23 October 2014

DIY | Wire And Bead Christmas Decorations

I've always loved an easy Christmas craft, and they don't come much easier than this. A few beads and some tie wire. Five minutes with some pliers, and hey presto - some cute little decorations for the tree.

Wire And Bead Christmas Decorations
You will need:
40cm of galvinised tie wire (I used 16 gauge), but any fairly flexible wire will do.
4 or 5 coloured beads
10cm of string or ribbon
Needle nosed pliers

1. Cut the length of wire.
2. Beginning at the top of the tree, use the pliers to bend the wire into shape.
3. Thread the beads on to the wire before bending the wire around each time. (It is impossible to thread them at the end.
4. Twist the end under and trim any extra wire off.
5. Attach the string to the top of the decoration.

Do you like doing Christmas crafts? Are you ready to be thinking about Christmas yet?? I don't think I am!

22 October 2014

Keeping It Simple - Teaching Kids To Understand Advertising

A few years back we introduced the kids to Funniest Home Videos. The chance to laugh at people doing stupid things and dancing cats was too good to pass up. During the break there was an ad for a product that I can't even remember. What I do remember though, was Hannah saying "We should get that". We told Hannah that it isn't as good as the ad says, to which she replied "but why do they say it is then?"

It was a good question.

Our kids are subjected to so much advertising, and they don't have the mental or emotional maturity to discern what is true and what is not. So it is really up to us, as parents, to teach kids these skills. We need to actively teach our kids that happiness will not come from more stuff.

In the farm house, we have ongoing conversations with our kids about advertisements they see. We talk about what they are trying to sell and the tricks they are using to try and convince us to buy their product.

We talk with them about how advertisers want us to buy their products so they tell us all the good things about the product, but not the bad things. That advertisers show people having a great time while they are using the product to make it look fun and exciting, and they even try to make us feel that we have to have those products if we want to feel good about ourselves. We teach our kids that we don't have accept what these advertisements are saying.

One of my proudest moments as a parent was when Hannah made a comment to the TV about an advertisement along the lines of "yeah, you might say that it is good, but you didn't say how the food tastes boring, and is bad for you - No Thanks!" It felt like a win (and often as a parent, you don't feel those!).

When our kids understand that a cheap toy from a dubious international hamburger chain won't make their meal any more exciting, and that it won't be that much fun to play with either, suddenly they don't really want the toy (or even the meal). And they don't pester us for it either. There is no bit of plastic cluttering up the house. I would even go as far as to say our kids are happier too because they are free from the pull of stuff.

The second thing we can do for our kids is to limit the amount of commercials they are exposed to. This means being selective about the television they watch. If you have already begun the conversation about the ways advertisers try to lure us in, then limiting the ads becomes a lot easier, because they understand why you are doing it. Try muting the ads, choosing programs and channels with fewer ads, using DVD's instead, or turning the TV off.

Despite our best efforts, it is near impossible to completely avoid advertisements, and the insidious message that more is better. If we value living simply, then we actively must teach our kids to do the same, it won't just happen.

Do you talk to your kids about advertisements? What do you say? Got any more ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

19 October 2014

Balsamic Beetroot And Cashew Dip

It is beetroot season here again. Over the holidays Country Boy pulled up the beetroot before it went to seed. As per usual, we had way more than we could actual eat at the time. We boiled them all up, and popped most of them in the freezer for later, but I kept some out to try making my own beetroot dip.

I have tried beetroot dips before, and always have trouble stopping once I start (curse you, yummy dips!) so I thought I would have a go at my own. It was delicious, and the colour is amazing. I'm planning on whipping this up again for Christmas with some of the beetroot from the freezer.

1/2c cashews
1/2t cumin
1c boiled beetroot - peeled and mashed
3T caramelised balsamic vinegar
100g feta (smooth and soft variety)
2T Greek yoghurt
salt and pepper

1. In a frying pan, dry roast the cashews and cumin for a few minutes until the cumin is fragrant.
2. Place the cashews and cumin together with the other ingredients into a food processor. Process until the desired consistency. I left mine a little chunky, but you can pulse it until
3. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
4. Serve or store in the fridge for a day or two.

Got any good recipes for beetroot? I've a freezer full of it? Have you thought about Christmas dinner yet? I can't believe I've thought of even the dip this far out!

15 October 2014

Keeping It Simple | Reducing The Busy

It seems that we are all perennially busy these days. It's almost a standard part of a greeting these days: "Hi, how are you?" "Good, busy".

I sometimes wonder just what we are busy doing? I know that there are things which have to be done. The kids need to be fed and go to school no matter what. My employer seems to require me to do the work they pay me for. But these don't take up all our time. So what are we busy doing?

Possibly we are busy doing all the things which we feel we should be doing because everyone else is doing them. Or perhaps we fear missing out on something so we do too much. Possibly we just haven't considered that we don't have to be so busy.

Of course there are times when being a little busy is unavoidable. Family illnesses always seem to coincide with big work events. But being busy all the time is just not good for our physical or mental health. So if you are always on the go, here are some ideas to reduce the busy in life:

- Avoid too many after school activities - with multiple children doing multiple activities, you could easily find yourself dragging kids around every day after school. While some kids love doing pottery, ballet, tap dancing, French, netball, and piano, it doesn't give them much down time. Consider limiting the number of extracurricular activities your children do.

