Sunday, 27 September 2015

More Thermomix Recipes - Mac and Cheese, a Sweet Potato Dip and Butter Chicken!

One of the reasons I love my Thermomix is that I am enjoying experimenting with meals and dishes I normally would never have made! 

There is a fantastic Facebook page and blog/website called 'Skinnymixers' which has excellent healthy Thermomix recipes. Here are 3 I want to share with you which have all been winners for me! Click on the title to view the recipe on the Skinnymixers page. 


1. Macaroni and Cheese With a Twist




I also added some YIAH pumpkin fiesta and used YIAH honey caramalised balsamic - amazing!




Enjoy! 


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Mummy stuff - 12 tips for going on holidays with a baby




We have just returned from a week away at beautiful Forster Tuncurry! I'm getting a lot better at travelling with a baby - the dilemma is that you don't want to pack too much, but you also don't want to pack too little! I want to share a few tips that have really worked for me. 

Tip 1: Pack different items into different bags.
I had a different bag for myself, Brendan and Miss M, and then a bag for our towels and sheets (they weren't supplied at our unit) and a bag for food and kitchen items. This was really useful to know exactly where something was when we unpacked, and it was handy to know exactly how to repack on the last day. 

Tip 2: Restrict yourself to 1 bag each. 
Unless you are going to lots of different places, or to a variety of places with different temperatures, you shouldn't need to pack more than 1 bag each. I ALWAYS overpack and have to really think about what outfits and items I will actually use, not just what I think I might use. This tip is also important when you travel with kids because all of a sudden you need to pack items like the portacot and pram, and these take up lots of space. 

Tip 3: Research where you are going and choose some fun activities to fill your days.
Now I don't have an experience travelling with older kids (except for going away with a family who has kids in primary school), but it makes sense to go somewhere where there are a variety of activities to keep kids occupied. For example - the beach, putt putt golf, ten pin bowling, paths for walking and bike riding, indoor playground centres, places to go fishing etc. Also consider what you will do in wet weather (ten pin and indoor playgrounds are great for this). Miss M is only 9 months old, but it's always important for me to have walking paths available so I can take her for a walk in the pram (keeps both of us occupied!) Also research what type of apartment or unit or caravan park you are going too - do they have a pool or playground or other activities for kids? Is the place in walking distance of a beach, or do you have to always drive to the beach? 

We enjoyed a game of tennis, bike riding and lots of walking to the beach on our recent trip. My mum and dad came with us, and mum loved kayaking on the water. It was really fun. 


Tennis


Bike riding


Walks with the pram


Miss M's first time playing at the beach! 


Tip 4: Spend some time relaxing!
It's lots of fun doing activities all day while on holidays, but it is important to spend time relaxing as well! Take a good book if you enjoy reading, lay beside the pool sun baking, or go for a wander along the water. I made sure we did one or two activities in a day but no more, so that we had time to spend relaxing as well. If you feel rushed the whole time you are away, you return home not refreshed at all! This seems especially important if you have older kids - bring some 'busy bags' or 'quiet activities' with you to keep the kids occupied while you enjoy a cuppa! 
[Organising the four of us has a great blog post on creating a busy bag - click here

Tip 5: Create a packing list so you won't forget anything! 
I keep what I call a 'master list' in my phone with a list of absolutely everything I might need to take with me. Each time I go away, I use an emoji/tick to check off things I have packed. Here are some things that are on my list:

 - Snacks for the trip 
 - Phone charger 
 - Phone
 - Wallet
 - Handbag
 - Earphones for ipod/phone
 - Water bottles
 - CD's/car charger/music for the car
 - Plastic bags (always come in handy!)
 - Clothes: enough shirts, shorts/pants for the time you will be away plus a jacket in case it is cold. I always pack at least one pair of jeans and a jumper/jacket even if it is summer. I also always pack some 'house clothes' which are clothes you can wear if you are feeling lazy one afternoon (like the type of clothes you wear around the house on lazy/relaxing days). 
 - Shoes: include thongs for the shower and joggers if you plan to do any exercise
 - Socks
 - Under clothes 
 - Accessories (scarves, jewellery, headbands etc.)
 - Hair brush
 - Makeup
 - Straightener and hair dryer
 - Hair ties and bobby pins etc.
 - Toiletry bag with toothpaste, toothbrush, soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, sanitiser, sunscreen, aloe vera gel for sunburn, personal items
 - First Aid kit with panadol and bandaids (make sure you pack baby panadol - can be a pain to have to run out and find some late at night or in a town you don't know!) 
 - pillows, towels and linen if your unit doesn't provide them
 - book, board games and other activities 
 - Sports equipment, eg. badminton rackets to play badminton on the beach

