Sunday, 17 June 2012

My Pantry aka My Modular Mates Fetish

Part of being organised with meal planning is actually knowing what is in the pantry.

My pantry organising fetish started almost 18 years ago. I had a older style smallish kitchen with little cupboard space and benches that were only 45cm deep. It made fitting in appliances and food and sometimes even big dinner plates a bit of a struggle. In the five years of living with that kitchen I made do and made room for a dishwasher a microwave cupboard (cookware and crockery storage underneath) and a 2door pantry. It made it liveable. It also started my addiction to Tupperware Modular Mates for pantry storage. I could fit so much into one shelf! Since there was only me and my toddler at the time, I didn't need big containers, just lots of them.

These Modular Mates have served me well. They have moved with me quite a few times, from that house to a bigger kitchen, to a downsized Sydney apartment, into storage/use in my mum's pantry while I was living there for a few months (they still have the little K on the bottom of them 12 years later!), into my own kitchen when I finally moved into my now husband's house, then through a kitchen renovation where they were allowed for in my pantry design, then to a brand new house that had the smallest pantry for the size of the house (just as well I had never upsized my containers), then out to a little country house with a massive pantry (a saving grace since we were 30 minutes away from the nearest shop) and now into town where we are close to shops and have a reasonable sized but corner pantry (not a fan). With this last move I have rediscovered my love of Tupperware and not just MMs. Up to party number 4 myself in 6 months and off to another one this afternoon.

My MMs have a variety of coloured lids. White were the ones I bought myself, maroon and blue were found in Hubby's garage when we cleaned it out, yellow were picked up at a church garage sale along with some maroon spice containers, maroon big containers I got when I thought that was the colour I liked, and black are my latest conquest and also the colour of the replacement lids I have needed recently. That's one of the things I love the most - lifetime warranty - break a lid or container, get it replaced for free.
Herbs and spices with packets underneath in baskets
Pasta, Access Mates and Cereal underneath

I decided to upsize my pantry as part of my austerity drive. Yes I know I spent money to save it, but I did so sensibly. I had a Tupperware consultant come and do a Custom Kitchen Plan.  We worked out what I needed based on what I buy and use, worked around the containers I already had, and then worked out what I needed. I mostly got big containers like Super Oval 4 and 5 for cereal, rectangle 2 for flour, Access Mates for snack foods (empty at the moment due to the aforementioned austerity drive) and weetbix, and a Round 5 for a spaghetti jar that wont shatter when it hits the floor (I've broken a few) and even has a measuring device built in so I no longer overcater in the spaghetti area. I also spread the purchases over a few months and had a catalogue party at work which helped me out with some free stuff.
Sugars, rices, breadcrumbs and other small baking stuff, bottles in baskets and cans in the corner

Noodles, pasta, flours and rice up top (Anzac slice in the pink Tupperware container), VegOuts and oats down the bottom
I can see what is empty at a glance, even hubby helped me out with the shopping list yesterday (and noticed that one spice container is missing a lid - it's on order). Open packets don't clutter the pantry shelves with the food going stale in the process. There is room for other containers of baked goods and the like. Bottles and packets are stored in baskets picked up cheaply at KMart. Tins don't dominate as I hate the taste of tinned food - they are discretely located in the back corner. The top shelf holds kitchen stuff I rarely use and the bottom shelf has cake containers, a punchbowl that should bo to the kitchen overflow shelf out in the garage and this week's potato overflow (10kg of potatoes go a long way) and usually has long life juice and milk but it's shopping week.

My love of Tupperware doesn't stop at the Pantry. My Tupperware lady also did my fridge and freezer with Antarctica, FridgeSmart and Clear Mates a month or so later. I'm still picking up bits and pieces for those, so I'll show you them later. They are working a treat already though. Anyway off to another party now.

Kaz x

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Austerity Measures

I am on a (necessarily) self imposed austerity drive at the moment. We are trying to survive on one income that is devoid of shift penalties, charge allowances and even a continuing education allowance - thank you to whoever decided that putting in a 3 month limit on claiming it when starting a new position even if you have been paid it since it's inception and whoever "forgot" to put in the paperwork when I started working here!

Some things are a necessity here - heating is a big one. I do not function well first thing in the morning when the frost is thick on the ground and the car and even the outside furniture (must take a picture one morning). I need to be warm to inspire me to get out of bed sometimes. Internet is a given - Husband is studying by distance and an internet connection is a condition of enrolment.The kids also have their maths homework online every week. It's also my social outlet. We don't go out much. Textbooks and residentials are an unpredictable expense. Food is one area that we can cut costs in.

