Wednesday, 31 July 2013

What I'm reading Wednesday.

This week I have been reading Jonah by Louis Stone.

Image Source

This is not a book that I chose for myself, but a book I need to read for my Australian Literature elective at uni. Like the other books I have had to read for this subject, I am really enjoying it. It is a breath of fresh air to read something realistic, which is in contrast to the fantasy novels I often read.

I haven't finished the book yet, but basically it is a book about a deformed man named Jonah, and how he rises above what everyone expects of him, a life of crime as the leader of the local "push", a street gang. The book is about growing up, and settling down. The characters are wonderfully painted, and I am truly sucked in by the plot. I really love the character of Jonah because he is determined to be better, because he knows that he IS better than what everyone thinks of him due to his deformity. Perhaps I hold a small sweet spot for all hunchbacks though, as I have scoliosis myself (although mine was surgically corrected). I am looking forward to reading what happens in the rest of the book.

What are you reading this week?





Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Children and housework

I have a confession to make. I am a mean "mean mother", and I make my children help with the housework. 

It is my belief that, as a parent, it is my job to teach my children everything that they need to know to become fully functional members of society. One of these lessons is that, unfortunately, housework is not optional!

I should mention, my kids are not mopping floors, or scrubbing walls; although when Ruth was younger she wanted to play Cinderella, and asked to scrub the grout, I didn't say no... I choose jobs that my kids are capable of, and let them know that this is their responsibility.

I thought that today I would share some ideas about getting your children to help you out with the housework.

1. Your kids want to do what you are doing...
I was told when Ruth was very little, by my health nurse, that your kids just want to do what you are doing. So from a very young age, both of my children have helped with things like dishes, folding washing, cooking and dusting. 


2. Make cleaning fun...
My kids love helping me clean because I turn on music and I blast it through the house. If I send them off to their rooms to tidy up, music blaring is the most important part of it. If cleaning is fun it feels like less of a chore for everyone, including you!


3. Be realistic...
You need to be realistic about what you want your kids to do. I make my kids clean their own rooms, help stack the dishwasher, and put away their own washing. Ruth has recently started folding her own. They will also clean the bathroom with supervision, but I generally do most of it. Ruth often asks to do the vacuuming too.



4. Be patient...
Your kids are not going to be awesome, professional level cleaners. Oliver's idea of folding socks is shoving one inside the other and folding them in half (always funny when you pull them out of the drawer). You really need to pick your battles with kids and cleaning. Think about it, is it really SO important that the shirts get hung all the same way and in rainbow colour order?? The idea is that you get them started, that you get them motivated, and eventually they will need less supervision, and be able to do things on their own.



That's it!! There is the motivator of pocket money, if you are so inclined and we often will sweeten the deal for the kids cleaning up something in particular by paying them.


Do you make your kids help with you with the housework?
What kind of tips do you have for getting children motivated to help around the house?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Cooking with Amy: Cauliflower Pizza Crust

cauliflower pizza
I know.... this looks A-MAZ-ING!! This is a pizza I had for lunch the other day. I love, love, love pizza, but unfortunately it is not really very healthy, and for some people it is just plain old off the menu due to gluten intolerance.

This pizza is made with cauliflower as a base, something that I discovered whilst surfing instagram one day. I have tried lots of different cauliflower base recipes, but this one actually stays together, and you can pick up the slices with your hands rather than having it fall to pieces. This pizza base also has an added bonus of an optional protein boost, if you are protein powder inclined.

Cauliflower

What you'll need:
1 x head of cauliflower
1 x egg
1 x tblsp cheese of choice
2 x scoops of protein powder (optional)
Toppings of choice.

How to do it:

For this recipe, your cauliflower is going to act as a flour for your pizza base, so you need to make cauliflower rice. When I first heard of cauliflower rice, I was quite overwhelmed, but it really is as simple as putting your cauliflower florets in a food processor, or as I have done, grate it. You'll need about 2 cups to make a one person sized pizza.

cauliflower rice

Put your cauliflower rice on a plate, cover it with cling wrap, and microwave for about 3 minutes. You want to cook it. Don't add any water, because the cauliflower contains water in itself, and you actually will be drying it out in the following steps and adding water just makes the process longer.

Once it is cooked, lay out a clean tea towel and pour the rice out on it. You want it to cool down enough so that you can handle it comfortably.

Cauliflower rice

Once it is cool enough to handle, pick up the tea towel with the cauliflower inside and squeeze all of the water out. You want it to be really quite dry as, like I said, it is acting like a flour.