For Miss M I packed:
 - portacot
 - pram
 - baby carrier
 - blankets for her bed
 - teething gel, baby panadol, thermometer, baby sunscreen
 - nappies (I only packed enough for a few days as I knew I'd be stocking up at Aldi while I was away)
 - two baby towels (one to lay on and one to dry her with)
 - wipes
 - singlets
 - suits
 - clothes - enough in case some get soiled, but not too many!
 - hat
 - socks
 - shoes
 - beanie
 - a selection of toys 
 - nappy cream and powder
 - dummies
 - dummy clip
 - hair brush
 - spew rags
 - blanket for the pram/muslin
 - vaporizer 
 - bibs
 - baby food and items to eat with (bowl, spoon etc.)

Tip 6: Don't pack things you know you won't use!
If you know your baby won't sleep in the portacot while they are away, don't pack it! Also, use what you have - we bathed Miss M in the laundry sink in our apartment, but babies can just as easily be given a quick 'bath' with mum or dad in the shower. 

Tip 7: Pack a large bag (e.g. an Aldi bag) that can be used for dirty clothes
This is an essential for me, as I like to be able to come home, and chuck a load of clothes in the washing machine straight away after a trip. Rather than repacking your bag with clean and dirty clothes and having to sort through it when you get home, you just have one bag ready to be washed. If you are away for awhile, you can wash while you are away (in your unit or at a laundromat). 

Tip 8: If you are road-tripping, keep lots of activities in the car, and keep the car tidy!
It can be frustrating travelling and just chucking stuff into the car (including rubbish), and then having no space to change a nappy on the road. A clean car is as nice a space to be in as a clean house. Portable DVD players are excellent for older kids, as well as some quiet, easy-to-do and minimal-mess activities (colouring etc.) to keep kids occupied. 


[Me and Miss M on the way to Forster]

Tip 9: Try and keep your unit/apartment etc. relatively tidy. 
Obviously a holiday is not the time for deep-cleaning, but I know it's a lot nicer to be in a tidy apartment. I am actually a shocker for keeping my bags tidy, and I rarely make my bed on holidays... we all need a break! In saying that, I prefer my holiday space to be clean and tidy! One way to do this is to unpack immediately when you arrive. 

Tip 10: Plan to relax or have time out while your baby naps.
Travelling can be off-putting for babies and you might find they get out of their normal routine. If you baby is happy to nap as normal during the day, use the time to relax and enjoy a book (as you might be stuck in your unit for a couple of hours). Or alternate who stays with the baby, while the other can enjoy some alone time (I prefer to shop alone!) If your baby finds it hard to sleep, try some of these tips:
     ~ take the pram out for a long walk while baby naps
     ~ take a scenic drive while baby naps
     ~ If you would normally bath a baby, read to them, sing a lullaby and then put them to bed,       stick to this routine while you are away as well
   ~ use a baby carrier to go out for a walk while baby naps



Tip 11: Designate a play area and a changing station. 
If you have the space, designate an area where the babies toys are set up, and where there are no hazards (e.g. cords). Also set-up a changing station with wipes, a portable/water-proof change mat and nappies to make changing a nappy easier. 

Tip 12: Enjoy yourself and don't stress - let some of the rules go out the window! 
If you normally stress a lot about kids eating healthy food, now is the time to let go a little, so you can have an enjoyable holiday too! I normally make all of Miss M's food at home, but was happy to buy a few packets of baby food while we were away. I remember as a kid Mum would let us have fruit-loops and coco-pops on holidays (weet-bix during the school term!) - I used to love it! Similarly, if you normally have a no-eating in front of the TV rule, you might have to let this go if you don't have a unit with a dining table, or it might be handy to take portable DVD players out to dinner if kids can be rowdy or unsettled during dinner. 

Hopefully some of these will be helpful to others as well. 
Can't wait until our next trip! 




Friday, 25 September 2015

Organise & Declutter Part 13 - Organising the pantry [walk-in pantry: Part 2 of 2]

Yesterday I had the pleasure of cleaning, decluttering and organising a reader's walk-in pantry. It was a massive job (almost an hour per shelf, about 5 hours in total!) but with very satisfying results. Here is a before pic of the pantry:


It was very cluttered, and not very user-friendly. 



Before - to the left of the pantry



Before - to the right of the pantry - lots of empty containers, and lots of packets that could be in the containers!



The floor of the pantry is extremely cluttered as well. 

