Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back to Nature - Free Holiday Activity

For a couple of years now I've been meaning to take my kids to the Daisy Hill Koala Centre to see the koalas however something always comes up and we never get there.  It's on the other side of town and I knew it would just be either a morning or an afternoon visit so we headed over there on Monday morning.  The centre had two koalas in the enclosed area which are protected as it's inside the structure of the main building and it was so it was cool to see the koalas.  They had a "Totally Wild" film running in the little theatre about spotting animals at night which we stayed and watched for about 5 minutes but the kids wanted to check out the koalas.  We also went out to the back of the building and walked up the stairs to the top of the lookout (my calves are still hurting today).  It's not overly tall but higher than the building so gave us another perspective and again, it's another 5 minute activity for the kids.

After we finished in the building we sat down at one of the picnic tables and had some water and rice crackers before heading home for lunch.  They have picnic tables and "wood fueled BBQ's" which is always a hit with kids but since we hadn't been there before we just took the crackers for a snack.  Another time we might go back for a BBQ.

While we were at the table I spotted some people in the distance checking out a Kangaroo/Wallaby so James and Sienna went over to investigate.  It was so awesome to see a Kangaroo/Wallaby in the wild (ie not in a zoo) and of course to see the Koalas. I was pretty happy with our little outing and of course the best part of it was that it's free.  I'm sure we were there no longer than an hour and a half however if we'd brought a picnic lunch there is plenty of room for the kids to kick a ball and have a run around too.

Heading into the Centre on the walkway.

James and Sienna discussing Koalas.

How cute is this Koala.

Sienna in pink leaning over the railing to see the koala that's perched in the tree fork just where the other branch is horizontal.

James and Sienna at the top of the Lookout.

My little adventurer and her stick.

How about that....getting to see this Kangaroo.

I love this photo of Sienna walking up to the Kangaroo.

Wood BBQ's and picnic area.

My sister Lisa with James and Sienna.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Around Here

The kids are now on school holidays which means you can stay in your pj's until anytime you like unless we have to go out.  This morning we got changed into day time clothes around 10.00 am even though we were having a day at home. Sienna helped me organize the dinner for the slow cooker which was a Moroccan Chicken recipe so apart from making rice, dinner is done tonight which is good for this Mamma.  Here's what's been happening in our lives this week.

My birthday afternoon.

Handmade card from James.

Inside the card from James.  I gave the kids a $10 limit to spend for my present. He missed me so much because as at the end of August the kids are spending one week with their father and then one week with me.  I have raised the kids on my own 100% for the past 6.5 years and to be honest with you, you could add another 2 years to that even though I was still married.  This is extremely difficult to be without my kids as they have been with me every day since they were born. All to painful.

 Sienna's Birthday card to me.

James and Sienna having some home made baked beans for breakfast before school.  I have no idea how James can eat with his leg up but as long as he has a healthy good breakfast I don't mind.

Sienna walking up the stairs to her classroom.

Sienna's "Starry Starry Night" Artwork at the Grade 3 Art Show this week.  Her's was featured in the black frame.

In bed ready Andy Griffith's The 26 Storey Treehouse Book.

I purchased some 4Real Milk and Camembert on my birthday after seeing Farmer Gregie on Landline last week.  What a great story not only about supporting the Dairy Industry however Farmer Gregie suffered from Clinical Depression.

Sienna and I reading in bed in the morning.  She had her 26 Storey Treehouse book and I had my iPad catching up on some blogs.  Yes I've got the bed hair as I was in bed.  I used the remote self timer on the camera.

Before school harvesting the veggies from the School Veggie Garden for sale to families.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Priceless Memories & Traditions

Yesterday was my birthday and although presents are great and I do like receiving them, what's more precious to me is family traditions and memories I create for my little family.  It started out in 2006 on my birthday with a photo of me at 10.00 pm at night with my two kids and a couple of cupcakes after arriving quite late at Twin Waters Resort for the weekend.

The following year I thought I would follow up the photo and went to get the cupcakes and the bakery had sold out early so I had to buy some very boring and not so tasty cup cakes from Coles.  Every other year however I've purchased the same 4 cupcakes from the same bakery with sprinkles on them for my birthday photo with my kids.  As I'm the birthday girl I get to eat two cup cakes which only seems fair doesn't it.  I can make cup cakes myself but I buy these ones to keep with the tradition of the "same things" year upon year.

