1 October 2014

Keep It Simple | Quality Not Quantity

Have you ever bought something that was really cheap only to find that it didn't last very long? If you're like me, you probably thought "well at least I didn't spend lots of money on it".

As a culture we tend to be focused on having lots of stuff. Retailers oblige us with ultra cheap clothing and home wares which will last a little while then break. When they break we console ourselves with the idea that we didn't spend much money on it.

As I see it there are a few problems with this train of thought:

1. We end up with a whole lot of clutter. Because things are cheap we feel like we can buy more, so we do.  As I have said before more isn't better, it's just more. More to clean, more to organise, more to store, and more to chuck out when we have finished with it. So we are filling the earth with junk that hasn't been used for very long before breaking or being tossed away.

2. We actually end up spending more money on this cheap crap, than if we spent a little more and chose a quality piece to start off with. Earlier this year (along with most primary school kids) my girls discovered loom bands. I picked them each up a cheap started kit from a dollar shop, and off they went. Unsurprisingly the looms broke fairly quickly. The girls were really enjoying the looming, and were quite creative with them, so we bought another set. I had fallen into the very trap I try to avoid. I bought the cheap ones because I didn't want to spend the money buying a more sturdy version. However after buying a couple of the cheap ones, it would have been more economical just to buy one good quality loom to start off with.

Don't get me wrong, I know that something being expensive doesn't automatically mean that it is a better quality (I buy kids clothes at the opshop after all), but often spending just a little more or even just shopping around a little, can mean the difference between a piece that lasts for a long time, and one that doesn't.

If we are wanting to simplify our lives, surely buying fewer things, and ensuring that what we do buy is a good quality that will last quite a while is a good idea. Not only do we end up with more money in our pockets, we also end up with more time because we don't need to shop as often to replace the junk, and less clutter because we have less possessions.

What do you think? Is quality important to you?

Previous posts in this series:
Why live simply?
Just one thing
One less decision

30 September 2014

Around The Farm

The holidays have given us time to be out and about around the farm. I've been taking soooo many photos of the blossoms; these are just a few. We've had one last bonfire with our guests, before the fire season starts next weekend. Marshmallows were toasted and a cheese platter was devoured. It's one of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon.

29 September 2014

Four Favourites - School Holiday Cooking With Kids

We are half way through our Spring holidays now, and it has been glorious. The kids have been enjoying lots of free play, Country Boy has been kept busy round the farm, and I am in Spring cleaning mode. What's not to love?

During the holidays, I always like to get the kids to do a bit of cooking. Not only does it fill their tummies, it also allows them to learn and practice new skills.

Here are four recipes that my kids love to make and can make with very little assistance from me.

Home made marshmallow - it tastes so much better than the bought stuff.

French Toast - this recipe is a staple in our house hold and is bought out for Sunday breakfasts, and occasionally even for dinner when we have lots of eggs and not much else in the cupboard

One cup pikelets - these get made at least once a fortnight around here, and Hannah knows the recipe by heart.

Sultana, oat, and choc chip cookies - we have to limit the kids with these or else they will eat an entire batch in a day. Luckily they are super easy to make too.

Are you loving the holidays? What are your 'go to' recipes with kids?

26 September 2014

Taking Stock: September

September always sees us emerging out of the cold of winter and enjoying the longer days and (slightly) warmer weather. The garden has sprung into life, and you can almost see the grass growing.

Making: plans for my new kitchen in the extension.

Cooking: Sausages, lots of sausages after we made our own a few weeks back.
Drinking: Still more hot milo... the days may be warming up, but the nights are still cool.
Reading: The Kings Curse by Phillipa Greggory.
Looking: at stoves, oven, sinks, fridges, windows, doors, floor coverings etc.
Playing: the guitar with Hannah.
Deciding: not much.
Wishing: school holidays lasted forever.
Enjoying: the slower pace.

Waiting: for our guests to arrive.

