4 at school, 2 at home

We are getting used to our new routine this year and I’m getting used to lots of driving and a quiet house. My favourite time of the day is pick up and especially when I pick up my little miss from school. With a few rows of knitting beforehand because as any mum will tell you sometimes you’ve got to get there early just to get a park! She is so talkative and happy to see me. Yesterday I strapped her in and started driving and I heard a little voice ‘ I want eat, mmmmm I’m hungry’ and she was signing the same as she said it. This is after 4 days of school. We are so happy to have more words, that she’s learning signs that we tried to teach at home and having a ball. She has a speech therapist in the room twice a week, same for OT, swimming will be on fridays, art, drama, music. And her teachers. Oh my goodness. Every single teacher at the school is a gift from God. The most beautiful, dedicated, happy and enthusiastic teachers I’ve ever met. It blows me away. I receive an email and photos each day telling me what the class did and get to see what they’ve been up to which is wonderful. Anyway, as you can tell we’re happy but I miss her so much.

Everyone else is happy with their teachers, homework hasn’t really started, they woke up at 6am on their first morning of school bright and bubbly but are struggling by day 3. I should be getting to bed at 8.30 (!) myself each nigh to get enough sleep but find myself falling into bed at 11 by the time I’ve finished everything, ironed shirts, laid out things for the next day, had my peppermint tea and done any emails/ blog things from the day. Hopefully once we’re settled into routine I will get into bed earlier. Thank goodness for coffee. Mind you yesterday I was in a big rush out the door and decided my thermos cup didn’t need its lid. Wrong. White t-shirt and coffee don’t mix well together. There was a bit of baking on the weekend when I made a gluten free sponge (the kids picked the recipe) with the works for their last dinner before school went back. It was very popular. Just a good old CWA sponge recipe with white wings GF flour.

I really enjoy the time I’m spending with my littlest two and I’m sure I’ll blink and they will be at school. Until then we’re enjoying time at home, at the park, grabbing a muffin and doing our shopping and playing together.

I hope everyone else is adjusting to their new life, that there weren’t too many tears (sad or happy) with everyone going back and that you’re finding your new routine and going with it. My house just needs a big top to bottom clean because I’m in and out of the house all day and not getting much time to tidy and clean up!

long lost photos

Before iPhones, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram and my digital cameras with lenses we had a tiny digital camera and we had our photos saved on a computer. That then died. We rescued the hard drive and moved it around with us over the years knowing that it had precious photos on it and hoping that one day we could recover them. I just forgot about it but thankfully hubby insisted we find it, take it to the computer shop and recover those photos. And on Saturday we got to see what was finally stored away. It was like stepping back in time and oh the hairstyles I had over the years as we went back to when we first met and started travelling to when we had our first sweet baby.

And some of the favourite places that we visited that I had no photos of were found. I was so happy. Copenhagen. Such a pretty city to walk around and we only had a weekend there but it’s always been a trip that I remember. I would also love to visit places like Iceland and Norway. Hubby said why? Oh the knitting. Not so sure the rest of my family shares the love. And we didn’t even have the greatest weather but it was still something different and a lovely place to visit. Nothing like how we live in Australia.

Another place you can never forget is The Alhambra Palace. A very magical place in the middle of a very hot city. It really was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I thought I’d never be able to find the photos of our trip.

We spent 2 weeks there and have some funny memories like when we had planned a trip to a beachside town for 5 days and the bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. Just a lonely petrol station on a road that had a diner attached. It was like off a scary movie where the couple are the only ones off the bus and wondering where everything is! And we were supposed to wait around for another bus.

And Paris. Lots of special memories of Paris and I have to confess that when you spend too much time there you kind of get used to it but look at that skyline and those buildings.

We also got engaged in Paris on a surprise weekend away and the next day went to Notre Dame to light a candle each. I had totally forgotten until we saw the photos.

Oh and it was good to see that some things hadn’t changed with photos of cakes and brownies I’d made, my knitting, loads of baby photos and this was a funny one. When my knitting stash fitted into 1 tub. I can’t remember the last time it did but here is proof. 1 tub and my entire knitting stash.

And when I looked at the photos again I noticed other things like wow our couches looked so wonderful back then when they were new/before children. And wow my skin looked so much younger. And as all mums know, there are photos of every single thing your first baby does. Every outfit they wear, every little expression, funny things and just normal things. It was photo overload for the first born and I love this one with the handknitted cardigan from nana.

