a long and lazy jaunt in Spain. Some people have all the luck. Here we are in Australia, fighting colds and flus, all rugged up and all we can do is but dream of summer. Thanks Kate! For my own good, I'll try and remember the good things about the summer holidays. Heaven knows it'll be here before we know it.

photo source
1.  No school for 8 (or so) weeks

I'm like you Kate. Not having to be anywhere at any particular time suits me just fine. One thing I do remember about my childhood is not being the best at getting up early in the morning and that's stuck with me my entire life. Unfortunately/fortunately my children have inherited this quality from me and it works really well when there's no school. We can all enjoy a sleep in. The only thing we have to worry about is which swimming pool or beach we're going to for the day.


2.  It's Christmas Time

The southern hemisphere has the added bonus of enjoying Christmas and all that goes with it during the summer holidays. Santa at every shopping centre, Christmas parties, Christmas carols, dodging evening summer storms so we can catch the Christmas lights in the neighbourhood and then the ultimate visit from the big red guy. A wonderful summer holiday tradition.


photo source
3.  Being able to just potter

Now that the kids are getting older, they're really good at coming up with games that go for hours, if not days, just like I did when I was young. This coming summer will be my son's first official big summer holiday from his first year of school and I know he is looking so forward to it. We've got a short 2 week break coming up in September and then he'll have to hang on until early December. Hopefully, I'll just be able to potter around the house and still enjoy my cup of tea in peace and maybe a good book. (Please?)


4.  Casual dining

Best thing about summer, sleeping in and going to the beach is the 'no set time' meal policy. Breakfast could be at 9am, lunch could be something quickly thrown together and had at the beach and dinner usually consists of some kind of grilled or cold meat and salad. None of these strict set meal times like when school's in. Having cold fruit, ice for cold drinks, snack foods etc on hand just to throw a quick picnic basket together is perfect for a lazy day at the beach. Alternatively, we love to get a couple dollar's worth of hot chips to munch on. There's always the ice cream on the way home too.


5.  Back to school sales

The post Christmas, back to school sales signal that school returns at the end of January for another year and you'll get your life back. The kids may live a little longer and not kill each other by about this time and you're busy covering books, marking pens and pencils, all in readiness for those little angels of mine to get back to school, and do it all again for another year.

Thanks Kate for a long awaited Listography. It's been a while. Hope you'll be thinking of me this coming Christmas and while you guys are rugging up for winter, I'll be sweltering, trying to catch the breez at the beach. Check out what everyone elses top things about summer holidays are at Kate Takes 5.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wholemeal Apple & Sultana Cake Bars


Thoughts of Melting Moments, Chocolate Crunch Slice and cupcakes go dancing around my head on a Sunday afternoon as I think about what to bake for the week and then reality strikes. No eggs, very little butter, no white sugar and all but a bit of cocoa left in the pantry. Quick look in the fridge and pantry reveals one lonely Granny Smith apple and a nearly full packet of sultanas (golden raisins) so a wholemeal Apple & Sultana Cake bar it is.


This recipe is based on my best cake recipe ever. It's such a good one to have as it uses no eggs or butter and you can pretty much throw anything into it and throw it into any kind of pan and you'll always produce a wonderful cake.


I loved the way the afternoon winter sunshine was streaming through the window when I took the photo.

Wholemeal Apple & Sultana Cake Bars

  • 1 and half cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 1 Granny Smith (grated)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • half teaspoon salt

  1. Turn oven to 180 deg C (375 deg F).
  2. Grease a 20cm x 18 cm slice tin well or line with baking paper.
  3. Put the flour, sugar, grated apple, sultana, cinnamon and water in a bowl.
  4. Add vinegar, oil, baking soda and salt. Mix with beaters until smooth.
  5. Pour into the tin. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes then take out of tin.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Games of the XXX Olympiad, London 2012



Today heralds the beginning of the Olympic Games being held this year in London. I love a good sporting event and the Olympics would have to be the ultimate sporting event for me featuring so many sports in just two weeks. An opportunity for people from all over the world to come together to compete against each other in a friendly environment without prejudice.

The Olympic flag being flown half mast to pay respect to the Israeli athletes who lost their lives in the hostage tragedy in Munich 1972.