Liking: the new set of presets I bought from pretty presets for Lightroom. You might notice them in my photos over the coming weeks!
Wondering: if my kids will ever learn to pick up after themselves.
Loving: the photo's my sister took of our family recently. You can check out her photos here.
Pondering: the best way to sort out the Lego - our current 'system' is not working. Ideas please!
Considering: going to The Forage in Canberra this weekend - looks yummy!
Watching: Downton Abbey seasons 3 and 4.
Hoping: for some more rain. It's a farm thing.

Marveling: at how quickly the years come around, and how quickly the seeds grow into little plants.

Needing: nothing at the moment.
Smelling: The buddleia blooming.
Wearing: Short sleeves and no socks - bring on spring!
Noticing: the days are getting longer.
Knowing: the longer days mean that we often forget what time it is, until we are eating way too late and the kids are tired. This year it is going to be better!!!
Thinking: about taking the kids to Europe - it's nice to dream.
Sorting: kids summer clothing, filing cabinets, and so much more.
Buying: A little shelf for the guest room from the local markets. A gaming computer for Country Boy. 
Bookmarking: Canva - so easy and fun to make graphics for printing or popping on line.
Disliking: Hayfever - from now until the canola finishes, I'm itchy and sniffly.

Opening: the bathroom cabinet and smiling. Still.
Giggling: at my kids - they say so many funny things. 
Feeling: relaxed.
Helping: around the farm - a little.
Hearing: Hannah practice the guitar and piano.

I'm taking stock with Pip

What are you up to this September?

24 September 2014

Keeping It Simple | One Less Decision

Sometimes I feel like if I have to make one more decision, I will just explode. What do I make for dinner? Wear? Which DVD do we watch? Where should we go on holidays? There are just so many decisions to make every day.

We have been sold a lie that more choice is better, when in fact, too many choices just cloud our ability to make good choices. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by mundane and trivial decisions, and forget that in the bigger picture, which top I wear to work just doesn't matter.

The problem then becomes that we are so over making decisions that when bigger, more important decisions come along, we don't have the energy to make them or follow them through.

So limiting the amount of unimportant decisions we have to make, means that at those times when we have to make important decisions, we actually have the energy to do so.

So here are a couple of ways to help make the unimportant (but necessary) decisions a little bit easier:

Limit your choices
So one way to keep things simple is to look at the small unimportant decisions and limit them. For example we used to have lots of different breakfast cereals. Each morning the kids would take ages to choose what they wanted for breakfast, and then, inevitably, we wouldn't have what they wanted. A few years back we decided to limit the choices. Now we have muesli, weetbix, or porridge - that's it. We are happy with what ever choice they make.

Another way I limit my choices is when I am getting dressed for work. I need to wear professional clothing which is also safe to wear in a kitchen, and practical when cooking. I have created a sort of semi uniform with some basic suit pants, blouses and jumpers which all go together. That way when I get up I don't need to spend heaps of time finding the right pants with the right tops, because they all go together.

Have a plan in advance
I find that when I am tired, making simple decisions is even harder. One way I try to make life easier is by having a plan to help guide my choices. For example we have chosen several charities we support, and have a blanket rule that we don't support charities over the phone. That way when the cat appreciation society rings during the arsenic hour, I don't have to think whether or not to support them, I just state politely that we don't support charities over the phone and hang up.

Another way to do this is to have a menu plan. Even if you don't write out an exact list of every meal for the week (or month) having a loose plan of what you will eat each night (eg. Monday = casserole, Tuesday =  pasta, Wednesday = meat and veg etc) so that you have an idea about what to make for dinner, rather than staring blankly at the fridge.

Once you've made a choice, just go with it
Once you have made a choice, it can be easy to wonder if you should have made another. When we are talking the little decisions in life, just go with the flow. So the sandwich you ordered wasn't what you expected, next time you will know not to order it. There isn't any point lamenting those decisions that didn't work out the way you hoped.