Now my big job is to go through the photos, get them printed off and put them into albums! One of those jobs I really need to make time for. I usually get so stuck looking at all the photos and don’t actually do what I’m supposed to do. Where are your photos? Are you better than me? All neatly in albums or framed………..

 

when I grow up – one emotional day

Today I sent my baby girl off to big school for the first time. It rates right up there as one of the most emotional days I’ve had in a long time. We weren’t even 5 minutes from home and I was already fighting back the tears listening to the radio. I’m still emotional now. It’s official. She’s at school. I have 4 at school, 1 at preschool and everyone is growing up on me.

We chose her school based on warm fuzzy feelings, caring staff and reputation and that’s about it. We knew it was the best place for her and today cemented that for us as we met warm friendly staff, her wonderful teacher and assistant. She’s in a small class of 9 and yay to have 3 girls in the class (in the world of special needs classrooms there is a big imbalance between boys and girls). It’s a big worry when you send any child off to school but when you send a little one with extra needs you worry and stay up late at night and worry some more. And last week I thought I’d made a big mistake and should have given her another year. I told hubby I’d changed my mind and was keeping her home for another year. But today she was so ready. Put her bag in her spot, went on in there and played happily. She had the best day. Smiles and cuddles confirmed it. I peeked in after morning tea and they were learning the signs to a song and it just reassured me that she’s going to learn just at her level and have fun at the same time.

We were singing this song in the car waiting for her to come out (she loves the Matilda CD) and I think the reality of the day sunk in. Out of the house 5 days a week. My baby girl now off to learn more and become more independent. And growing up. But it’s a happy day because I get to be there every day. A day I’m so glad to be her mum and raise my family. Life is so short and our greatest work as mums is within the walls of our home and the family we are raising. Don’t be fooled or pulled otherwise in today’s modern world. Nothing is more rewarding than raising a family or helping others. Nothing. We all have to make money and a living but don’t put your children and family below work. And the more my family grows and the older they all get (and me, I’m getting old) the more I realise how lucky I’ve been to raise them and nothing will come in the way of that. You can tell it’s been an emotional day. It just hit me like a tonne of bricks today.

When you’re a mum you catch yourself saying you can’t wait until they start school (I’m guilty of saying that especially when I had newborn twins) and then when the day comes you kind of wish you had that extra time back. But it’s life and they are growing up.

I hope all the new mums out there had a great start. I was totally a new mum at the tea & tissues morning tea and then wandering around the shops and park with the other kids waiting for her to finish her half day and worrying about her.

This year my charity of choice through this blog is my daughter’s special school to help fundraise for all the wonderful work they do that relies on donations.

 

 

one seriously cute baby cardigan

I adore this cardigan. It is just so cute and sweet and I can’t stop admiring it. BUT and it’s a big but, I’ve spent most of today doing the seaming, rib bands and ruffles. And I thought I might poke someone with a knitting needle out of frustration while doing it. I have fallen in love with top down knits. You start at the top, do the sleeves and keep going to the bottom. Weave in the ends and you are done.

This cardigan was fiddly with each little piece knitted and then put together. But as you can see it….totally worth it. One of the cutest baby knits I’ve done.

The pattern is Design 1323 Girl’s Frill Front Cardies from The Baby Bamboo Book of Trendy Little Knits from Sirdar. I chose the short sleeved version and this size is 0-6 months which is great since the baby was only born 2 weeks ago. Room to grow.

The yarn is Bendigo’s Harmony from the back room. Read more about the back room here. If you are ever in Victoria then it’s worth taking a trip to Bendigo. In fact it has been known that whenever hubby suggests we visit Melbourne that my eyes light up that we can go to Bendigo Woollen Mill’s and the back room. Yes. I love it. This used less than 3 balls and the Harmony is a nice cotton blend so it’s springy and thicker than Bendigo’s 8 ply cotton.

I haven’t blocked it and might give it a light blocking just to get the neckband to sit straight but other than that it turned out nicely. With 50 million ends weaved in. Buttons from the stash when a local quilting store was closing down.

All in all a beautiful finished project, only for the patient knitter. You don’t need any expert knitting skills as it’s all knit and purl with some yarn forwards in there. I love it. I just need a break before I cast it on again and will give myself a few days to do the finishing off.