Put your squeezed out cauliflower in a bowl with your other ingredients and give it a good stir until it is combined. I use a fork or a desert spoon, as it helps you get it all together (and saves on big dishes!). 

**a note on the protein powder** I add two scoops of whey protein to my cauliflower pizza base, as this fits my macronutrient requirements. If you don't want to add protein powder, and you feel like your mix is really sloppy, you can add a bit of flour to the mix (oat, rice, wheat etc.).

**a note about the cheese** Use whatever cheese you have in the fridge. In this instance I used tasty cheese, but I often use ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella, or Parmesan.

cauliflower pizza crust

Pour your mix onto a pizza tray covered in baking paper. You can see from my picture that it is still a bit mushy. This will change when you cook it so don't stress out about that. Put your base in the oven at about 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until it is brown on top.

cauliflower pizza crust

Pull it out and top with whatever you feel like. On this day I was feeling in need of vegetables, so I mashed some avocado and put on some sliced capsicum, grated zucchini, and some baby spinach. But I often just put tomato paste and a little cheese on top.

Cauliflower pizza crust

Cook it again for around 10 minutes, or until your toppings are cooked. Slice up, move to a plate, and ENJOY!!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Try it! You know you want to!


Friday, 26 July 2013

My Prosperity


I'm not usually one to start chatting about financial products on this blog, however I was offered the opportunity to have a look at myprosperity through my affiliation with Nuffnang, and I thought... why not? I could definitely do some organising in the financial department now that we have downsized to one income.



There are so many different elements to managing your finances, and sometimes it can be a little difficult to figure out exactly where you stand financially and what you can actually afford to do. Myprosperity is a free, secure, online platform that you can use to link all of your financial things, bank accounts, mortgage, credit cards, insurances, assets etc. in one place. The best thing about this is, because everything is in one place it is easy to see what is going on financially for you at any given time without having to have 100 browser windows open at once. This actually makes your financial position easier to understand.

How it works??

When you register for an account, you log into myprosperity, and you do a little online interview. You start by telling the program what your life stage is and what your goals are. This means that it is not just a cookie cutter set up and is a bit more personalised. This means that you can design a plan to suit your needs, not what "the majority of people" (whoever they are) want.

Next, you link all of your accounts to your myprosperity account. This takes a little bit of time to set up because the accounts need to talk to each other and all that jazz. Once it is done though you can log in and see where your money comes from, and also what you spend it on. The good thing about this is that it organises all of your in's and out's on its own. You don't need to add each transaction in manually, so you don't miss anything. All of the transactions are then organised into categories, which makes seeing EXACTLY what you spend your money on really easy and makes budgeting a lot easier.

From here it really is up to you. You can go into the planner and set yourself some goals, check out your wealth position etc. Personally, I really want to focus on sticking to a budget and boosting our savings for all important holidays and emergencies! So I jumped into the goals section and put that in. It was really easy to set up.

One improvement I would make is an easily accessible help link or frequently asked questions link. Although I found that it was really easy to navigate the site, it took a bit of clicking through things to figure it out.


I'm looking forward to organised finances with no surprises from now on!

If you would like to check out myprosperity for yourself, visit their site and register for an account. It is an easy, free, and secure way to take control of your finances.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

what to do on Tuesday...

More specifically, what do do with an almost 5 year old who is constantly wanting to learn more and more and is exhausting your stores of interesting knowledge, or more importantly, exhausting you?!?!

On Tuesday mornings we have been heading down to our local library for story time. Our main local library has activities for pre-schoolers every morning at 10.30am. This is PERFECT for little boys who just desperately want to be learning and playing and just being out of the house in general. We have made lots of cool things, and over the holidays we even made space dioramas! Really engaging and really fun!

When our local library does story time, the stories are generally revolved around a theme. This morning was a farmyard theme and at the end, the activity was to colour in a pig picture. 

Local Library craft session

As soon as I saw the picture, I said to Oliver, "Let's make a mask out of that!" He agreed that my idea was wonderful. So he coloured in his pig mask with all of the rainbow colours that took his fancy.

Colouring in

And then we cut it out. Once we got home, I found some elastic amongst my sewing things and stapled it to the outsides and... TADA...

Super Piggy!

Super Piggy!!

Oliver is so excited about his mask that he actually hasn't taken it off. In fact, every activity that we go to down at the library, he ends up super excited about whatever he has made and never wants it to leave his side.

