Friday, January 31, 2020

Around here - Tiny Houses

My daughter and I loved watching Tiny Houses on TV which was on a couple of years ago and then a while back I came across Bryce Langstson, who is a New Zealander who has a YouTube Channel called "Living Big in a Tiny House".

I love his videos and have watched every one of them from start to finish.  He posts a new video every week or thereabouts.  The tiny house designs are so interesting and some I love more than others however all I can say is these people are very clever as a lot of them build their tiny houses themselves. 

The latest video is little house built buy a young girl who is a woodworker and it's so cute so you should check it out.  I love the way she has designed the stairs so they don't necessarily look like stairs as well.  Having a ladder to go up and down to go to bed wouldn't suit me - imagine trying to bring up the paper and coffee to bed in the thanks.  This video runs for 15 minutes and you should get a coffee and have a little break from what you are doing and go check it out.

We have all seen Yurts and how people live in them and given that they are round and not square it can be a challenge to design the space.  Check out this amazing design of this Yurt which is so clever wait until you see the inside.  This video runs for 17 minutes.

Then there is this Tent house video from "Living Big in a Tiny House" which is a 2nd video [revisited] after a year to see what changes they had make to their living space.  You could watch their first video below this one first and then watch the revisited one in order if you wish.

This was their first video of their tent house.

This is one of my favourite tiny houses.

I hope you enjoyed these videos and go follow the "Living Big in a Tiny House" channel.

We stayed in a tiny house last year at Blackwattle Farm which was loads of fun.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Around here - Home Made Tzatziki

I've only ever made Tzatziki once before and since I'm wanting to have more healthy snacks in the fridge I decided to make some today.  One tip I recently learnt was to let the yoghurt drain for 1-2 hours or even over night so it's not watery and the yoghurt goes really creamy which is what I did.


500gms Natural Greek Yoghurt
3-4 small baby cucumbers [I buy the little packet of Qukes from Aldi]
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 gloves of garlic crushed
salt & pepper to taste


You'll need a bowl, sieve and cloth like a clean chux cloth.  It's so simple, drain the yoghurt, grate and drain the cucumber, add oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Place the chux cloth in your sieve and then place your sieve over the bowl.

Spoon the Greek yoghurt into the sieve and put it into the fridge for 1-2 hours or overnight like I did so it can draw out any excess water and the yoghurt will become very creamy.

When your yoghurt has drained, grate the cucumber into another chux cloth and squeeze out any excess water.  I used my nut bag for this and turned it inside out so the cucumber doesn't get caught in the seams which is what  I do for my almond milk.

Add the strained yoghurt into a large bowl and then add the grated cucumber, olive oil, crushed garlic and season with salt and pepper and then mix it altogether and it's done.  So simple, yet so tasty and no chemicals for it to sit on a supermarket shelf. 

You might also be interested in this Labneh recipe which is the same principal.  Pour some Sweet Chilli Sauce over the top for a quick and easy dip.

My glass bowl with a strainer and chux cloth with the yoghurt draining overnight.

Squeezing out my grated cucumber in my nut bag.

The yoghurt [or Labneh] after leaving it overnight looks like cream cheese.

Adding in the other ingredients for the Tzatziki.

After I mixed it altogether I grated a bit more cucumber to go in the bowl.

Ready for a snack...fresh home made Tzatziki and Woolworths home brand rice crackers.  We have been buying these Multigrain ones at $1.35 however now I'm buying these Black Sesame also $1.35 which are even nicer.  These are home brand crackers and great value and I prefer these to the Aldi ones.  I can highly recommend you give this a go and I'm going to cut up some carrot sticks to go in the fridge as well.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Around here - Do it yourself and save money

It's been so lovely to have rain this week and the lawn has gone from dead brown to thriving green again.  Sadly there are still bush fires in Australia however some parts of the country have their first rain fall in a long time.  Not enough rain to declare the drought over however any rain is good rain for farmers and land owners.  Here's hoping we don't get a big flood now like we do late January each year.

This week I went to a new hairdresser after 15 years of a using the same mobile hairdresser who comes to your home.  It was great when the kids were small as once they were in bed I could get my hair done at 7pm while they slept however that's not so important now as they are teenagers.  Changing hairdressers or doctors is a difficult thing because we get used to someone knowing us and finding someone new is scary and will I like what they do, will they know what suits us etc.