So how do you tackle a huge job like this?

Step 1: Have a really good look at what you've got storage-wise. This reader had lots and lots of good plastic containers, so we were able to reuse these. We did need some baskets for organisation and a 3-tier shelf for her Your Inspiration At Home items, which currently are not in the pantry. These were purchased from Kmart, as well as a few new containers as well. 

Step 2: Break the job down into manageable parts. I tackled one shelf at a time. This was for a few reasons - by doing one shelf only, it seemed a lot less overwhelming, plus I could see results a lot faster (always motivating!) 

Step 3: Have a table or space where you can place everything once you pull it off the shelf. Have a rubbish bin and recycling bin set up close as well so that rubbish/recycling goes straight into there, rather than on the floor. I used the floor outside the pantry, and as I pulled items off the shelf, I organised them on the floor. 

In the photo below I have organised cereals, wine, sauces, packet mixes, beer holders and other items together. 


As you are pulling things off the shelves, throw away anything out-of-date and any rubbish. Ask yourself, if I haven't used this item in 6-12 months, will I ever use it? If the answer is no, be ruthless and chuck it. If a food item is still within it's use-by-date but you don't wish to keep it, you could always donate it to a charity food store (if there is one close by). 




Here's a mixed spice I found that I decided to chuck - it was only 25 years old (and cheap at only 65c back then!) 

Step 4: Clean the shelf. Use gumption on stubborn food stains. 




Step 5: Start packing things back in. In a large walk-in pantry like this one, you want to have everything you use daily/often at the front. A really good way to use those funny corners is to buy a cheap 'lazy susan' (Kmart have cheap ones). 

Place large items in first, and shuffle things around until you are happy. This pantry has 4 shelves (plus underneath/on the floor) but the top shelf is almost out of reach unless you are very tall. Place everyday items at eye-level on the shelves that are easy to reach. 

Group items together, for example:
 - spices
 - baking items
 - rice
 - flours
 - cling wrap/al-foil/baking paper
 - cans
 - wine/alcohol
 - sauces
 - cereal
 - nuts
 - tea and coffee
 - spreads 
 - potatoes and onions

Step 6: Use lots of storage 'accessories.' Like I said previously, I purchased some items from Kmart, but cheap shops such as The Reject Shop, Big W, Target and the supermarkets all stock items to make organisation easier. 

I have used: 
 - 4 baskets for baking items and sauces ($2.25 each)
 - an extendable 3-tiered shelf for YIAH products ($10)
 - 2x 4-piece packs of Tupperware style containers ($9 per pack)

The reader had already organised her spices using 2x Aldi spice racks, which work really well.

Use clear containers if you have them as it is easy to see what is inside, and what needs stocking up. 

Step 7: Use your label-maker or create labels to label EVERYTHING! This makes items so easy to see, and keeps everything consistent. If you don't have a label maker, invest in one! I have had my Dymo for years, and have never looked back! It was $30 on sale at Big W. The labels are quite expensive at about $12 each (they can be bought cheaper in a pack) but last forever. 

Step 8: Don't be afraid to move things around until you are happy, and then tidy your workspace! 

Here are some after pics! I am so happy with how it has turned out, and the reader was stoked as well! 

To the right - 


To the left - (the pantry moth box is not supposed to be in front of the spices!)



Bottom two shelves - 



Top two shelves - 

Containers of nuts and other small items - 


Your Inspiration At Home selection - 


Aldi spice racks - 


Rices and baking items - 


Pastas and baking items - 





What a difference! 

Before & After





Thursday, 24 September 2015

Organise & Declutter Part 12 - Organising the pantry [pull-out pantry - Part 1 of 2]

When we bought our house, I was very excited that my kitchen had a pull-out pantry, but I soon realised it was barely big enough for two people! As we add more kids to our little family in the future, I'm sure I'll need even more space too! Luckily we have a fair bit of storage in our laundry (see laundry decluttering post here) and I've been able to use 2 shelves for more storage. At the end of the day, you just have to work with what you've got! 

Here is a before pic of my pull-out pantry:



As you can see, there's just a lot of 'stuff' shoved in there. My baking shelf (4th shelf up) was fairly organised - I used my Nana's retro orange Tupperware containers to store baking items, however they didn't fit a whole packet of flour or sugar, and this was frustrating and hence the packets sitting on top. I needed a better solution to utilise the space. 

