21 November 2014

9 Easy Christmas Crafts

Over the three and a half years I have been blogging, I've made and shared a few Christmas crafts. Some of them still get crazy amounts of views and shares around Christmas each year. So I thought I would put them all here for you to find. Nine easy Christmas crafts in one spot. You're welcome, or sorry (depending on your point of view).

1. Cold Porcelain Tree Ornaments
2. Button Christmas Trees
3. Paper Bauble Tree Ornaments - this is one of my biggest posts ever. Pinterest people share it a lot!
4. Reindeer Noses - the girls and I made these as gifts for school friends a few years back.
5. Christmas Bunting
6. Wire and Bead Tree Ornaments
7. Cookie Cutter Wreath
8. Christmas Stained Glass Windows
9. Button Tree Ornaments

Which one is your favourite? Have you done any Christmas crafts yet?

16 November 2014

Keeping It Simple: How To Declutter Almost Anything

Our kitchen is old. Old and cramped. (Click here to see it). It is a constant effort to keep it clean and semi organised. Last week I was digging through the two utensil drawers under our bench, when I noticed that there were things in the drawer that I had never used. Clearly it was ripe for some decluttering.

One of the keys to decluttering is to do little things often. Waiting till I have time to do the whole house is never going to happen, so I aim for one thing every other week, and a few extras during school holidays.

In the last six months I have gone through the kids toys and clothes, my clothes, our books, our pantry, odds and ends drawer (batteries, rubber bands etc), and laundry. Of course there is always more to do, but no matter what I am decluttering, I always follow the same process.

Step By Step Decluttering.

1. Remove everything - take everything out of drawer or cupboard, and pile it up neatly somewhere out of the way. Don't put it right in front of the cupboard, because it will be in the way for later steps.

2. Wipe out the drawer or cupboard and let it dry. This way it is nice and clean before you put items back in there.

3. While the drawer is drying, sort all the contents into three piles:
 a. Items  that are used regularly and are in good condition.
 b. Items that you never use or is broken. Be ruthless and honest about this. There is no use keeping something you never use or is broken on the off chance you might "need" it sometime.
 c. Items that you're not sure whether to purge or not.

4. Once the drawer is dry, sort the items you use regularly and put similar items together. Put these back into the drawers - you may need to use dividers or containers to help keep items separated.

5. Throw out items that are broken and donate any items that are in good condition but never used. I have a box that I put anything that will be donated into, that way I remember to take our donations with us when we go to town.

6. Put all the items you're not sure about in a box somewhere accessible. If you need something from that box, use it then put it into the drawer with the other items you use. If after 3 or 6 months, you haven't used the items, donate them.

As I was clearing and sorting the kitchen drawers, I thought I would take some before and after photos for you.

What is your strategy for decluttering? Do you declutter regularly?

Cooking With Kids: Fruit Turnovers

Over the weekend, Meg announced to me that she had made up a new recipe and that she wanted to cook it. As she explained it,"you get fruit and wrap it in pastry like an envelope".

Not wanting to squash her by telling her about the concept of turnovers, I let her show me how to make them.

Fruit Turnovers - By Meg
Makes 8

2 sheets puff pastry
4 nectarines (or other fruit such as apple, pear, peach, plum, or apricot)
2T sugar
2T milk

1. Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 4 squares.
2. Cut the nectarine into quarters and remove the stone.
3. Place 2 pieces of nectarine in the centre of each pastry square.
4. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar over the fruit.

5. Fold the corners into the centre of each square.
6. Place on a baking tray lined with paper.

7. Repeat until all envelopes are completed.

8. Brush each envelope with a little milk and sprinkle with some cinnamon.
9. Bake for 12 minutes at 200*c

Meg served them very proudly with ice cream for dessert. They went down very well.

What do your kids like to cook?

11 November 2014

The Rope Swing

When we first moved down here, Country Boy was given a rope swing as a present. It hangs in a tree in the front yard, and not a day goes by where it isn't used. In the summer, the kids take turns in the late evening light. They love to sail through the air like they are flying, and do all sorts of stunts.

Meg is getting more daring everyday, and she tries to swing higher and higher. It looks like so much fun.

If only the rope would hold me!

10 November 2014

Broad Beans On Toast

It is all about broad beans here at the moment. They are growing so quickly and we are googling recipes to use them all up. Last week Country Boy found this recipe on River Cottage (one of our fave places) for broad beans on toast. We remembered seeing Hugh make it on one of his shows, so we decided to try making it ourselves, with a few twists to use the ingredients we had on hand.