I've been menu planning for a couple of months now. Nothing too rigid. It involves writing down what we want to eat for the fortnight on a (silver) whiteboard on the fridge - can't have it clashing with the stainless steel. Things get mixed up as we see fit - tonight for example was supposed to be Roast Pork Belly but I forgot we are going to the school trivia night so am making spaghetti and meatballs instead. A couple of nights last weekend were a bit slack - we'd gone out for lunch with friends and neither Hubby nor I wanted dinner, one kid wanted party pies the other chicken nuggets - means there's more in the freezer for next week. There is now less wastage of vegies, we almost never have takeaway (once a month if we are lucky) and we are starting to enjoy cooking again., when you don't have to think about what is for dinner that afternoon or early evening it is alot less stressful.

School lunches are another area where we are saving money. Even the Aldi snack bars can get too expensive. I have discovered I can make 4 boxes worth for the cost of 1. Anzac biscuit bars are a good tummy filler too, as are pikelets. So this morning we are having a big cookup.

Homemade rice bubble bars

Here's the Rice Bubble Bar recipe.
6 cups rice bubbles
4 cups marshmallows (small ones or the large ones chopped up)
3 tbsp butter

Grease and line 2 slice tins with baking paper.
Place rice bubbles in a (very) large mixing bowl.
Melt marshmallow and butter in a microwave jug in 30 second burst for 1 -2 minutes unitl butter melted and marshmallows shiny. Mix well - the volume will decrease dramatically.
Pour marshmallow mix over rice bubbles and mix quickly till covered.
Turn out half mixture into each slice tin and press into tin with spoon.
Sprinkle with choc bits or hundreds and thousands.
Cover with baking paper, and press each slice tin on top of other to press flat.
Refrigerate for an hour then remove from tin on paper cut each slab into 12 pieces.
Keep refrigerated in air tight container. Switch to container for lunchbox consumption.

And here's the plate of pikelets!
Anzac biscuit bars and Chocolate Caramel Slice have topped off the afternoon's baking. Should be enough snack food for the week and tonight's festivities.

Anzac Bar ready to go in the lunch box container

Kaz x

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Too many balls in the air

I've been MIA for a while. Too much going on. Work, family, home, church, school, a new family member. Way too many balls in the air at once.  But I have decided to restart blogging.

I've also learnt how to upload a photo to my blog to make it a bit more interesting.

So here's our newest family member......

Say hello to Titus Bear. Had to have a NT name to match the OT cat Solomon. I very much doubt there will ever be a photo of them together. Never imagined myself with a small fluffy white dog, but I fell in love with him at 5 weeks and with both his parents (who still reside in a nearby town with their owners). He's a Shiztsu Maltese cross and he's now 4 months old. He's grown a bit since this picture. The boys both love him and Gus is very calm when he goes out to play with him. So glad we waited until the kids were this age to get a dog. They both help feed and walk him. Bathing is a two adult job though. He's pretty good with it.

And speaking of balls in the air, our little ball of fluff is losing his next month. He's started humping things - enough said.

And Happy Birthday to my darling husband.

Back tomorrow.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Back to School - What a Week!

After seven weeks holidays, my 2 finally went back to school this week. I think my husband was very grateful.