After a visit to Kmart (yay!) I purchased 5x packets of the Tupperware style pantry containers (you get 6 pieces for $12, or a 4 piece pack for $9) and they have absolutely provided more space and organisation. Along with my trusty Dymo label maker, it wasn't long before I had transformed my shelves - 





I choose the largest sized containers for flours and patty pans and choc chips/sprinkles, and then choose the other sizes depending on what packet I usually buy of sugars, rice, pastas, cous cous, dates, cashews etc. 

The only other items I purchased were 4 of the white baskets with blue handles as seen in the second picture above, and so far I have stored my snacks, Miss M's snacks (I make most of her food in the Thermomix but it's handy to grab a rusk if you are on the run!) and some cooking bits and pieces (salt, pepper, noodles etc.) I have another basket in my laundry cupboards, and I think I will grab more next time I'm at Kmart - they are a really handy size! 

These are my laundry shelves - 





On the top shelf I have cans and sauces, and the cans are stored on a 3-tier step from Kmart (about $7 each). On the second shelf I have lots of different teas (sitting on a 3-tier plate stacker from Kmart, about $4 each), and I have spare BBQ sauce, spare containers, Brendan's 2-minute noodles and a basket of packet mix cakes (for when I need to make something quickly!) 

It was honestly a very simple task, and barely took any time at all. The results are fantastic, and I'm enjoying cooking and baking with an organised space. 

I'm off to help a reader organise her pantry this afternoon - stay tuned! 

Monday, 7 September 2015

I am grateful for...

It's so easy to be negative in the world we live in, but if you think about it, there's so much to be grateful for too!


I am grateful for... (not in any particular order)

1. My hubby and my daughter!
2. Freshly washed towels
3. Sleep-ins
4. Photos and memories
5. Reminiscing with good friends
6. A cup of tea and a biscuit
7. Baking sweet treats
8. Having a clean house
9. Opening the blinds of a morning to let the sun in
10. Finishing a decluttering task
11. The end of a satisfying day at work
12. Seeing Miss M again after being away from her while I'm at work
13. Getting into a good TV series
14. A freshly vacuumed loungeroom
15. Finishing packing away the groceries and having a full fridge of food
16. A delicious hearty soup in winter
17. A fresh salad in summer
18. BBQ's on the deck in summer
19. Spending time with friends
20. Walking in the fresh air
21. A freshly made bed
22. That feeling of freshly washed, dried and straightened hair
23. Fresh flowers
24. Getting into a good book
25. Having a hot shower with no time constraints
26. Getting a car park right in front of the supermarket
27. Going to Kmart!
28. Overcast days
29. Sunny days following overcast days
30. A new outfit
31. Fitting into a tight pair of jeans
32. My daughter's laugh
33. Getting into bed after a productive day
34. Ticking items off my to-do list
35. Finishing DIY projects
36. Reading blogs that inspire me
37. Going op-shopping
38. A whole day with nothing to do!
39. Spending time with my family at Mum's house
40. Preparing and buying presents for Christmas
41. Preparing for a trip away
42. Experimenting with new dishes in the kitchen in my Thermomix
43. Enjoying a great meal at a restaurant or cafe
44. Going for a refreshing swim in a pool
45. Finding cash in my wallet that I'd forgotten was there
46. Snuggling up on the lounge with my hubby in winter
47. Laughing!
48. Watching a good movie
49. Picnics
50. Dreaming about the possibilities of the future

What are you grateful for?

Sunday, 6 September 2015

What's new around the house...


Just a quick update on what's new around our house...

In the laundry...

I just put up these cute pineapple canvases in our laundry, which are from Kmart. The shelf below is also from Kmart, and I painted it white. It will be super handy for our hats and for sunscreen and bug spray.




In the Kitchen...

A sweet 'delicious' sign that sits on the window in the kitchen 



In the Living Area...

This is the start of what will be a 'command centre' above the desk in our living room. I'll keep you updated... Also, the canvas above was originally on top of our DVD cube unit, but as Big W had a sale on recently, I purchased an updated canvas (see next picture)...




Outside...

Brendan has been busy putting up a railing on our porch. More on the outside areas in a future post! 

(P.S. How sad is our grass? The winter frosts killed it, but we're looking forward to Spring, and hopefully a lush, green lawn again!)



In the Ensuite...

New towels! Finally! We have used the same old, mismatched, sandpapery towels for years, so it's very exciting to have two full sets of beautiful, soft towels. I have a charcoal set and a white set (with 2 bathmats, a handtowel and 2 large bath towels in each set). 




That's what's new for now! I'm sure when I get to a Kmart in the next few weeks, there'll be more new items to share with you! I'm looking at reorganising my pantry, so that will be exciting!