My earliest memories of watching the Olympics was back in 1972 in Munich when I was 8 years old (nearly my daughter's age). Because of the time difference between Australia and Germany, my Dad would wake me up in the early hours of the morning to watch the sporting achievements and records being broken. I  have such vivid memories of doing this at every Olympics thereafter (plus many other major world sporting events) with my Dad until his passing in 1992.


The next Olympics in 1976 in Montreal, Canada uncovered the amazing efforts of the young Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. I can vividly remember watching her score a perfect 10 on the uneven bars.  From Wikipedia:
At the age of 14, Comăneci became one of the stars of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. During the team portion of the competition on July 18, her routine on the uneven bars was awarded a perfect ten. It was the first time in modern Olympic gymnastics history that the score had ever been awarded. Since the scoreboards were not equipped to display scores of 10.0, Nadia's perfect marks were flashed as 1.00 instead. The crowd was at first confused, but soon understood and gave her a rousing ovation. Over the course of the Olympics, Comăneci would earn six additional tens, en route to capturing the all-around, beam, and bars titles and a bronze medal on the floor exercise. The Romanian team also placed second in the team competition, capturing silver.
Official swimming costume for the Australian Olympic team in 1984.
The only Olympics I wasn't planted in front of the TV at every waking moment, funnily enough, was the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. It was the right time and an affordable time for my sister and I to do a road trip in the US so I can remember watching the opening ceremony in a motel room in Kingman, Arizona.
Libby Trickett, Australian swimmer, wins the 100m women's butterfly in Beijing.

The last Olympics in Beijing, China, my children were only 3 and 1 so didn't know anything about the Olympics. I'm having a great time telling them about all the different types of sporting events competed in at the Olympics and can't wait to start watching it with them. They might be too young to watch the Games in the early hours of the morning but I'll have so many ways to show them highlights on recorded cable TV, Youtube, news program highlights, live streaming on the Internet and other TV programs. So different to those days back in the 1970's where if you missed it on TV or the news, you had to read about it in the newspaper. There'll also probably be merchandise with 'not-so-happy' meals so they'll get to know all about it in one way or another.


Oh, and if you don't hear it enough over the next two weeks, here it is, with lyrics, the Australian national anthem "Advance Australia Fair". Hopefully that annoying chant, "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" will be replaced by something else. Go Aussies!!!


Friday, July 27, 2012

5 tips to organise your grocery shop & save

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Photo source

So you've all heard the tips on how to save money doing a grocery shop. Don't shop on an empty stomach, write a list and stick to it, etc etc.  Well I've got a couple more that might change the way you think about grocery shopping and help you save even more money. Being in my late 40's I've done quite a few grocery shops over the years and I get sick of the 'games' supermarkets try to play, thinking we are stupid.  A lot of it comes down to us as consumers though and sticking to basic ingredients, avoiding ready made products and prepared meals.


The red dots indicate supermarkets in the greater Brisbane area.

Please note, these 5 tips are something I follow. I have no less than about 30 different grocery stores within a 15 kilometre radius from home so I am spoilt for choice and convenience. For those who live hundreds of kilometres from the nearest grocery store and have to buy in bulk, some of these may not apply to you. Also, here in Australia we don't have a coupon system like they do in the US so I'm not sure if these rules are applicable over there, but here goes.


1.  Don't look at the supermarket junk mail
I used to look at the specials in the supermarket junk mail a while ago and then I stopped. From one of the top supermarket's specials brochure this week, I actually counted the number of items that were advertised and, excluding toiletries, cleaning items, pet food, alcohol and miscellaneous items like plastic containers, mops, DVDs etc, there were 124 food items advertised. Out of that 124, there were only 19 items that I would actually buy to stock my basic fridge and pantry items. They were:
  • tinned baked beans
  • cooking oil (olive oil etc)
  • tinned peaches
  • coffee
  • tea
  • chocolate drink powder
  • tinned beetroot
  • tinned tuna
  • frozen berries
  • frozen peas
  • butter
  • milk
  • sliced ham
  • bacon rashers
  • piece roasting pork
  • chicken legs
  • avocado
  • pear
  • cauliflower
Out of the entire brochure, there were only 3 fresh produce items. Three! Can you believe it? The rest of the brochure was filled with ready made meals, sweets, snack items, soft drinks etc. Having a basic pantry/fridge/freezer list and keeping that stocked plus basing all of your meals around meat specials and seasonal produce is definitely the cheaper option.

