Monday, 19 June 2017

Menu Plan Monday

This is the last week of our girlies being away housesitting.  I go back and forth between missing being part of their every day, and not missing the bickering that is natural between siblings.  The house has been quiet and peaceful, and my days off have been delightful silent and uninterrupted.  Mr Busy is easy to have about and doesn't fuss if he's asked to do something.  Unlike the girls, who make grand declarations about the fairness, or lack thereof, about who does what dishes job.

As I mentioned when I talked about the upsides of having a smaller households the cooking has been delightful.  This week is no different.  I'm planning for cooking once and eating twice while I can.  And then a nice family roast for the night that we're all home to eat dinner together properly (with plans to use the leftovers in another meal).

Here we go:
Sunday: Chicken noodle soup
Monday:  Lasagne and salad
Tuesday: Pasta with tomato & bacon sauce
Wednesday: Leftover chicken noodle soup
Thursday: Leftover lasagne and salad
Friday: Leftover pasta
Saturday: Roast chicken & veggies (maybe even dessert!)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Claiming my Desk... Before and After

 A very long time ago, it seems, I wanted to get rid of the great hulk of a desk we had inherited from my father-in-law (we are his favourite disposal site, I think), and replace it with something simpler and less invasive.  Ikea provided us with what I considered the perfect alternative.  So it has been sitting in this corner for many years.  All white and slimmed down compared to its predecessor.  Gradually Mr Busy took the desk over with his junk.  The curtain over the window in front of it deteriorated so much that the backing became white dust over everything (hence the sheet).  I have been less than pleased with this corner.  It was never really what I intended.

As well as desktop issues we began to have under-desk problems.  All the reams of paper that came home because Dh couldn't use grey (neither do we, incidentally), and the printer cartridges and the manilla folders and on and on it goes.  Things that have been piled up and then spilling over the floor under the desk.

Well.  No more.  This was my latest corner of decluttering, reorganising, cleaning and reclaiming for its intended purpose.  Mr Busy studies in his room now.  I have finally claimed the desk I chose as my own.  With all my favourite pink things!

One day I'm going to need to have a trip to Spotlight to see if I can find a good enough curtain to replace the sheet over that window.  It looks so tacky, but it does the job.  No one can see in from the street.

My next challenge:  The area to the right of the desk.  It rests along a hip-height wall that will one day be pulled down.  The junk in front of it needs a better home.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

If Google Knows Everything...

Imaged Credit
...Then YouTube can teach you anything.  Or at least inspire you to try something new!

Today's Lesson:  How to clean a very very dirty oven.  Did I say dirty?  Maybe embarrassingly putrid would be a more accurate description.  I had hoped to have replaced it by now, but that's looking like an out-of-the-question scenario right now.

My oven is so bad that I'm only half way through I've only just started getting it clean.  I've done the door.  But I sense hope.  My sink and tap are ridiculously shiny, as is my cooktop, thanks to a quick swipe with the paste I'm leaving to sit on the gunk in the oven.

Thank you YouTube, for teaching me that I don't need to use the caustic (but quick, less scrubbing...but also no breathing) oven cleaner I had been using.  So I hear you asking...."what is this shiny-making non-caustic cleaner?"  Well, three things you probably have right in your kitchen.

2 cups baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda)
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup dishwashing liquid

Mix the vinegar into the baking soda VERY slowly.  Pour a little in and little it fizzle; stir a bit before adding a tad more.  Once it's all in the bowl (and isn't fizzing over the side - remember I said add slowly!) add the dishwashing liquid and mix it really well.  You just slop that, rather thickly, over all the internal surfaces of the oven and let it sit overnight.  I used a silicon pastry brush to do this.  In my case it'll be 24 hours before I can get back to it, but I suspect that might be best for all concerned.  I'll let you know how it goes, but so far the oven door is looking beautiful.

Incidentally these same ingredients (in different proportions) have been touted (on YouTube) as a miracle bathroom cleaner.  If my sink is anything to go by, your bathroom will certainly shine!  The video I watched for cleaning the bathroom said you have to use "Dawn" liquid, which is all very well if you have a Costco membership.  If not, you'd be up the creek without a paddle, here in Australia.  I can't see that a particular brand would make a difference, so I'd give it a go with whatever you happen to have.  Morning Fresh maybe?  I think the point is, something really good, not the cheap, weak stuff you get in $2 shops.

Some other YouTube channels I've been enjoying:
The Daily Connoisseur (inspiration to live a good life)
Do It On a Dime (how to organise on a budget)
Pick Up Limes (great nutrition advice and inspiration)
Fly with Stella (a very funny flight attendant who vlogs her life - she's just so happy!)
A Classroom Diva (teaching ideas and inspiration)
Pocketful of Primary (another teacher vlog)

What have you learnt lately?