I did some research last week and picked 3 hairdressers near me that were possibles.  An acquaintance I know goes to one of them and her hair always looks lovely so that was the front runner until I discovered a more local to me London trained salon who's staff do training and enter competitions to keep up with the latest styles and colours.  In other words, fresh eyes and salon experience.  I went in to chat to the owner to discuss my hair and then booked an appointment.  All I can say was they are very professional, friendly and the experience was great with great customer service.  I got an email today welcoming me as a new customer and a gift voucher for $5 off my next visit.  I love the colour and the cut even though in the photo you can only see the front.  The sides shape down to the front on an angle and the back is shaped as well which you can't see.   Here's my before and after photos taken on my iPhone so it's a bit blurry.

I also came across this post from Vicky at The Bluebirds are Nesting which I found great.  I still believe there is a perception in our society that stay at home mothers don't contribute any money because they don't bring home a wage.  As you can see in Vicky's post that her friend went to work full time however when they did the numbers she was working for 50 cents an hour.  People only think of the salary and not about the tax,  the enormous cost to put kids in childcare, petrol/bus or train fares etc. and work out how much money they are really making.  If it's worth it then yes, however money can be earned by the things you do at home in lieu of that weekly pay cheque.

I took the time to work out how much money I had saved by making the kids school lunches.  In primary school from Prep to Grade 4, I gave the kids 50 cents each on a Friday to get an ice block however this was not the entire year and I think I only started it from Grade 2 maybe.  From Grade 5 to Grade 6 the school had special meal deals about 2-3 times a year for the swimming carnival or sports day which was about $5 for subway and a drink or pizza hut pizza and a drink.  So in any one year it was only 2-3 days I didn't make school lunches for my kids.

Let say $5 for an average school lunch however it could be more $6-$8 however we'll call it $5 for this calculation.

1 child x 5 days a week x 40 weeks = 200 days in one year - 3 days meal deal = 197 days

Therefore 197 days x $5.00 = $985 per year for one child
Therefore first child at school for 11 years x $985 = $10,835
Therefore 2nd child at school for 9 years x $985 = $8,865
Total $19,700 during their school years.

So one year of $5 per day per child for two children only having 3 tuckshop days would be $2,000.

Therefore by me making school lunches I have saved $19,700 during their time at school.  This does not take into account 1 year of kindy for each kid because there is no tuckshop at kindy even though I made their lunches 3 days a week for kindy for both kids.

Whilst I have saved $19,700 on making school lunches it does not mean I have $19,700 sitting in a bank account [oh I wish I did].  It does mean however that I didn't have $20,000 to spend on school lunches when there are living expenses and bills to pay like house and contents insurance, rates, water, electricity, car insurance, maintenance, food, petrol and other standard living expenses.  It also means that my kids ate healthy home made food without lots of artificial chemicals and flavours as with quick supermarket lunch box snack items that are promoted for busy working Mums'.  Even if I had lots of money to pay for school tuckshop for my kids I wouldn't because I know the food I provide them is better for them.  So whilst it's about the money, it's not about the money.

So in The Vicky Challenge she encourages you to work out how much money you are saving/contributing to your family by doing things at home.  This does not include housework, goodness me we would all be rich by now if that was included.  It's more about making pizza at home on a Friday night rather than spending $40 on the Friday night pizza meal deal.  Pizza can be made at home for a few dollars and most people have these ingredients in their cupboards, flour, yeast, ham and veggies.

When it comes to growing your own veggies we all know that it may not necessarily be a money saving task, it's more the fact that we know where the food is grown with no chemicals and we can walk out into the back yard and pick some herbs or lettuce.  My garden is bare at the moment so that is my next step to weed and get some lettuce, spring onions, coriander and tomatoes planted.  Herbs are very expensive to buy because a recipe may call for 1 tablespoon of rosemary and to buy a packet at $3 and the rest is wasted.  Luckily I have rosemary and oregano growing in my garden however I need to get other things going again as it's such a feel good thing as well.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Around here - Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread

In my last blog post I mentioned that I had come across a wonderful whole food website and wonderful YouTube videos for meal prepping.  I saw this Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread and bought the ingredients to make it which was super easy and turned out just like the picture.

You basically mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another bowl and then mix them together and put it in your baking dish it's that easy.  I did make one mistake and that was to put the whole cup of chocolate chips in the recipe instead of 3/4 in the mix and then the other 1/4 for the top [oh well you can never have enough chocolate chips now can you] however I will know for next time.  I cut a slice and put some cold butter on it which was lovely.  Even though it looks like a cake it's not soft like a chocolate cake, more like a banana bread texture.  It's certainly has a strong chocolate flavour from the chocolate chips.  I've cut this up and put it in the freezer for some school snacks and afternoon tea.  If you wanted to cut down the chocolate chips in the cake you could easily put in 1/2 a cup and then 1/4 on top.  I will making this one again.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Around here - Meal Prepping ideas

As you know this year I am trying to cut down on my grocery bill and not wasting any food so a big part of that is meal prepping.  Last week I wrote a post that had a link in there about meal prepping and this week I have come across the most inspiring meal prepping videos and blog ever.  If you haven't heard of the food term "JERF" which means "Just Eat Real Food" or "Whole 30" which is wholefoods so it's the same same.