Also, don't buy a lot of a particular product just because it's on special. I'm not a stockpiler. If you live close to supermarkets like I do and you regularly read the junk mail, you'll find that the same store will have that exact same product on sale within a 4 week period. Between the 2 big supermarket chains in Australia, either one will have it on sale when the other doesn't.


2.  Look either side of the grocery item to find the cheaper option

I've noticed my local supermarkets have been putting lower priced brands and homebrands either side of the actual product now, instead of above or below. I  usually buy the homebrand rice cakes but they are usually just to the right of the higher priced brands. Don't get caught thinking they are out of stock and you're forced to buy a more expensive brand.


3.  Calculate the price per kilo to compare the cheaper buy

Sometimes the packaged ham slices might be $3 for 100grams but calculated per kilo that's $30! You should find it a lot cheaper in the delicatessen section or butcher shops sell ham on the bone at really good prices throughout the year for less than $10 per kilo.


4.  Avoid buying sliced or grated cheeses

The amount of money you pay for something that can be done so simply at home is just outrageous. For example, my most recent supermarket brochure has a 200gm packet of grated cheese on special for $3.99. That comes to $19.95 per kilo.  In the same brochure a block of Edam cheese from the deli is $14.99 per kilo. A saving of $5.00 per kilo and you can cut it into cubes for lunch boxes, slices for sandwiches or grated for sandwich melts. I usually buy a kilo block of plain cheddar for around $8 per kilo each time and get the food processor out and grate half and pop it in the freezer and use it frozen. Lasts for ages.

Growing up, our local butcher shop had sawdust on the floor and wrapped all the meat in paper like above.

5.  Avoid buying meat and produce from the supermarket

I know it is a bit more inconvenient, especially if you've got to drag small children around and when my children were younger I did tend to buy everything at the one store. Now I've got a bit more time on my hands, I'll get my fruit and vegetables online or at a nearby green grocer and buy my meat in bulk. (We don't buy much meat anymore except for chicken, sausages and mince but it does work out a lot cheaper from a butcher or meat wholesaler.) Check the per kilo prices for meat and don't rely on the supermarket's word when they say that fruit and vegies are fresh. Most often they're not.

Like I said before, everyone's different and shops a different way for convenience and necessity. Having a basic pantry list and keeping it topped up works out a lot cheaper for us which enables my standard grocery shop to be around $50 per week with fruit and vegies around $30 per fortnight and meat at around $30 for the month (for 1 adult and 2 school aged children). We bulk out our meat with lentils, chickpeas etc or have egg based dishes. I  hope these tips help you in some way.





This post is part of domesblissity's THRiVING - Thrifty Living feature.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thriving on Thursday - Linky Party # 29

Domesblissity


If you're still out there, welcome to another Thriving on Thursdays! Thank you all so much for linking up last week. It was such a pleasure to see so many wonderful projects. I might even have something to blog about next week myself with all this time I've got on my hands. Since I've stepped away from social media, I've got hours and hours of time each day to do what's really important to me. Even though the world seems to be running on social media, there is another whole world of people, real people, who know nothing about it and they're worth connecting with. People like my kids and family. They don't have their eyes glued to a computer screen or mobile phone. They've got their eyes glued on me and need me. Anyway, back to the party and these are the most hit links from last week's party.


I'm in love with Pam from Threading my Way, a wonderful Aussie crafting and sewing blogger and these gorgeous denim fabric baskets. After my post on using things around the house to organise your stuff, what could be better than to look at old jeans as a suitable storage solution. Thanks Pam. Love it!


Welcome to Christine from Let's Get Crafty and her inspiring "I Am Enough - The Woman's Creed" was a real hit with my readers last week. If you haven't checked it out, please do. She's summed up a woman's lot in life really well and has put it into a free printable for us to print and put up on the wall, as a reminder to us all just how wonderful we all are. Thanks Christine and thanks for linking up last week!