EDITED TO UPDATE: This method for oven cleaning worked reasonably well.  Yes, it took a fair amount of elbow grease, but I didn't die from inhaling awful, choking chemicals.  And my hands were nice and soft, albeit dry.  Definitely the longer it sat the easier it was to clean (24 hours).  It was very, very sudsy, so know you're gonna have bubbles in your sink all over the place!  I suspect that if you were more diligent about oven cleaning, in general, this would look like it had worked better.  Given where my oven started and where it ended, I'd say it was a definite winner.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday.  Of a long weekend.

That means lots of extra time.  Time to menu plan.  Time to grocery shop.  Time to plan for the week ahead so I can get some running records done in my lesson planning time tomorrow.  Time to nap.  Time to get the house picked up a bit and flat surfaces decluttered.  Oh yes, I love a good long weekend at home.

Yesterday we took Mr Busy down near the bay and had lunch at a little cafe in McCrae.  Then we did something I think I haven't done since I was a teen!  We drove up to Arthur's Seat.  Oh my it was so full of people.  But Mr Busy found a geocache there and the view was magnificent against a backdrop of sunny blue skies.  Not warm, but sunny, because you know...winter.

This morning I planned my menu and I have a shopping list ready to go.

Monday:  Potato, cauliflower & leek soup (with Costco dinner rolls - so dying YUM!!)
Tuesday: Leftover soup & rolls
Wednesday: Honey soy chicken, stir fried veggies & rice
Thursday: Chicken tenders (from freezer, thank you Costco) & veggies
Friday:  Fend for yourself (Mr Busy will be at church before I get home from work)
Saturday:  Leftover chicken, veg & rice

What are you eating this week?  Please share!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Pantry Capers... Before and After

It's a long weekend, here in Australia to celebrate the Queen's Birthday.  Say what you will; on this occasion I am more than willing to keep ties to the Commonwealth and take a short break for a long weekend.  I've been hankering to clean out my pantry, which I do about once a year.  Because after a year of the locusts (aka children) fossicking through it and spilling things and all of us shoving things in gaps and wherever, it needs a thorough clean out.

It took me a few goes, with sitting down in between, because, Friday night.  After teaching PE, a lunch time yard duty and an after school yard duty I was so tired.  There ain't no tired like teacher tired, folks.  In fact, I think I even shut my eyes for 15 minutes on one of those breaks.  Anyway, everything came out, the shelves got cleaned and then everything went back.  Almost.

I couldn't finish off last night because I needed some storage items to I could organise the floor of my pantry.  Also, I've thrown out about this much stuff, because I don't love it or use it or want out-of-date food in my pantry.

My pantry started off like this.

See how the floor is hidden under piles of stuff?

Part way through, the kitchen was an organised disaster and I wondered why on earth I keep all this stuff in there?

And then things were slowly returned to rights with everything organised, cleaned and restored.

Thanks to some stacking bins and throwing stuff out the floor is clear again.

I bought baskets for the pasta and some Asian food items as well as the stacking bins.  Everything is looking much more organised and tidy.  I also found a new dish soap dispenser with a pump top.  The old one got a crack in the bottom after many years of use.  Couldn't last forever I guess.  Just as I was finished up, Mr Busy peeked in and was very impressed.  "Oh Mum, I can find things...but do we have any food?  I'm hungry".  πŸ™„

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Appy and Free

Image Credit
A couple of months ago I decided that I needed to start tracking my food intake, to gain back some control, where control had apparently been slipping.  I felt like I just couldn't be tied to a piece of paper again, like I was back in the 90's when I was using Weight Watchers.  You know, back before computers and the internet?  So went looking for an app.  Because now we have computers and interwebbings and smart phones and all the fancy things.

There's an app for everything these days, isn't there?!

The app I ended up choosing is from Calorie King.  Their "Control My Weight" app is a freebie, and I have to say I am incredibly impressed.  Input to the food diary is so easy!  And because it's on my phone, it's always close by and handy.  The app has an extensive inbuilt list of Aussie foods and brands, so I can almost always find exactly what I'm looking for.  Also, you can save meals as a whole recipe, copy from previous days and search by meals, as well as individual ingredients. There are also features to track your water intake and exercise and easy peasy weight check-ins.  It literally takes me a total of about two minutes over a whole day to put everything in there.  In the morning I can put in my breaky, lunch and snacks, so I can see what's left for dinner and whether I have wiggle room for treats.  Or not.

All of that easy-to-use app-i-ness, and it's really helped me see how far off track I'd gotten.  Man oh man my track was very far away from where it should have been.

If you're an Apple kinda person and you want a food tracking app that works seamlessly, give this one a try.  For free! Yay!  If you're an android user, I'm sorry, I've got nothin' for you.  Apple for the win!

Disclosure:  I have not partnered with Calorie King or been approached by them for my endorsement (they don't even know I exist, I'm sure).  I'm just sharing something I use and love and find helpful in my quest for being healthier.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

What's Inside My Teacher Lunch Bag?

I was googling about the other day, as you do, searching for inspiration for my school lunches.  The only staple that never changes is my Thursday lunch.  A lunch you'll probably never see a photo of, because I never take my phone to the staffroom at lunch time.  But I will tell you, it's my favourite lunch.  Freshly baked baguettes from The Artisan Crust, filled with brie, fig jam and salad greens.  Oh be still my heart! Maybe it's a good thing our tuck shop is only available one day a week.  I might end up looking like a filled baguette!