For the past 7 of the 9 years, I've taken the photo myself using the self timer on the camera and in recent years used a remote timer which is a lot more fun to play with, rather than taking one photo, running back to behind the tripod to press the button again and then running into the photo and hoping my focus is okay as everyone has moved positions by then.  Everyone gets a turn to press the remote and we get some interesting photos.  However even these little moments of running around the kitchen bench, pressing the button and running back to be in my own birthday photo create happy long lasting memories for James, Sienna and I.  They both know that on Mum's birthday we get the 4 cupcakes and take the "Birthday" photo for the year.  I love seeing how the kids have changed in the past 9 years however I think I should be worried about the next 9 years of photos as at the end of the next 9, James will be nearly 20, Sienna 17 and me....maybe a retirement village.  I'm sure they will come and visit me for my birthday photo.  So this little Birthday Tradition is one of my favourite family gifts and not everything precious costs money.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Road Side Pineapple Stall

I'm still amazed that it takes 2 years to grow one pineapple and yet it can be eaten in about 10 minutes.  Growing veggies take time and I think 6 months is a long time for a veggie to grow however pineapples take 2 years which seems totally crazy to me even though I know it does take that long for them to grow.

My sister Michelle (in the white top) was in town for the week from Perth so every day the four of us sisters went for coffee somewhere. This particular day we went for a drive to the Dayboro Bakery and on the way there we picked up some little pineapples from a road side stall.  Lisa (in the purple top) and I usually get some pineapples at this stall when we take a drive out there with James and Sienna so we are familiar with the little Pineapple Road Side Stall.

This Pineapple grower supplies pineapples for Golden Circle and the little road side stall is basically a little trailer with a lid on it and is situated on the left hand side of the road as you head out to Dayboro just past the Antiques Shop.  We all love pineapples so we bought about 3 each as they were little and they were absolutely delicious.

We had coffee each day at a different place and as we all grew up in Brisbane, Michelle (on the left in orange) doesn't need to do touristy things but it was a good excuse to have a coffee at a few nice locations.  We went to Mt Cootha, Roma Street Parklands and Dayboro.

Here's a photo of us girls at Mt Cootha.

The photo below was taken at Roma Street Parklands.   I put the camera on the ground and used the self timer to get a family shot with Mum and her four daughters.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Home Made Granola

About a year ago I attempted to make some homemade Granola and I think I overcooked it so it was too crunchy and tasted a bit burnt vs toasty.   Recently I've been thinking about it again and after seeing a couple of posts over at Inked in Colour (and another version) I decided I wanted to make some healthy breakfast cereal for my kids vs the boxed stuff you buy at the supermarket.

I shop at a bulk food store in Brisbane called "Simply Good" and my kids are very familiar with this shop as we get all sorts of things there from Bakers Flour to fresh honey and peanut paste/butter which is basically just roasted peanuts put through their machine which squashes the nuts (can't think of a better term) and it's just pure nuts in a paste vs whatever would be in the store bought Peanut Paste version.  It's just roasted nuts pureed. 

I purchased some Organic Oats, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds (aka Pepita seeds), Sesame Seeds, Chia, Linseeds, Almonds, Cashews, Coconut Flakes/Chips and I threw in about 8 dates as well.  You also need Cinnamon, Coconut Oil and Honey and/or Maple Syrup (the real thing, not the flavoured syrup which you can buy).  You could also throw some sultanas in there if you like.

It's a really easy recipe and you can get all of the instructions from the Inked in Colour link above however here's an overview.  Place all your dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together.  Take half of it out and put it in a food processor or Thermomix and pulse the ingredients a few times thereby making the pieces smaller vs making them ground like flour and then return all of this to the bowl where half of the dry ingredients are.  Mix together the Honey/Maple Syrup and the Coconut Oil together and melt either on the stove or in the microwave and once melted mix it into the dry ingredients and stir around and make sure all the ingredients are covered.  It is not a huge amount of liquid for the amount of dry ingredients so it's just a matter of mixing it all around carefully until everything is covered nicely.

I used two large trays with baking paper (parchment paper) and spread out the mix on the trays making sure the level of the ingredients is roughly the same all over the tray so everything cooks evenly.