Does your local library hold sessions for children? Why not have a look?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

wordless weekend

my cat

Melbourne Weather

Green Smoothies

Saying it all without words today for my wordless weekend.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

using your imagination

Today was awfully cold and wet here in Melbourne. I spent the majority of my morning looking for, and subsequently hanging out in, a laundromat. But it was full of good company and I met a few sweet others who had broken washing machines as well, or simply needed to use the dryers.

This afternoon, my kids seemed so bored sitting around watching television so I made them get up and go do something else. After a little while we heard them opening two packets of UNO stacko. We started to stop them, but thought... what the heck, let them go and create some mess, some fun, and see what they come up with! 

**Please excuse my iPhone photos, sometimes these action shots don't happen if you have to run off to find a camera!**

UNO stacko castle

UNO stacko castle

This is a castle for a queen according to my kids. I love it how they can make up an entire scenario with their imaginations and run with it. After they knocked this down, they made a throne for the cat. She ran away as soon as they made their intentions known.

This is something I think I can learn from my kids. Your imagination is the only limit you set for yourself, and if you put a cap on it, you are only limiting your potential. So many times I focus on the "what if's" in my mind rather than running with my ideas and the possibilities that they hold. In my kids' case, if we had put a cap on their imagination, the cat possibly wouldn't have a throne...

What do your kids do when it is rainy?

Friday, 19 July 2013

still smiling


I need to remind myself to smile sometimes.

Our washing machine broke yesterday, right in the midst of a no underwear crisis, and also in a holy crap there are a lot of bills due this week crisis! It's hard to smile in the middle of the first world problems that we find ourselves in, but last night I decided that there is still positivity in the world and a broken washing machine is not something to get fetal about! So today I am going to be thankful for all of the things that are making me smile, so here is the list...

I have not had arthritis pain for 2 days due to stronger core muscles and warmer weather.

family

I am healthy, I have a place to live and food to eat.

Crazy bakers

I have a beautiful family.

Baby Kisses

Cuddles and kisses, because they make everything feel better.

I have crazy, hilarious children.

Oliver Crazy Smile

And there are lots of laundromats.

happiness

I think it's important to remember that there is always something to make me smile, because happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life.

What are you smiling about today?








Thursday, 18 July 2013

Green - Power Pancakes

I am a big fan of eating food that is nutritious, delicious and satisfies my nutrient needs for the day. I had seen a lot of people making spinach pancakes on Instagram, and while I had been putting spinach in my smoothies for a while, I had never tried it in pancakes, so I thought I would give it a crack and see if I could make some green pancakes of my own.

Green Power Pancakes

I must say these pancakes ROCK. I have tried them a few times now, and they are really yummy. My kids will even eat them up, and they don't even know how good they are for them!! The awesome thing about these pancakes (besides how good they taste) is that because they have spinach in them, they turn bright green when you cook them! Very cool for a little man who likes super heroes!

These pancakes have a lot of protein in them. I use protein powder most of the time when I cook pancakes post-workout, but for this recipe I have used egg whites. You can separate your eggs if you like, otherwise you can buy cartons of just egg whites from the supermarket. They are usually in the egg section, or frozen (with the frozen berries).

Egg Whites


I know, I know, shut up and give us the recipe already! So here it is! I'm sorry it isn't super printable and such, I am sure I will figure out how to do those things at some point in the future.

Green - Power Pancakes!
 
Ingredients:

Pancakes
3/4 cup Egg Whites
1 1/2 cups Baby Spinach
1/2 cup Oats or Oat flour
1tblsp Greek Yoghurt
4 Sticks of Stevia (or other sugar alternative)
1/2tsp Baking Powder
Coconut Oil Spray

Topping
Greek Yoghurt
Cinnamon

Method:

Ingredients in blender
 
1. Put all of your pancake ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until it is really smooth. Lumps are not your friend here.

Pancake Batter


2. In a fry pan on medium heat, put spoonfuls of mixture, wait until the edges start to look cooked and there are a few bubbles on top and then flip them over. You don't want to overcook your pancakes, you want them nice and soft and fluffy.

Pancake almost ready to flip


3. Stack your pancakes on a plate as they are finished and top with Greek Yoghurt and a sprinkling of Cinnamon. You could add bananas too, but I didn't have any this particular day.

Green Power Pancakes


4. Enjoy... YUMMMM!!

Friday, 12 July 2013

head down...