On every other day, lunch is whatever I can cobble together from the depths of my pantry and fridge. Not always an easy task!  So for anyone else seeking inspiration, here's what's inside my teacher lunch bag (a smattering through last week and this).  Incidentally, my lunch bag is an insulated one I got from Aldi for about ten bucks.  It is exactly the right size, and in summer I slip in a lunch box sized freezer brick to keep everything fresh and fine.

Monday: Leftovers - chicken and corn soup, with a dinner roll from Costco.  For fruit time I have a mandarin, and for recess (morning tea) I have grapes.

Tuesday:  Bread with tomato, spring onion and goat cheese.  On this day I toasted the bread and then topped it with the tomato mixture.  My sister-in-law and I share a tub of real butter that is kept in the staffroom fridge, for such occasions, so of course I had butter on the toast as well.   Everything is better with butter!  Another mandarin and grapes for fruit time and morning tea.

Thursday:  Leftovers again - Chinese simmering chicken, stir fried veggies & basmati rice, with the requisite grapes and mandarin.  The recipe for the chicken is here.  I always use drumsticks and then remove the chicken from the bones and mix it through the veggies.  Then I use the liquid from cooking to thicken for a sauce.  So yum.  

Friday: Scraping the barrel means another toasted sandwich.  I always store my sandwiches for toasting with glad wrap between the bread slices so the butter doesn't stick together, and the fillings sitting on top.  It just works so well when you go to put into the sandwich toaster.  And my favourite grapes and mandarin again!  Am I sick of those grapes and mandies yet?  Nope.  They're only around for a limited time in the year so I take them while I can.  And red grapes are, by far, my preference over green.

And here's my lunch all packed and ready to go.  Obviously this was Monday's lunch.  My golly I love those Costco dinner rolls.  The only way I don't scoff the whole bag myself is to keep them in the freezer.  And determine to only eat them with things like soup.  That little container in the mesh pocket has rock salt in it.  Sometimes the salt in the staffroom seems to disappear.  This way I always have some when I need it.

And no, I did not forget about Wednesday.  On Wednesday I have the blissful joy of having a "day off".  I am playing terribly fast and loose with the term "day off".  Today, for example, I spent the entire day writing English reports.  So fun.  Said no teacher ever.

I am officially done with reports though, so yay me.  Now I need to start on an assignment. πŸ™„

What do you take for not-at-home-and-can't-buy-lunch days?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Upside of a Small Family

The government considers us a "big family".  We even get an extra $10 (or something similar) because of it.  Apparently three kids is becoming a rare thing.  Around here, it's a regular sized family, amongst a whole bunch of families with 4-6 kids.  That's Yarra Valley water for you.

Our foray into kids moving out and becoming a small family, albeit temporarily, has brought out some interesting little observations.

1.  It's so much quieter.
Obviously!  The funny thing about that is that we barely know Miss Mischief is home most of the time, because she holes up in her room and slinks out for food, basically.  Truly, our kids are all at the age where the spend a bunch of time in their rooms like hibernating bears, so why is it quieter?  Because Miss Sunshine isn't here to come out in the evening and wrestle through the ads on TV with her Dad. He has no one to pick on.  No one to bug.  No one to bother.  It's just blissful for this introvert who spends all day with people!

2.  I don't have to cook as often!
This is a new discovery this week.  If I cook the same volume as normal, a meal will go two nights, easily. Plus leftovers for lunches sometimes too.  Oh. My. Goodness!  What a beautiful relief.  I'll cook tomorrow night, and then Wed-Fri we'll just feast on the 2nd half of the meals I've made from Sunday to Tuesday.  I figured if I make three and then cycled back to the start it wouldn't feel like we're just eating the same thing over and over.  And thanks to some new, inexpensive-but-better-than-disposable containers from Aldi, this week, we're all set to store single-serve quantities of some of it.

3.  My food budget has gone way down.
I'm still paying for the girls' food.  They're both poor Uni students, and the reality is, they live at home because they can't afford to move out.  So I hand them $60 each weekend (they blow in, briefly for that!) and they make that work for the two of them.  Meanwhile, I've only spent about $50 on the three of us.  Well....I did do a big Costco shop the other day, so that makes a difference, doesn't it?  Still, even if I spent the same as I give the girls it would be less than when they were here for dinner every night.

4.  The girls are very different in how they connect.
It has become clear, this past week, that Miss Mischief is the connector.  Miss Sunshine is happy with distance.  That would probably change over time, but at the moment Sunshine gal is revelling in being on her own.  Miss Mischief has popped in to get Microsoft Office on her new computer, and organised for me to drive down to Koorong, and buy them lunch, and wash her hair....ok, maybe she just needs me more!  I'm blaming the post-op recovery process.

So while I'm content that they are safe and sound tucked up in my friends' home, Hubby comments every day that he misses the girls.  It's too quiet for his extroverted self!