The weeks leading up to Christmas - there was 2 full ones - flew fairly quickly, with Church activities, last minute Christmas shopping and the excitement of the Christmas Season and the trip back to our hometown to spend time with family. Then there was the week away, followed by the kids spending another week away in the New Year with their grandparents when they got to do all the fun holiday things, like movies, swimming and playground visits. Back home for another 3 weeks after that was the slide back into reality. Lots of bike riding on fine days and Lego and Wii on wet days, but it did drag on a bit - well I thought it did and I was at work every day. Even the back to school shopping was dull. I'd managed to do the stationery stuff while the kids were away, and since the summer school uniforms bought for their new school in Term 4 still fitted them (Winter will be a different matter as I have already tried them on and am having to let down hems, thriftily taken up without cutting off, by up to 12 cm!!!), the only uniform expense has been school shoes and joggers,  1 pair of Joggers for the eldest since he needed school shoes 2 weeks from the end of the school year, and a pair of each for the youngest. Grateful since we spent close to $2000 last year on school uniforms - at least now we can claim them.
The boys were both very excited to go back, no problem getting them up early on the first day. Uniforms on, breakfast, teeth cleaned - oops forgot the haircuts! - and off to school. It's only a 2 minute drive due to the fact that the school has a No Walk, No ride policy do to location and access that is enforced by the RTA and local council. Bus passes have been organised for the trip home this year, despite the fact that we can see school from our front door - this will save Hubby about 3 hours a week in waiting times. The eldest has gone into a block of brand new classrooms which he was excited about - they are the first classrooms to be built at the school as it's only 5 years old and has been mostly running out of well appointed i.e. heated demountables - necessary in our very cold winters. He has also moved into Primary School. The youngest is only a year behind so he'll be up there next year.
The week deteriorated though. Tears in the mornings, talk of bullies (some of the incidents dragged up were from last year and amounted to unkind words in the classroom or playground - not sure 6 year olds grasp the idea completely, they just know the word), the "I hate school, I don't want to go, Why can't you homeschool me?" (had you ever heard of that when you were 6?) arguments. This from the child that received the class achievement award for Maths last year. Friday was the pits, culminating in tears, tantrums, screaming and me escorting him to class after he refused to get out of the car in the kiss and drop line. I did manage to speak to his teacher though and it seems that he is sitting next to the problem so it was nipped in the bud. The year should hopefully get better from here.
The eldest just goes with the flow most of the time, but he was upset one afternoon because he had had to spend extra time sitting at his desk completing his work while the rest of the class was on the floor doing something better. By the end of the week, he tells me that he is working harder and faster. Year 3 is always a big jump.
Our other school news is that Hubby has been appointed Junior School chaplain taking Chapel each fortnight and teaching Christian Studies to Years 5 and 6.  This is a major achievement as he is currently going through the discernment process for Ordination in the Anglican Church and is midway through his Bachelor of Theology and two-thirds of the way through his Diploma in Anglican Orders. Part of the reason we moved here was to enable him to pursue his calling and study fulltime, so good things are happening.
It's going to be a huge year as Hubby has 3 residential schools in the first half of the year as well, and I have a conference to go to. One resi school we will arrange a family holiday around, since we have never had one! Then we go to Selection Panel in August - I say we as I get to go too, to see if I'm a suitable clergy wife I guess.
The boys are both wanting to play an instrument and play soccer so we'll have to fit those in too. Really looking forward to frosty mornings on the soccer field with a warm coat and a thermos of coffee! I've already started looking for a coat online.
Our calendar is going to be very full this year - we will actually be living, not just existing.

My Latest Obsession

No, it's not Pinterest, though it has taken a bit of a hammering tonight. It's a vintage caravan.
I want one!
So bad!

I live in a house with all males - even the cat once had balls.

I long for a space of my own. The kids each have a bedroom that is their space (and they take over the rest of the house). Hubby has his study (he is at uni so I'll give him that one). My youngest informed me yesterday that the LAUNDRY!!!! was all mine! Except I have to share it with him and his brother for their toilet is in there.

I admit, I have tried to pretty up the laundry a little - vintage tins for pegs, powder and soaking, apple green hand towel and a cute little laundry definition in a frame - but there is not a lot I can do with something that has a loo in one corner and a shower (that is currently being used as a broom cupboard) in the other.
I have long been a crafter, but it has taken a bit of a back-seat lately (well it's all crammed into the study wardrobe at present) due to a lack of space. I long to be able to get out my customised (by hubby - he's handy as well as smart) quilting table and rustle up a couple of nice warm quilts. The ones that currently grace the quilt rack get a good work out in winter here (and spring and autumn and even the other night when it's still summer). I need space to do it, somewhere I can shut the door and walk away when ME time is over. There isn't any room in the house. Putting the boys back in together is NOT an option. We had 6 months of that enforced on us over last autumn/winter when we were living in a little cottage in the country and it was not fun - they do not sleep in the same room.

The idea of a little studio in the yard has always appealed. A girly shed so to speak. Trouble is now we are no longer home-owners, so it needs to be transportable. Who knows where we will be off to next (though I'm secretly hoping we'll be here for a while longer).

I never had a cubby house as a kid - okay, if you count an open area with bricks on the floor under our house where we had our little table and chairs and we built a fireplace out of aforementioned bricks then I did, but it didn't have curtains! I also don't have anything or anyone that is pink! I want a pink space - or at least somewhere I can indulge my closet love of vintage things. I have boys remember, pretty things would not survive here.

So.... a little old caravan would be perfect. Towable (by tow-truck if necessary), reasonably priced (I would be doing my own restoration thanks - I'm not paying $10000 for someone to do it for me, there are some nice ones around for that price though), not asking too much. I'm hoping I find one by the side of a country road in my travels for work one day.

I can imagine painting the inside pretty colours like this, sewing up curtains and cushions and quilts, organising all my fabric and notions into little cupboards and baskets. Putting in a bed for guests would be an added bonus since we don't have a guest room and live away from our family. It will also need to be insulated, or I can say goodbye to using it for half the year here. Maybe air-conditioned might help too (very unvintage I know).