Ravelry details are here. And this is one of the first quilts I made so it was nice to get it out into the sun for the photos too

tips for being a new school mum

This year I become a  new school mum. Twice actually because I have a boy going off to a new school and my baby girl starting school for the first time. I have no nerves or worries about my big boy but oh have I been kept up late at night worrying about my little miss. What will she do before the bell goes? How will she tell me about her day? What if someone hurts her? And I hardly know anyone at the school and no other new families going into kindy. That can make me nervous too. Thing is it’s exactly how I felt sending my first daughter off to school when I was convinced she might run away during morning tea.

And I should be an old pro but I do have some tips and advice if you are a new school mum this year and sometimes it means going out of your comfort zone or doing things that you usually wouldn’t do.

Firstly you are going to go to the events. The morning teas, the class nights, the birthday parties, the assemblies (when you can, I struggle with assemblies because of preschool times but rest assured when you do go to assembly your child won’t get an award and when you don’t go they will get an award. It has become the story of my life so far).

Secondly you are going to volunteer. Not for everything but pick one thing or two. Read the newsletter, sign up for something that takes your fancy (or not) but the best way to meet other mums and feel settled into school is to volunteer and get involved. Canteen, P&F, Mother’s Day Stall, covering books in the library, working bees, helping with reading, teaching a new skill, setting up and so on. You’ll make lovely friends, know exactly what is happening at school and be able to contribute. This year I’ll try not to overcommit as we are at 3 schools and 1 preschool but look forward to helping out and getting involved. So step up. And if you work there are always opportunities to do things from home like covering books, sending emails, running spreadsheets and so on. Life is busy but it’s important to show our children that we care about where they go to school and want to help out.

Thirdly you’re going to smile and say hi. If you think people aren’t being friendly it might be that they are nervous too so there is no harm in always smiling and starting up a conversation if you see another new mum. I do this and sure small talk isn’t for everyone but I bet you’ve got the same worries and things going on. As children get older I tend to use carline but walking your child in every day is a great way to strike up conversations and meet other parents.

You are also going to put everything in your diary. Library day, sports day, special events, P&F etc. You might think you won’t forget but sometimes life gets in the way. Notes get signed and returned the next morning. Library bags and books in the same spot. Hats and shoes near the front door for the next morning. And just so you know, every family has someone who will lose everything. Just keep it in mind. We have our one.

And you’re also going to organise a playdate /coffee morning if your child has made a friend. In the first year of school as hard as it might sound it’s really worthwhile inviting the whole class to your child’s birthday party. It’s a great way for your child to make friends and also for you to make friends with other families and especially when they get invited to birthday parties and you don’t know the family. We don’t do sleepovers as a rule in our family but getting to know the families when you start school makes decisions about playdates, staying over etc much easier when you know the family.

Lastly you are going to try not to stress or worry that it’s taking time. The best friendships don’t happen overnight. Put mums numbers in your phone, remember their names, be friendly and keep it light and happy.

What to do when you think you have no friends at school? Some schools do it better than others. Some schools are more friendly and welcoming than others. There are more introductory events, caring class parents and a real focus on building community. I’ve found small schools to be really amazing. When my big girl started kindy I made some beautiful friends that I’m still in touch with now. It was a small community and very caring. Our current schools go out of their way to have morning teas, class parents who plan events each term including the dads and lots of functions. Some big schools are so big and you might feel that people already have a clique or everyone has someone to talk to or they are not very friendly. It’s easy to make negative talk in our head and think that we have no friends. This is when taking a deep breath and getting involved in the school and going to the events is even more important. There is always someone who feels like you so stay positive, stay close to the school and be involved and just keep that smile on your face.

And now I’ll just tell myself that advice as I send 5 of my little ones off to school and preschool next week.

What’s your best advice?

quick change trousers are still my favourite

School holidays are almost over and I’m trying to squeeze in a bit of sewing time when I can. When I get off Instagram. I think I’ve been a bit late to the Instagram party but am loving it. So many great people to follow and so much more interesting than facebook.

Anway, quick change trousers would have to be one of my favourite items to sew for little ones. They are great for girls or boys and are fully lined, reversible and super easy. I probably spent more time trying to find the book than I did tracing and cutting the pattern out. You need at least 3 fabrics to make these but they don’t use a lot of fabric. They come in a few sizes between 0 -24 months and these are the 18-24 months size with an 18 month length on my very delicate 17 month old. Perfect sizing in the end with room to grow.

And trying to get a little guy to stand still for a photo. Almost impossible. He never stops. Go go go. I actually can’t remember any of the other kids being this active. Or maybe my memory is playing up.