This week I discovered Lisa from Downshiftology blog has many inspiring recipes from healthy basics, meal prepping, to an extensive recipe collection.  This is Lisa's YouTube channel has amazing videos and her food photography is amazing as well.  In her meal prep videos she has a PDF file you can download with a link to all the recipes and times so no need to take any notes.  She has thought of everything.

The four meal prepping links below are 20-25 minutes each and while I love shorter 10-15 minute video myself,  I can guarantee you will be at the farmers market and home to meal prep once you sit down with your cuppa and watch anyone of these videos.  Not only does she prep 10-12 items in containers for the week she then shows you how the meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner come together easily during the week once everything is prepped.  Make sure you watch these videos or just watch one first and you will want to watch the others.

Some other great to check out are below:-

How to make Almond Butter .  I'm going to give this a try as I'm now making Almond Milk in my nut bag for myself.

I've bought the ingredients to make this Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread which looks delicious.

What about this amazing Vegan Caramel Cheesecake Recipe.

Also I would love to make these crackers as well, in fact, you can pick any recipe on this website and I would love to make it.

Serve the crackers with Roasted Beet Hummus with Basil Pesto.

If her website doesn't give you inspiration to get organized for the week and eat healthy I don't know what will.  I could spend hours on her website going through every recipe.  I will definitely be making more of her recipes.  Gone are the days of low fat this and low fat that and items from the supermarket shelf like condiments.  Just eat real food and you will be healthy on the inside as well as the outside.  I hope this post gives you inspiration because it certainly has for me.

Over the last year I purchased a number of glass containers for my fridge which we put grated cheese in, cut up lettuce, cut up capsicum etc.  It's been great because when you are making a salad wrap for lunch and your ingredients are ready to go instead of each day having to wash, grate, cut up each day it says time and mess in the kitchen.  I only ever buy them when they are half price at Woollies and I have been keeping my eye out for the last 2 weeks and they haven't been on sale yet so I will stock up when they are half price so keeping my eye out.  I get this size and this size for the fridge and I go for the rectangle ones as they are more stackable in the fridge than the round ones.  I do also use these plastic Sisterma Meat Keepers to store my coriander and kale and put a paper towel on the top and bottom and they keep for at least 3 weeks.  The meat keepers have a plastic grate in the bottom and it's great for chopped up watermelon too because of the juices sit underneath the plastic grate and keeps your watermelon from being too soggy.

Do you have any "go to tips" that you use weekly to stay organized as I would love to hear from them.

PS...I've just updated my blog header for the first time since 2012 let me know what you think. It took me a while to get the current sizing correct to go across the top of the page however I got there in the end.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Around here

I can't believe we are half way through January already as time moves so quickly.  Luckily we have another couple of weeks of school holidays before the kids have to go back to school.

In my last post I mentioned I went to see the movie "The Biggest Little Farm" which I thoroughly enjoyed and will probably watch it again.

My new cookbook arrived this week "Everyday Additive-Free" by sisters Tracey Fry & Joanne Ling from Tasmania.  I've written a post about the 7 podcast episodes that I think you need to listen to about additives that go into our every day what we consider healthy food choices.  It was a game changer.   The book has both the Thermomix method and the normal cooking method so very versatile.

There have been numerous Instagram posts about making pouches for injured wildlife so I went to spotlight and bought some Aussie fabric to make the pouches.  I have started on one however my sewing machine is playing up and needs a service before I continue with them.  I had fun getting some cute fabric and  I got the pattern off the Animal Rescue Craft Guild FB page.  Here is an article about the sewing bees helping the injured wildlife.

When looking for food prepping ideas this week I came across this post from The Organized Housewife.  Cutting up your carrot and celery sticks and putting them in a jar with water keeps them fresh for longer.

Another inspiring food prepping picture to get organized.