And by vintage, I mean it has to be almost as old as me! 1970 just doesn't cut it.
One day....... in the mean time, I'll keep Pinning.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

An Awful Week

A lot has happened to me over the years. Those who know me, know what I mean. But this week has knocked me around a bit more than I would ordinarily have expected.
I had high hopes for this week. A new year with a new group of people to train, my first one starting this week. Getting close to the first anniversary in a new job and new town, with some pretty good outcomes to show for it. It's busy and I love it, even though we are short staffed and I find myself having to spend at least one day a week doing the thing that I used to do and wanted to have a break from.
The downer hit me on Tuesday midway through a training session. My phone doesn't usually work in my training room - a windowless cell close to the lead-lined back wall of the hospital where the linear accelerator is located. It did on Tuesday and I decided to answer it because it was my sister, she doesn't usually ring me at work so it may have been important. For the rest of the day I wished I hadn't. She rang to tell me that a guy that I had gone to school with from Year 3 had died of a heart attack. He was 44.  He has 3 kids and a wife that we went to school with from Year 7. He was part of a group of guys that made my life hell from Year 8 to Year 10, and most of Year 12. He lived on the other side of the world now. So why was I sitting in the tearoom at work crying for him?
Was I crying for his wife, a friend back in high school? Or their kids, one of which had gone to preschool with my first child? Was I crying for myself - what if it had been me or my husband? I'd made peace with the crap from high school a long time ago, so it had nothing to do with that.
I'd been mulling it over all week, and then on Friday I find out that another guy I had gone to school with was the victim of a fatal assault a couple of days before Christmas. I'd seen his funeral notice in the local paper when I was in my hometown for Christmas, and thought to myself about what might have happened, but we weren't close so when I hear about what had happened I was shocked but put it out of my mind.
So two more guys taken to soon. One through violence and one through "natural causes", if a heart attack at that age can be natural. We've lost a few from our school year since leaving. Some at their own hand, some through illness and some through violence. We were just a very ordinary group of kids in a very ordinary public high school in a very ordinary place. We had the same crushes and heartaches that any group of kids did. We had the school bullies, the smokers, the geeks, the princesses, the jocks. It was a lifetime ago. So why has it affected me so much? I was referred to a couple of months ago as the "memory" of our year. I seem to remember more people and happenings than most. A group of us were on Facebook one night, going through a picture taken in Year 11 and tagging as many people as we could think of. I think we ended up getting all but a handful. I wasn't even in the picture as I was at another school that year, a result of the crap that had happened in the previous years, but I could still pick them out.
In church today, I prayed for them all. All those that we have lost, their families and those of us who remain here - confused, mourning, reflecting.... and thanking God that I am still here. It's going to get better.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Maybe it's time to get organised. FOR REAL.

I follow so many organising blogs it's almost an addiction. I am trying to be organised, but have always been a messie. I have a stack of books on my bookshelf about organising too. Currently thirteen, but I have decluttered some of the useless ones over the years, too. I would love a pristine house with everything in its place. But lets face it, I have kids, a husband and a very busy life outside the home (and the little addiction I have to my laptop/iPhone/Facebook etc). I get home and I collapse into my desk chair.

I've been decluttering for years it seems. I'm sure the local vet appreciated my 2 railway bags of old sheets and towels that I finally parted with - a year after packing them up. Moving twice in the last 12 months has helped to streamline me, but there are some things that have moved twice that I don't want to move again.

There are so many Organising/Organizing Challenges starting this month that it's so easy to get sucked in to at least a dozen of them. I have neither the time nor inclination to do a full-on one that requires me to blog about it every day (how dull), so this one will do me fine.

I've just posted these goals as a response on a blog that I follow. They seem to be achievable at the moment. Most of the good organizing blogs are American, but this one is a fellow Australian. So, thanks Katrina!

Here are my organising goals for this year. I think all bar #6 are SMART.  Anyone want to admit to theirs?

1. I want to feel AT HOME while I’m at home, not like I'm camped out in someone else's place between work commitments.
2. I want to spend more time QUILTING.
3. I want an area of the home where I can QUILT.
4. I want to organise LAUNDRY/KIDS BATHROOM first - currently using their shower recess as a broom cupboard.
5. I always lose MY PHONE IN THE BOTTOM OF MY BAG - need to remember to use the little pocket in the side of it.
6. I want to be all organised by MARCH 1 - I have holidays coming up, I'm laughing too.
7. Something that I don’t need, but am having trouble parting with MAGAZINES - I'm going to buy less this year, I swear.

I'll be revisiting this periodically through this year, so I'll see how I go. Want to join me?