 
...bum up. That is what I am at the moment. Working hard on uni work whilst trying to entertain 2 kids on holidays.

study buddies

Don't get me wrong. I have loved the holidays, but I am ready for the routine to return. I am also ready for my few short hours a week that I get to myself when Ruth is at school and Oliver at kindergarten.

We have had a marvelous time relaxing, watching movies, playing superheros and many other activities. I guess this is what holidays are for - so you realise how wonderful normal life is. It is not very easy studying full time and looking after two children that is for sure!! For now, I am content sitting in my bed with the kids beside me, whilst I study away and get some work done.

Have you had a wonderful school holidays?
Are you as ready for Monday morning as I am?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

school holidays

We are loving the school holidays here.

We can sleep in, watch television, play video games, knit, read, go to the library and just basically do whatever we feel like. It is wonderful.

Although I am going vaguely mad from the amount of Nickelodeon I have been exposed to over the last 2 days it is a nice change from Dora.

Ruth and me hanging out on school holidays

Oliver comes home today from his adventure holiday at Granny's farm, I have loved my time alone with Ruth, we have relaxed and really just had quality time. But it will be lovely to have both of my kiddies at home. I have missed Oliver so much!!

In the mean time, Ruth has calisthenics this morning so I am lucky enough to get to stick my head into a book without interruptions for an hour or so before having to pick up my little man.

I hope he remembers me!!


P.S. I am working on a recipe to share tomorrow :) Watch this space!!

Monday, 8 July 2013

making it up as you go...

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to learn how to knit in the round using circular needles so that I could knit something other than a scarf this winter. Actually, I committed to knitting two things that weren't scarves to be exact.

After a few interesting starts, I am now well on my way to knitting my first beanie, which has me really excited and looking forward to making more and more beanies for everyone I know.... Why?? because they are so darn easy!!!

starting out my beanie
I am not following a pattern - because I am a rebel like that. And also because every simple beanie pattern I saw was pretty much the same. It took me a few go's to get my cast on right. I had to learn how to do it differently

Mum - Why did you not teach me that one? It is so much easier to do!!

Knitted ribbing
I am super proud of my ribbing for the beanie. I have done ribbing before, but only once and it was messy. This time it was much neater.

Knitted Beanie

And so I continue. You can see the details of my project on Ravelry, here. I am up to decreasing for the crown now... Wish me luck!!!!


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Wordless Weekend




Saying it all without words this Sunday. 

Hope you had a great weekend too!! 


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

meat-free 'meat balls'



Last night for dinner, I decided to raid the pantry as we were having one of those "argh I have no food left in the fridge" moments. After a bit of digging around and deciding what to do, I decided to wing it. This was what I created - 

Amy's Meat Free Meatballs
 
I was so impressed by it, I thought I would share the recipe. No one around here even realised that this dinner right here doesn't even have any meat in it!


Amy's Meat-free Meatballs
This is the kid version...


Meat-free ‘meatballs’. (serves about 6)

Ingredients:

‘Meat’balls:
2 cups of well-cooked lentils (you need to be able to mash them)
1 egg
2 Red Onions
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper
Spices of choice (I used oregano)
1Tblsp Olive Oil (or whatever oil you use)

Sauce:
1 Jar of pasta sauce (I used passata)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced.
Salt and Pepper
Oregano

Method:

Put your lentils in a bowl and mash them. I just used the saucepan I cooked them in. Make sure you mash them up until they are nice and smooth.


Mashing Lentils

Add your egg, oat flour, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and spices of choice** and give it a good mix. I used the potato masher to do my mixing so that if I missed any lentils they were mashed in the process.

Making balls

Heat a frypan on medium-high. Roll your lentil mix into balls and cook them off in batches until they are brown on the outside. Take them out of the pan and put them on a plate.
 
Frying off the balls


Meat-Free Meatballs

Now it is time to make your sauce –Reduce the frypan heat to medium low.

Fry off the onions, garlic and oregano. Add the pasta sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring regularly.

Meat-Free Meatballs Recipe

Add your ‘meat’balls back to the pan and cook until they are nice and hot.

I served the balls and sauce with baby spinach and pasta. The pasta really ups the carbohydrate content, so next time I might use spaghetti squash or maybe slimpasta as an alternative.

** I say use whatever spices you like because lentils are pretty neutral tasting, so you can add whatever flavour you like. If you want to serve this with noodles, you could add chilli and coriander and make it nice and spicy.

Hope you enjoy making and eating meat-free meatballs as much as I did.