I am also search up school lunch box ideas as we will be starting another year.  I have been making the kids kindy and school lunches for 17 years.  Check out School Lunch Box on IG an Aussie Dad who makes healthy school lunches for his kids.  He also has a book called Lunch Box Express.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Around here - Movie time

I love watching films about farming and sustainability and came across this film which had a special showing today.  The story is about John and Molly Chester who were living in LA and they bought a rescue dog named Todd home to their little unit.  He is a film maker and she is a chef and their dog barked 8 hours a day while they weren't home so they ended up getting evicted from their apartment.

She had always dreamed of living on the land and growing food and raising animals working with nature.  They knew they wouldn't be able to move into another apartment so they left LA  and set up a farm 40 miles North of Los Angeles with the help of investors and converted dry hard compacted land into a thriving farm.

The film takes place over 8 years of life on the farm and all the things that go with natural farming when they solve one problem they are faced with another problem.  If you get a chance to watch it I can highly recommend it as I loved it.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Around here - Simple Living

In the beginning of the year it's all about budgets and finances and I love reading blogs about simple living which entails growing your own veggies, cooking from scratch, budgeting, having a hobby and generally not keeping up with the Jones.  The first blog and person I followed over 10 years ago was Rhonda from Down to Earth blog.  I have all of her books she wrote and have loved reading all her posts about making bread, growing veggies, recipes etc. over the years.

Instead of buying your clothes new you can sew your clothes or get second hand.  If you have no idea how to sew you can check out Elise's "Sewing isn't Scary" online course for $28USD [approx $40 AUD].  It's a work at your own pace introduction to get you started.  One thing I noticed that she does instead of using pins to pin your pattern piece to your fabric she uses big and small metal washes on top of the pattern to hold them down which I think is a great idea [check out Bunnings].  I know pinning patterns down is a little time consuming whereas she just pops the washes on top and of course you can just push them around easily on top of the pattern. [Elise is the person I wrote about in my last blog post about goal setting and getting things done]

Have you heard of the term FIRE [Financially Independent Retire Early]?  There are many blogs and resources on on the internet about this.  I love reading about these things and picking up tips here and there.  I only wished I had read about these topics in my 20's however there was no internet around back then or access to such wonderful information.  I thought I would share a few here.

One of the first blogs I read about the Frugalwoods blog and her book which I also read a while back.   Her book was about how she ended up where she did vs Rhonda's books about how go about simple living. 

Last week I came across a Melbourne Mum who left her husband with $60 in cash and 4 kids under 5 and had to raise her family.  This was some twenty years ago now so the kids are all grown up  however she had to learn how to be financially independent while raising her family on her own.  Her blog is called Burning Desire for Fire and I take my hat off to her for her bravery.

This young couple from Strong Money Australia blog retired at 28.

There is also other articles like this one 10 things to do things you need to do daily to become financially indepenent.

I have been reading this blog for a while 1500 days to freedom.

Our Next Life blog and her book "Work Optional" is another take on Fire.

The Fioneers blog.

Another Australian blogger who's family lives below the poverty line "with abundance" and who has been featured on A Current Affair on TV as the Queen of savings is Wendy from My Abundant Life.

Here's another one Retire by 45.

There are many blogs and information about simple living and finances and the two go hand in hand.  Whether you want to save up for a holiday or have extra funds in your emergency account.

Some principals to get ahead are:-

  • Pay off your debt.
  • Reduce your expenses.
  • Increase your income.
  • Invest your savings.

Sometimes it's hard to get ahead or see the light at the end of the tunnel especially around Christmas time, school holidays etc and back to school expenses.  If you spend $200-$300 a week on food for your family try one week spending $100 and saving the other $100-200 by going through your freezer and using whatever you have stored there.  Make simple home made pizza's with flour, yeast, olive oil and water and put left over veggies or meat on your pizzas.  They are much healthier than the take away pizza's and more fun for the family to make them.

You can make Friday night or Saturday night your regular "Fake-away" [ie make take away at home].  Pizza feels like a weekend thing so why not make your own.  You can also go through your pantry any tins of salmon or tuna and make tuna bake.  The extra $100-$200 can make an extra payment on your mortgage or credit card.  If you do this 6 times a year [ie shop from home and only spend $100 or less on fresh fruit, milk, bread and maybe a little bit of meat] you can save between $600-$1200 a year.  So you are not doing are just using your freezer and pantry after all in Australia with shops open every day of the year and we don't have "snow days" we don't really need to have a heap of stock in our pantries...1-2 weeks is plenty.