These pants are great in summer or winter and best of all, nice and comfy, a very easy pattern that beginners could follow and are just so cute! I stuck to all blues because truth be told I don’t have a huge amount of boys fabrics in my stash because I’m always drawn to the pink and girly. But I did well to find a few in there. You can use any fabric and I’m thinking some chambray or a soft denim would be great for winter and I like quilting cottons as they last longer than poly/cotton fabrics and just feel a better quality

You can find the pattern here in this wonderful book, Handmade Beginnings by Anna Maria Horner and  it’s a great book if you love sewing for babies and other people having babies.

And sorry I can’t help myself, I have to share a few pictures of my sweet little girl when I made them for her a few years ago.

pants all in a row

rolling

What have you been sewing? Do you love the quick change trousers as much as I do?

vanilla biscuits in the thermomix

So I worked out that I’d made so many batches of jam drops during the week and because 6 little people are all at home with me that they are lasting about 30 minutes and then all gobbled up. Even hubby came in and asked what happened to the baking we’d done this week. All gone. And I haven’t eaten any because I’ve tried to do GAPS. Well try being the key word because I’m not ready to give up my coffee with a dash of milk. Well that and I did have 2 handfuls of hot chips because they were so hot, smelled so good and were in my hand so I couldn’t say no. So excusing those two things I’ve stuck to the full diet on GAPS last week and lived to tell the tale. Just. Remind me to write a post about it. Great for your waistline because most of my favourite foods are not on the allowed foods list. But week 2 here I come.

Anyway, back to the biscuits. So we make these as jam drops but I realised I had to stop making them as individual biscuits and just double batch them. And at first I was using all self raising flour but they were expanding on the tray so I settled on a mix of self raising and plain and they were just right. And I finally found a use for the mix of tins I had in my pantry for a few years. I love to save tins but don’t always get around to using them but these are great for jam drops as you don’t need to stack a layer on top and ruin the lovely jam.

To make these gluten free just use a good gluten free flour like white wings or woolies macro (I say good because they are a cup for cup substitute and work well) and check your jam if you are using it that it’s gluten free too. No other changes and we use a range of flours and have great results.

vanilla biscuits in the thermomix
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 36+
What you'll need
  • 1 cup raw sugar or caster (about 250g)
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 1-2tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups plain flour (225g)
  • 1½ cups self raising flour (225g)
  • jam for jam drops
Instructions
  1. Place raw sugar in TM and process 10 seconds on speed 9. If you are using caster sugar skip this step as it's just the way I turn raw sugar into caster.
  2. Add in butter (cubed) at room temperature and mix for 20 seconds speed 4. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  3. Add in vanilla and eggs and process another 20 seconds on speed 4.
  4. Add in flour in 2 batches and I process on speed 3 for about 30 -40 seconds and do a scrape down inbetween.
  5. **Roll into balls about the size of a walnut or smaller and then flatten with a fork for a plain biscuit or press down with your thumb to create an imprint and fill with some jam
  6. Bake in a preheated 180 degrees oven for about 12-15 minutes. Leave to cool on tray for a few minutes as they are soft but will look lightly golden. Then transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. It is from the cooling rack that they seem to disappear in our house!
  8. Enjoy!
  9. If you don't have a thermomix then cream the butter and sugar. Add in the vanilla and eggs one at a time and combine. Add in the sifted flour gently stirring as you go and then mix it all together well. I often use my hands to get the last of the flour in. Follow from **

 

another rainbow ripple baby blanket finished

Yes I love this pattern. This is my 2nd rainbow ripple baby blanket and I love this one just as much as the first one I made. I made this my summer holiday project while the kids were off school and I’ve finished before the holidays are over so that’s a first (and a win).

Everything came from my stash – bendigo cotton 8 ply in parchment, wild lavender, teal, glacier and the pale pink is bendigo’s harmony (no longer available). I used a 4mm hook to make it soft and drapey rather than tighter. Usually with Bendigo cotton I go down a size but love how this has turned out.

It’s going into my big girl’s room as it matches her bedding perfectly and also because the kids have been wanting to keep something that I make because I give so much away. Love the pattern, great for a confident beginner in crochet as it’s all double crochet and nothing complicated. I think it looks fancier than it really is as you don’t need to follow the pattern once you’ve done a few rounds and got the hang of it. I haven’t blocked this yet but I could to make the points sharper.

And  I made a dent in the stash. Win win.