Around here, extra curricular activities all require lots of travel, so we do very few. Hannah learns piano, but her lesson is during school time at school. During the summer the kids do swim club. That is the sum total of our extra curricular activities. I love that we get so much time to spend at home as a family, and that our children have plenty of unstructured time to play, read, draw, create, and just be. I love that Hannah sometimes spends an hour just lying in the grass on a spring day.

- Another way to reduce our busyness is by eliminating unnecessary household tasks that take away our time. For example, I don't iron. Clothes get hung up straight off the line. Sheets etc get folded and put away. The only time I might iron is if Country Boy or myself need an out fit for a wedding (or similar). That is it!

- Stop shopping so often - We started shopping less frequently when we moved to the country. It just was so inefficient to go to town every week for half a day. We switched to shopping monthly and making do with what we have in between. Not having to go to town every Saturday not only saves a lot of time, but it also saves us money - double win!

- If you're in the position to do so, consider outsourcing some of those tasks that need doing but suck time away from the family. Ironing (if you have to iron), cleaning, mowing, simple DIY/home maintenance, even some cooking are all easy to out source, and though they cost money, it might be worth it to reclaim family time.

- Accept that you can't do everything, and say no - easier said than done, I know! But realistically, there is only so much time and energy you have available, so you need to be able to say no to those things that take away time from what is important. Start by saying no to little things.

- Embrace the idea that we don't have to be busy - society tells us that to be important and worthwhile, we need to be 'productive'. Of course this is not true. It is OK to not have anything planned on a weekend. If you find yourself with nothing to do for an hour, enjoy it. Don't jump up and find something that 'has' to be done. White space in your day is important - it gives your brain time to decompress, so schedule it in. The reality is, after a bit of down time, you are more likely to be productive.

- Simplify other parts of your life. If you have less stuff, and keep what you have fairly organised, you will spend less time looking after your stuff.

Ultimately, if your life is too busy, it is not going to change unless you do something about it.

Are you always busy? What strategies do you use to keep the busyness at bay?

14 October 2014

In The Sheep Yards

Over the weekend, we marked the merino lambs. It's one of those events on the farm by which we mark the progress of the year. Of course when I say "we" I mean it in a generic us sense, rather than specifically me. My job is to keep an eye on the kids (and take a few photos). The kids love to catch the lambs and give them a cuddle, and the guys who come and help mark the lambs are always glad to see the kids, and love to have them 'help', even if it does take a little longer.

13 October 2014

Mint Sugar Meringues

A few weeks back we were watching a Jamie Oliver program where he made mint sugar by blending regular white sugar with a big handful of mint leaves. As soon as the show had finished, Country Boy went out and grabbed some mint from the garden, and had a go at making his own. It really was just a couple of cups of sugar together with a heap of picked mint leaves whacked in a food processor and whizzed up until it is fine.

Since then we have had it sprinkled on top of fruit (mainly strawberries, but it is meant to be beautiful on mango or pineapple), and also on porridge in the mornings.

Over the holidays I had the thought that the mint sugar would also make great meringues, so I had a go, and they were amazing.

Mint Sugar Meringues
3 egg whites (room temperature work best)
3/4c of mint sugar
1/4t white wine vinegar

(basically use 1/4c of sugar per egg white!)

1. Preheat your oven to 130*c
2. Place the egg whites in a very clean bowl.
3. Whisk the eggs until they form a foam. The foam should be stiff, and the bubbles should be very small. If you overwhisk the foam will start to look dry, and a liquid will form at the bottom of the bow. If this happens you need to start again - you can't rescue over whisked eggs.
4. Add the sugar in as you whisk, one spoonful at a time. Once the sugar is added, you can't over whisk the eggs.
5. Continue to whisk until the sugar has entirely dissolved and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape when you lift the beaters out. Beat in the vinegar for a further minute.

6. Pipe or spoon the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking paper. This quantity makes approximately 40 bite sized meringues
7. Bake for 60 minutes.
8. Cool in the oven, by just turning the oven off.

The meringues will not be brilliant green because the mint browns slightly in the oven. The lower temperature of the oven will prevent most of this.

They were so yummy. Sweet and refreshing at the same time. Next time I am going to drizzle a little dark chocolate over the top to turn them into an extra special after dinner treat.

Have you made flavoured sugars before? How have you used them??

10 October 2014

Fun On The Farm With The Cousins

Long weekends usually mean visits from friends and family here on the farm. Last weekend my sister and her family came for a visit, which means that my kids get to play with their favourite people in the whole wide world (Meg's words), their cousins. I love that they enjoy each others company so much. The weekend was full of feeding pigs, exploring paddocks on foot and motorbikes, and a visit to the rodeo which happened to be in town for the weekend. Beautiful weather, loads of fun with loved ones. Life doesn't get much better than this.

Did you get up to anything over the long weekend?? (Did you get a long weekend?)
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