Courtney from Musings of an im-Perfect Mom is a woman after my own heart with these prettied up 'chip clips'. I always have a couple of pegs in my utensil draw to clamp bags closed but these look so much cuter. I wonder if I stuck the Hello Kitty one on a bag of vegetables, would my fussy 8 year old daughter eat them? Worth a try! Thanks so much Courtney for linking up.

Oh Tash! Be still my beating heart. I've always been a lover of doll's houses and Tash from Little Ladybird shows us how to make one from a simple 4 square shelf cube. Oh, its so cute and so are all the little bits of furniture and stuff to fill the house. My daughter hasn't been into dolls as much as I was when I was a young girl but there's still time to change her mind. Thanks Tash. This is just beautiful.


No wonder Jess from Life's Simple Measures stays so thin while baking all these wonderful sweet treats. She's a runner and had a wonderful time at a recent 'Colour Run' and shared some fantastic photos as well as another outstanding recipe in these Blueberry Cheesecake Bars. No Thriving on Thursday linky party is complete without a recipe from Jess. Thanks again Jess for linking up. Have all of these ingredients and they'll be made as soon as I can find the nearest fun run! (Sorry to my US readers but here in Australia we spell colour with a 'u' and I just can't bring myself to drop the 'u'.)


Domesblissity


Thank you everyone for linking up. Feel free to grab a 'featured' button if you like. If you've got a recipe, craft, sewing project, linky party announcement or anything else, feel free to link it up. We'd love to see what you've got. Have a great week!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mini Spinach & Ricotta Quiches


We were invited to a Christening yesterday. I hadn't been to one in ages. Now that my children are turning 8 and 6 this year, I don't have too much to do with babies as most of my friends have children the same age, except this one who had a baby earlier this year, her fourth. What a trooper she is. A wonderful cake maker, mother, wife and friend. I thought I'd take something and using what I had on hand, I whipped up these mini spinach and ricotta quiches.


I love having frozen puff pastry on hand because you can whip up anything for a party with that and just about anything else you've got lurking in the fridge or pantry.


A couple of fridge and freezer staples and you've got the making of a quick party snack or a luscious lunch time treat or family dinner tart.


I love the way a quiche comes out of the oven all puffed up. I think I'll be making these again. Low in calories but high in flavour and taste.

Mini Spinach & Ricotta Quiches

  • 1 sheet frozen reduced fat puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 tbs chopped, cooked spinach (I used 1 small block of frozen spinach)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbs grated cheese
  • oil spray for pan
  1. Prepare pan by spraying well with oil spray.
  2. Cut out pastry rounds from thawed pastry. (One sheet of pastry yielded 9 mini quiches.)
  3. Beat egg and add, ricotta, skim milk, spinach, garlic and salt & pepper. Mix well.
  4. Place tablespoons of mixture into prepared pastry cases and top with grated cheese.
  5. Bake in a 180 deg C oven (approx 350 deg F) for approx 15 mins or until golden brown and pastry is cooked.
Brisbane Cake Tin Hire Home Page


And if you're in the Brisbane area and ever in need of that hard to find cake tin, my dear friend will most likely have it available to hire or she might even find the time to make it for you at a great price. She's an excellent cake maker.

Brisbane Cake Tin Hire

Website:  Brisbane Cake Tin Hire
Email:  caketins@gmail.com

Saturday, July 21, 2012

16 ways to serve a tortilla


Those humble corn or flour Mexican flat breads known as a tortilla (tor-tee-ya) are such a great pantry or freezer standby. There's so many things you can do with them. If you've got the time, they're so easy to make yourself. This is a simple recipe but if you make your own or buy them, here's some fast and delicious ways to use them..


Peanut butter, strawberries, banana & granola wrap

Tortilla bowls
Tortilla soup
Baked tortilla chips
Flautas or tacquitos
Source: ivillage.com via Jane on Pinterest
Soft tacos
Enchiladas or burritos
Chimichangas
Quesadillas
Source: self.com via Cassie on Pinterest
Tortilla pizza
Fruit tortillas
Tortilla stack
Tortilla lasagna
Source: culinary.net via Nancy on Pinterest
Tostada
Toasted wrap
Breakfast tortilla cup

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