Broad Beans on Toast
Serves 4

3 cups of broad beans out of the pod
1 leek
200g of bacon (ours is home made and we don't use anything to keep it pink like in commercial bacon, which is why it is brown in the picture).
2T oil - we use olive oil
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
1 loaf of crusty bread - sliced and toasted to serve.

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
2. Boil the broad beans for about 3 or 4 minutes.
3. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
4. Pull the skin off the larger beans (they are very chewy), but leave the smaller ones with the skin on.
5. Finely slice the leek and roughly dice the bacon.
6. Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the bacon. Do not drain the fat away.
7. Add in the leek and cook for several minutes until the leek is soft and translucent.
8. Toss through the skinned broad beans, together with a good squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper.
9. Serve on top of a slice of toasted crusty bread and drizzle with a little more oil if needed.

Gobble greedily because it is sooooo yummy.

Got anymore ideas for broadbeans? Do you love River Cottage too??

5 November 2014

This Boy

This boy is growing and changing before our eyes. Tomorrow he is off on an adventure to visit my parents in the mountains. Just Toby with his grandparents... and he is so excited. It's going to be a very quiet week without him about.

Do your kids ever go on little adventures with out you?

Keeping It Simple | Uncluttery Presents For Everyone

Last week, I wrote about how we try to keep Christmas simple around here. A few presents only. It's not that I don't like giving or getting gifts. In fact I love planning gifts for friends and family, but I don't want to give (or receive) gifts that just add to clutter around the house.

A common suggestion for uncluttery (totally a word!) gifts is giving experiences: tickets to shows etc. I think these are great. I also know that most people really enjoy opening a present that has something in that they can use straight away. The sight of a few presents under the tree on Christmas morning is always super exciting (and not just for the kids).

I put out the call on Facebook for gift ideas that don't produce lots of clutter, and Hannah and I brainstormed a few ideas as well.

Of course the key to gifts that don't clutter is to choose wisely. What might be useful to one person might be clutter to the next.

So here is a list of gifts that someone you love might love and use:

Household items

  • Wall decals.
  • Personalised pillowcases.
  • Pretty bed linen / quilt cover.
  • Reading lamp.
  • Beach towels and goggles.
  • Garden tools or plants for the garden.
Gifts that get used up

  • Bubble bath and bath bombs.
  • Craft activities - card making kit  (use the cards for birthdays through the year), or another craft that can be used later.
  • Cooking activities - last year Hannah was given some packet mixes to make her own cake pops and lollies. They were fantastic holiday activities and once they were used they didn't sit around cluttering up the house.
  • Food - chocolate, cake, biscuits, cheese, wine, bbq marinades, gourmet sauces. Last year I was given a range of spices in my work Kris Kringle - best gift ever!
  • Lip gloss.
  • Head bands and elastics.
  • Diary.
  • Photo calendars/books/notebooks.
Presents that encourage the family to spend time together

  • Board games such as Blokus or Uno. We like both of these because they are simple enough for Toby (aged 4) to join in, but still interesting enough to hold adults attention.
  • Tickets to movies/shows/theme parks/museum.
Travel items - if you're planning a holiday, or a regular traveler/camper these might be handy:

  • Suitcase / travel bag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camping chair or stool
  • Torch
  • Toiletries bag
  • Binoculars
Items that are needed anyway

  • New lunch box and drink bottle.
  • School Bag - works especially well when kids first start school.
  • Socks and undies - I'm not suggesting this be their entire present, but my girls have been given 10 pairs of school socks each year, which helps bulk out the present, and covers something they will need anyway.
  • Clothes - teenagers love this one - and if they need clothes anyway, it kill two birds with one stone. Hannah suggested a nice dress.
  • New pyjamas.
  • New school equipment; pens, pencils, pencil cases etc.
  • Headphones.
  • Wrist watch.
Other ideas
  • Audio books.
  • Books.
  • Computer games - particularly if they download straight from the internet
  • The usual vouchers for itunes, google play etc - these work best with older kids and adults.
  • Magazine subscriptions.
  • Club memberships.

My plan this year is to pick a toy that the kids each really want, and pair it with a few of these items that we will use throughout the year.

What are your suggestions for gifts that are actually useful? Got any tips?
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