What little decisions do you regularly struggle with? How do you make those little decisions easier?
Previous posts in this series:
Why live simply?
Just one thing

22 September 2014

Orange Golden Syrup Dumplings

Country Boy introduced me to Golden Syrup Dumplings before we were even married. They are one of his favourite childhood desserts and he wheels them out a couple of times a year, particularly once the weather gets cold.

A few weeks back I made some with my class at school, only I put a little twist on them by adding some orange zest and juice to the syrup. I also popped a square of chocolate into the centre of each dumpling so that you got a nice little surprise when you bit into them. They were so good that I decided to make them again at home to serve at church. They were just as good then!

Orange Golden Syrup Dumplings
1 orange - zest and juice
500ml water
185ml golden syrup
1/2 brown sugar
40g butter

1 1/4 c SR flour
30g butter - chopped
80ml milk
80ml golden syrup
50g dark chocolate

1. Combine the orange juice and zest, water, golden syrup, brown sugar, and butter in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce and simmer for a minute or two.
2. Place the flour in a bowl, and then rub butter into it with your finger tips.
3. Mix in the milk and golden syrup into the flour to make a soft dough.
4. Break the chocolate into small chunks.
5. Cut the dough into small even balls. Press a chunk into the centre of each ball. Make sure that the chocolate is completely sealed in the dough by rolling it in your palm quickly.
6. Drop the finished balls carefully into the simmering syrup. Cover with a lid or foil, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until the dumplings have risen and set.
7. Serve with icecream!

What's your favourite dessert from childhood?

19 September 2014

In Our Garden: Rosemary

We have always had rosemary in our garden, no matter where we lived. When we first got married we were living in rental houses, and dragged pots of herbs with us. Once we got our own house one of the first things Country Boy did was to plant a whole hedge of it on either side of our front path. As we walked past it into the house, we would often brush it with something and release its beautiful fragrance.

These days we have a few rosemary bushes just around the corner from the back step. Again they get brushed past regularly, releasing their perfume. We also have a pot of it sitting on our front veranda.

Growing Rosemary
Rosemary grows pretty easily. It prefers well drained soil, and full sun  - think a Mediterranean style climate. They are meant to be drought resistant which, for us, is a bonus. We really do just whack it in the ground and leave it to grow. It does need to be pruned from occasionally to keep the stems soft and the plant bushy. Pop it in a pot and it will look fabulous too.

When picking rosemary for cooking look for stems that are green and relatively soft (though not floppy), and leaves which are green without any brown marks.

Cooking with Rosemary
We use rosemary a lot in cooking. It's so easy to just run outside and snip a few sprigs off when we need them.

One of my favourite ways to use rosemary is with lamb. Because lamb! Roughly chop a bunch of rosemary together with half a dozen cloves of garlic, a lemon (zested and juiced), a little ground cumin, and of course, salt and pepper. Use a little olive oil to make a rub. Rub it all over a butterflied leg of lamb, wrap it tightly in foil and slow roast for several hours. It's one of my go to dishes when we have guests because it is quick to prepare, and so delicious.

We use rosemary on our potato and rosemary pizzas, and I often stick a sprig or two into casseroles or even spaghetti bolognaise to add it's flavour to the mix. The flowers add a pretty and tasty touch to salads too.

I love this recipe for lamb shanks which are cooked with rosemary (though you will have to excuse the photo which is appallingly bad). The shanks are to die for and it is so easy to make!

Another way we use rosemary is to pick the long woody stems, strip off the leaves (keep a few on the tip), and then use the stems to thread meat or vegetables on  like skewers. Pop them on the BBQ for a bit of infused goodness in your kebabs.

Rosemary adds a strong flavour to food, so generally you don't need to use a lot of it. Because the leaves are quite chewy, it is important to chop them finely if you want to actually eat the leaves.

Do you grow rosemary? Got a great recipe that use rosemary?. We have so much of it growing.
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