Turn the oven on to 180 degrees (350F) and when the oven temperature is reached place the trays into the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes (I use my iphone timer) and set it for 20 minutes and also 5 minutes.  Once the 5 minute timer goes off open the oven and move around the ingredients so that what is on top and at the edges gets moved around so everything has a chance to toast.  Then set your timer for 5 minutes again and do that again and two more times and it should be done.  You don't want it to be too toasted/brown otherwise it won't taste very nice so watch your oven and stay close.  I noticed that the ingredients towards the edge of the trays cooked more quickly so I just kept moving that part of it back into the middle of the tray and mixed it around.

Once it's done take the trays out and leave it to completely cool down and then transfer to a lovely glass container.  My glass containers are from Ikea but any container you have on hand is fine.

I gave some to my sister to try out and she had hers with banana and yoghurt and she loved it and couldn't stop eating it.  The kids tried it out and I have to say they weren't that fussed about it which is disappointing.  James had his with yoghurt but he apparently had heaps of it so it was probably too much.  I had 3 heaped soup spoons full in a bowl with a little milk and a touch of sugar and I really enjoyed it.  It's not a cereal where you have a huge bowl full so smaller is better.  It is super healthy and a great start to the day.  James did mention he wasn't that hungry at lunch time because he had a huge breakfast so it is sustaining which is good.  It looks like I may have all this healthy cereal to myself and I don't mind at all.  Perhaps the kids can have some sprinkled on yoghurt for dessert. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Meeting Rhonda and Hanno from Down to Earth Blog

Yesterday afternoon my friend Karin and I thrilled to get a place in the "Simple Living" talk that Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth Blog did at the Arana Hills Library.  This was a free talk put on by the Library and initially when I saw the notice on Rhonda's blog I emailed the Library the same day to put our names down only to find out there were no places left and we had to go on a waiting list.  Luckily for us a few days later the Library contacted me to say we could attend and we sat in the front row.

Rhonda spoke about how her and Hanno got started on their journey of "Simple Living" which she has also written about in her book and is such a great story.  She also spoke about budgeting, decluttering, making laundry soap, knitting dish rags, how to preserve the abundance of food you grow and we received handouts on various things from making compost to raising chickens and tips on getting started on simple living.

Rhonda spoke about "the good old days" of when she was a child where all families had chooks and grew food, baked and preserved foods.  She also spoke about the fact that she loves living in 2014 with the modern technology of the internet, ipads, phones etc and how we can combine the good bits from the olden days with the amazing things from today's world.  The internet has allowed people from all walks of life to have access to and talk about things that are important to them and Rhonda's blog has a huge following which means people are really interested in these types of topics.

You do not have to move to the country to enjoy simple living as most suburbs in Brisbane you can raise chooks and grow veggies, make bread and jam and I think that's one of the benefits of this type of life is that you can pick and choose what parts of simple living suits you and go with that.  It's not an all or nothing life style but once you accomplish one thing you are pretty much looking to add to your skills with the next thing.  If you don't have the desire to make bread you don't have to, there are no rules just your idea of "simple living" and what you are prepared to do to enjoy your lifestyle.

Rhonda mentioned that when she started out on her path of simple living her friends thought she was crazy giving up the corporate lifestyle to stay at home and make bread and soaps.  Don't worry, Karin and I have good friends that say similar things to us too, when we say we are making soap or dishwashing powder but these things make us happy and no one says our friends have to make soap or dishwashing powder it's just that we do and we love it.  Live your own life and combine modern living with simple living and create your own blueprint for your life.

One thing Rhonda spoke about that struck a cord with me or maybe was a light bulb moment was about decluttering something I need to do lots of.  We use the two box system when I help the kids declutter and that is "give away" and "rubbish" which is pretty good for kids that are 10 and 8 however Rhonda spoke about 4 boxes "Put Away, Give Away, Rubbish/Throw away and Sell" all of which are very logical and makes sense.  That concept is not new but the concept of only "declutter" and not "declutter and clean the room" was something that was quite freeing and made lots of sense to me.  When I look at our rooms sometimes I'm so overwhelmed with decluttering and cleaning that you tend to put it off because it looks like a huge task however to think of just "decluttering" and that's it I really liked that concept.  Once rooms are decluttered then the cleaning which can be done another day won't take as long because the room is already rid of the excess stuff.  This was something that I really liked and will be more willing to make the time to declutter only to rid our house of stuff we no longer need or use.