I mentioned earlier that one of the ways I want to reduce my expenses this year is with the weekly groceries by meal planning, cooking from scratch and not wasting any food. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Around here - Reflection on 2019 Goals

I love writing goals and budgets and even better achieving them.  The Queen of Goal setting and achieving is Elise Blaha Cripe, her energy and completion of goals, knitting, sewing etc. is inspiring.  I purchased her book called "Big Dreams Daily Joys" which is her first book she has written on goal setting which was released last October.  It's super easy to read with little steps towards working out what you want as a goal and also steps on achieving them.  I'm not new goal setting, however I have loved the simplicity and actions in her book and can highly recommend it.  I have also been using her "Get to Work Book" Diary Planner for the last 3 years which I can order online from a shop in Brisbane rather than getting it shipped from the USA.

At the start of 2019 I wrote out 13 goals and achieved 8 of them as follows:-
  • Grow veggies
  • Complete Photo Year Book for 2017
  • Complete Photo Year Book for 2018
  • Complete Photo Year Book for 2019
  • Complete Photo Book for Week in the Life for 2019
  • Complete Photo Book for The 52 Project for 2019
  • New bedroom carpet and paint for kids wing
  • New bedroom carpet and paint for master bedroom, walk in robe, bathroom

Things I weren't able to cross off on my goals were:-
  • Win new 4WD for the family
  • Loose 10kgs - I lost 5kgs
  • Professional family photo shoot with kids
  • Complete Photo Book for Week in the Life for 2013
  • Complete Photo Book for Week in the Life for 2015

In terms of what I did set out to achieve I'm thrilled with.  I have many years of wonderful photos on my hard drives and it seemed like such a big task to get them into books.  Each year I do two photo books using Blurb and they are "The 52 Project" and the "Week in the Life" books.  The 52 Project is basically an individual photo of each of my kids each week and then however many family ones I can take of the 3 of us.  These books are easy because they are the same format every year and I update the photos each week for The 52 Project photos.   The Week in the Life [WITL] book I have now  simplified over the years and it's the same format each year and super easy to complete.

As for my Photo Year Books I am so thrilled to have 2017 and 2018 printed and 2019 all the photos are in the templates which is about 90% of the work so now I just need to resize photos and add a few words which is the fun relaxing part.  When I went digital I made my 2013 Year Book and that's it and it was a bit scrapbooky [if that's a word] using digital paper.  I have gone for a super clean template now that I got from Cathy Zielske and all my pages the same.  98% of my photos I take are horizontal photos and when I get the occasional vertical photo I just adjust one box in the template.  I use Photoshop for these templates.  The pages below are from a little 30 minute photo walk my daughter and I did with our cameras in our neighbourhood.  The Year Books are 12x12 inches square with a nice big white border around the images.  I use the templates and then save the whole page as a jpeg file and upload that for each page.

My two girlfriends and I all print photo books and we get together to do "photo club" which is basically going through our photos on our laptop, selecting and editing and then putting them in books so they can get printed.  It's a great way to catch up with a coffee, chat and achieve something at the same time.  I really got stuck into the Photo Year Book process in September and pumped out the 2 year books and had 2019 90% ready.  This makes me so happy to have them in print.

I painted and carpeted 4 bedrooms, a huge hallway, walk in robe and painted the ensuite which was a huge task and one I couldn't have done without the help of my wonderful sister.  We put the music on and get to work and have lots of fun laughing and painting.  She is amazing and I couldn't have done all the work on my own.  There is one room left to go in terms of painting and carpet which is the 2nd living area which is large and that will be tackled at the end of 2020.

On the weight loss front, I lost 5kgs in the first two months of the year and then stayed within 2kgs the whole year as I would exercise for a few days and then nothing for 2 weeks - itt's not what I need to do.  My goal is to "Lose 20kgs in 2020" so I can get back to a healthy weight range.  In 2017 I lost 14kgs doing Sam Wood 28 minute workouts and eating healthy [JERF - Just eat real food] ie no processed food which is in line with "Addictive Free Lifestyle".   I lost my way when a family member got cancer and I fell apart and never really stuck to it when I should have.  I have restarted this week and today is day 3.  The food is always amazing, the exercise takes 28 minutes and you can do it in your lounge room.  All I need is a mat, step box and some weights all from Kmart and my computer.  Sam also has an app on the phone as well however I use the computer for my workouts.

I had booked a family photo session at the beginning of the year however I ended up cancelling it because I wasn't feeling great with the excess weight and if I am spending money on beautiful photos I want to feel and look great.  At the same time I had a large car repair expense pop up which was a priority.  That's not to say I didn't get in my own family photos during the year with my kids because I do that now by using the self timer and getting in the pics with them.

My first family photo session was done in January 2018 with Cindy Cavanagh at Bribie Island and here's a few images.