31 October 2014

Taking Stock: October

Making: A few easy Christmas decorations. Take a look here and here.
Cooking: 200 lemonade scones for a fundraiser for the kids school tomorrow.
Drinking: A hot milo after dinner each night... it's become my little ritual.
Reading: Bill Bryson's "Home", again. 
Wanting: still not much (though I do have my eye on a 18-70mm f2.8 lens for the camera- dreams only)
Looking: bleary eyed with itchy, watery eyes - curse this hay fever.
Playing: outside.
Deciding: styles of baths, sinks, taps etc for our extension. We are still a way off, but we need to have an idea now.
Wishing: that the extension was already done.
Enjoying: the longer days and warm weather.
Liking: drives with the family.

Wondering: what craft I will make next - so many options.
Loving: making some play lists on spotify.
Pondering: what to do next.
Considering: Taking a few weeks of long service leave next year.
Watching: DVDs of Glee - a little sad???
Hoping: for some more rain, as always!

Marveling: At how big my kids are getting - but then I'm always doing that.
Needing: Shoes for the kids - a trip to the big town is on the agenda soon.
Smelling: all the flowers, and rain on the ground.
Wearing: Skirts, shorts, and sandals.

Following: Becoming minimalist
Noticing: The land is browning off. All this warm weather is turning the grass very quickly.
Knowing: I have a huge pile of marking and report writing ahead of me. It's that time of year for teachers.
Thinking: about my classes next year, and what I want to do with them. 
Admiring: Our vegie patch - it's about to all start happening!
Sorting: Not as much as I hoped. I had plans to do lots of sorting over the school holidays, but family stuff over took over. There is always next holidays!
Buying: A few Christmas presents
Getting: organised for Christmas now
Disliking: all the snakes that are around at this time of year.
Opening: up the windows and doors to let the warm air in.

Giggling: at the conversations I have with Toby. The other night he told me that he was a much better farmer than I am. Harsh but true!
Feeling: tired.
Snacking: on beetroot dip
Wishing: there was a 24 hour home delivery pastry van. My brother in law introduced me to the idea, and I think it has merit. Just imagine; you have a chocolate eclair craving at 10.30pm on a Monday, and a phone call later, you have it. Out here there is no home delivery at all, but a girl can dream.
Helping: Make Devonshire Teas at a local festival this weekend. Hello scones with Jam and cream!
Hearing: Roald Dahl audio books morning and evening. Meg loves them. I am a little sick of hearing The Giraffe, The Pelly, and Me!

I'm taking stock with Pip.

29 October 2014

Keeping It Simple | Keeping Christmas Simple

Christmas: love it or loathe it? Me? I love it - mostly. I love the time spent with friends and family. I love to do a few craft activities, and some baking. I love the carols, the decorations, and food. What I don't love is when Christmas becomes a stress. After all, Christmas is a season of joy, where we can get together and celebrate. I don't want to lose that joy because I'm stressed and overwhelmed. I want to keep Christmas simple; a few gifts, some fun activities, and happy times spent with loved ones.

The first way to keep Christmas simple is to plan ahead. One of the reasons why I'm writing this post so far ahead is so that we can get started on our plans before everything mounts up. Now is the time to be sorting out who will bring what for Christmas lunch, and organise presents. Just last weekend I wrote our Christmas letter and ordered cards (we like to get photo cards). I also finished shopping online for the few friends whose children we give gifts to. It felt so good to have those small tasks out of the way. Get out the calendar and write down what events you have coming up, set budgets so that you know what you are willing to spend, make gifts now if possible. Whatever you can do now, do it.

Accept that you cannot do everything. During the Christmas season there are so many fun things to do: parties, craft, seasonal cooking, elf on the shelf, visiting Santa, looking in the shop windows, caroling, looking at the lights on the houses, reading Christmas books and watching movies. The list goes on. If your family is like ours, some things have turned into traditions that the kids (and us) want to do every year. Now there is nothing wrong with traditions, they are fantastic for family bonding and identity, but give yourself permission to not do every tradition every year.