Karin and I found meeting Rhonda and Hanno quite a weird experience in a good way of course.  Normally when you meet someone new, the first thing is you get introduced to them and then you get to find out about their lives little by little.  The fact that Karin and I know about Rhonda and Hanno and all about their lives from her blog and Rhonda has read my blog and therefore knows something about my life you feel as if you know them but in fact you have never met them.  The introductions come last after you know/read about people on the internet so it's a kind of backward experience which is so odd because you think you know them but then have to introduce yourself.  It's quite funny that way.

The internet has allowed us to make amazing connections with people that mostly we will never ever meet but fortunate for Karin and I we had the pleasure of meeting Rhonda and Hanno yesterday and it was a wonderful little outing.

When I dropped the kids off at school yesterday I told them that Karin and I were going to go to a talk and meet Rhonda from Down to Earth Simple Living Blog and they knew exactly who I was talking about because we have Rhonda's "Down to Earth" book and she really is such a down to earth lady and I came away from the talk feeling really happy that such a simple thing of talking about simple living is so rewarding and fulfilling.  To be teaching my kids about making pasta, home made pizza's etc. growing veggies, having chickens (we need to get some more) I like them also being kids and grounded in a modern world where social media and technology is at people's fingertips.  It was great meeting you both yesterday and it's even better than you are inspiring others to get down to earth with their living and create their own style of "simple living".

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Real Food

I have been thinking a lot lately about health and real food and have bought a few cookbooks including "100 Days of Real Food" book which arrived in the mail yesterday.  This is about a family in America in 2010 who thought they were eating healthy options found out what was in these so called "healthy low fat" options and decided to go 100 days with real food and blogged about it here.  The book covers how it all began, what is real food, shopping for real food, making changes, don't overthink, just start, getting your family on board, food budget, tips and meal plans and of course a whole host of recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks and appetizers, salads and sides, simple dinners, special treats and homemade staples.

Last night I was reading the beginning of the book and even though I'm a "Label Reader" at the supermarket this book does enlighten the reader to the tricks of the labels and the companies that want you to think these products are healthy.

One thing that I read was when shopping for cheese you can either buy block cheese and grate it yourself or as with most of us that are a little on the busy side or buy the packet of grated cheese for the convenience.  In the book it talks about block cheese vs grated cheese so here is the reminder where we think "cheese is cheese" and I'm being healthy by buying the normal cheese vs the low fat cheese.  "Bagged, preshredded cheese usually contains an anticaking agent called "cellulose 33" that's sometimes made from wood pulp, and is an extra unnecessary "powdery" additive you won't find in a block of cheese. Um...I think I will be buying block cheese and grating it which would be a fun job for James and Sienna to help out in the kitchen.

Vitamins and Minerals listed as Ingredients.  You might think it's a good thing for a product to note the addition of vitamins and minerals but it's misleading.  It's the classic sign that a food product was stripped of its natural vitamins and minerals in the first place, and food scientists are attempting to add them back.  What does that mean?  You're dealing with a highly processed food product.  No formula developed in a science lab can truly emulate the "real" thing provided to us by nature.  

I think we are all aware that foods with the least "HI" (Human Intervention) are going to be best for us however we can also be fooled by making really healthy sensible choices in the supermarket even when we are conscious of shopping healthy and including reading food product labels.  I think everyone has an opinion about this however anything I can read or learn to navigate a better path for my family is a good thing.  I will not being doing 100 days of real food even if I know the benefit would far outweigh the initial pain of that however I can learn from lots of things this family did including their recipes.

I read this post by Greer on "Typically Red" blog which I could really relate to here and here and it pretty much sums up how I was feeling.  Although I'm really good at baking at home and making delicious home cooked meals I'll happily (well, lazily) buy them MacDonalds as well if we are in between outings and won't be home.  Today the kids lunch boxes have all home made things like Zucchini Slice for lunch, a raspberry muffin, apple and Anzac biscuits which they were thrilled about and it makes me feel good as well.  For now I'll keep reading and added better recipes and knowledge about food to my mindset.  Then there's a whole other level to get to with "refined flours, sugars" vs "whole flours" etc. so I will keep at it and improving our way of eating.  The kids absolutely LOVE hands down our homemade food including the amazing home made baked beans that I keep raving about.  I think for our health the least amount of chemicals and additives the better and of course it is real live and everything in moderation.

I have also purchased a couple of Dr Libby Weaver's Books here and here.  There's a lot that can be said about these topics but for now I'll post a quote which I came across today from Michael Pollan of "In Defense of Food" and "Food Inc" fame which I found to be very simple but very powerful.