When we first moved to the farm, we arrived one week before Christmas. Needless to say, we had to drop some of the usual craft and cooking (and many other things too!). It just wasn't possible to do it all. I'm really pleased that we did drop some of the traditions because we gave ourselves permission to pick and choose what we do without slavishly following a list of "must dos" each year.

Have realistic expectations. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I love everything looking just right. At Christmas time, the pressure can be even greater; Pinterest, the television, and movies, all show perfectly decorated homes and happy families, and it can be hard to remember that this is not reality. The reality is that dirt accumulates, children get tired, and baking and crafting take time. In 20 years time our children won't remember whether our decor matched and was in the latest fashion colours. What they will remember is a feeling of togetherness and belonging. Focusing on spending time together rather than having a house lit up like the Grisewalds will be more memorable in the long run.

Choose your attitude - You do not have to be celebrating Christmas at all. If you don't want to, then don't. If you are going to celebrate, it might as well be with a good attitude. Rather than dreading all the things you 'have' to do before the big day, consider how fortunate we are to be able to celebrate at all.

Share the work load. Last year we had Christmas at my parents house. My sisters and I all cooked parts of the meals, as well as my mother. Not only did it share the work load for my mother (who already had us staying at her house), but it also was fun to spend time together preparing our feast. Consider dividing up who will bring what for dinner if you are having guests. Ask guests to help prepare food. It really is fun to all be in the kitchen together, and it makes the work load feel less.

We have always tried to keep gift giving low key, but even so, sometimes I look at what the kids are given and wonder what happened to my good intentions. It's not that I don't want to give gifts. In fact, I love to give them. But I want the gifts to be useful and loved, not just given out of obligation. Here are some ideas to keep gift giving low key:

  • consider not giving gifts to everyone- chat to extended family or friends and agree not to exchange presents. Do this now (or else have the discussion in January for next year). Just this year, we have cut out giving gifts to CB's siblings and parents. We were all struggling every year to find something useful for each other, and it just made sense to stop. We will still enjoy spending time together, which is more important. 
  • limit the kids presents to only a few. The rhyme "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read" is often quoted as a way of working out kids presents, and it is a rule we use in our family.
  • Avoid "stocking stuffers" - generally they are cheap bits of clutter that are neither wanted or needed.
  • Set a budget and stick to it - you don't need to spend a lot of money to give gifts that are meaningful, and nothing complicates life like unnecessary debt. Be honest with yourself (and others) and don't over spend.
  • Consider gifts that don't add clutter to your house  - We were discussing ideas for this on my facebook page, and I will publish a round up of ideas on a post soon.
  • I have previously written about why we don't do Santa in our house. Many people love to do Santa with their kids and can't imagine not having Santa as part of their tradition. Consider making Santa give only one present, rather than lots of presents.

Focus on what Christmas is all about. For us, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, and our focus should be on celebrating this. If you are not a Christian, Christmas is still a time to spend with our loved ones and celebrate together. Multinational corporations would have us believe that the only way to do this is by spending a heap of money that we don't have, on stuff we don't actually need. Of course this is a lie (here is a ranty post about this). All that is needed is loved ones together. All the fancy food, decorations, and gifts are only secondary to the chance to spread some love around.

What tips do you have for keeping Christmas simple? How do you manage gift giving? Does Santa visit your house?

28 October 2014

A Boy Picking Beans

The broad beans are always the first of the Spring produce that we harvest. Last week Toby, noticed that some of the pods were looking a little plump, and told Country Boy that we had to have them for dinner that night. Who are we to deny a small boy his broad beans?

So later that day, we wandered out to help our small boy pick his broad beans. As he was picking them, he kept on commenting that each pod was a "fat little juicy one". Once we had a full bowl, we shelled them, cooked them and served them tossed in butter, lemon juice and mint.

26 October 2014

Four Favourites - Spring Meals

With the warmer weather, we are looking forward to some lighter meals. Here are four of our favourite meals that are perfect for this warm Spring weather.

Thai Fish Cakes
Beetroot and Orange Salad
Roasted Beetroot and Sugar Snap Pea Salad
Pulled Pork and Apple Coleslaw Rolls

What are your fave warm weather meals?

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!
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