And it’s a stinker of a hot day here with the temps predicted to hit 40 and it already feels like that outside at 11am. I cleared up the garden beds to take this photo as there was plastic from a kids art project in front of this gate. I placed them behind me to take the photo and then while I was taking the photo a gust of wind made a warm soft thing hit the back of my leg and I screamed like you wouldn’t believe. The kids yelled in a panic what’s wrong….oh just a bit of plastic that I thought was an animal! Thankfully it was just plastic and I’m back inside in front of the fan.

 ravelry details are here

Organising your craft room and linen cupboard with a Brother Label Maker + Giveaway

Brought to you by Brother

congratulations Lois who won this giveaway! Thank you everyone for entering

Recently I shared this post as I started to get organised with my Brother label maker. Over the holiday break I tackled some of the biggest problem areas of the house. The linen cupboard and the craft room. Tell me I’m not the only one that needs a little help in this area but in a weekend I had both sorted. Well the craft room is a big project but I did half of it so am happy.

I tackled the craft room. Well part of the craft room. The bit just as you walk in the room and stuff gets dumped. That right hand cube had mail and stuff that was on my kitchen counter and over the last term as I was busy with the craft stall stuff just got dumped.

Step 1 was make a coffee, I needed something to get me through.

Step 2 was to work cube by cube. I just couldn’t pull everything as there would be no floor space so I worked one cube of the wall unit at a time and worked out what I needed. I also just used what I had in terms of storage containers proving that this doesn’t need to be a difficult or expensive exercise. Just some time up your sleeve. And this will save money in the long run because who knew I had so many pairs of scissors or white thread. Usually they go missing but I’m thrilled to have spots for them.

Step 3 was to put like with like and make my labels. This was probably the biggest job as things drift into other containers and I have a tendency to run out of time and shove things somewhere, close the door and leave my craft room. Having everything labelled and in the right spot is going to seriously cut down the time I spend hunting around for things when I actually get some time to craft. And I liked using the Shadow font for these labels just for something different.

even the label maker got it’s own shelf for me to put stickers, tapes and labels for school and home.

and the plastic tubs which store my knitting stash all got a sort out, cull and were labelled too. I know that there are more glamorous ways to organise your yarn stash but the containers keep moths out and the stash sorted.

And while on a roll from the craft room I decided to tackle another big problem area in my house.  The linen cupboard. Also known as that place at the top of the stairs where I hide stuff. We’ve all seen the beautifully organised linen cupboards and perfectly folded fitted sheets on pinterest. So I had a few goals with the linen cupboard. Firstly, I wanted to be able to open it up and not have things fall out on me. Second, I wanted to be able to close the doors perfectly and thirdly I wanted to have a good cull and keep the things we used and lastly I wanted it all organised and labelled so that everyone else in the family could help to keep it looking good.

Step 1  was to pull it all out, everything. Get everything out so that you can start afresh. You’ll notice that the shelves have seen better days. It was definitely time to give this cupboard a big clear out and lighten the load on those shelves.

Step 2 was to grab some garbage bags. One for stuff to throw out and one for charity. I worked my way through everything, sorting through what I wanted to keep and throw out as I went. I started folding and making spots for items and moved things around the linen cupboard a few times. Put the things you hardly use and the big bulky items up high. Every day items and things that the kids need like towels and hand towels at their level.

And no more hunting around for preschool sheets and hanging hand towels on a sunday night or monday morning. I gave preschool items their own little area in my lovely organised linen cupboard. With 2 still to finish preschool it’s nice to have everything kept in the one spot to make my life easier. And I just love looking at all of the lovely handmade things that I’ve made or been given over the years.

Step 3 was to get my Brother Label maker. I found it easier to have everything in a place that I was happy with first and then make the labels and stick them on. Another little tip is to have the label sticking on top of the shelf rather than facing out on furniture and shelving. It’s up to you but I saw it on Martha Stewart and thought it looked great.

Step 4 was take a photo and admire it. Yep, I was pretty proud that the linen cupboard looked neater than when we first moved in. Even later that night I was watching tv and thought about my lovely neat and tidy cupboard. I know, that’s a bit sad to admit. But with a busy household, just organising a cupboard gets put on the big jobs list however this didn’t take more than 2 hours and looks wonderful.

Let’s hope the bath towel section can keep looking this neat as the year goes on.

Last words of advice

Think about how you use things when you are organising and the items you want easy access to.

Labelling helps you keep it tidy and organised in the long run and also helps other members of the house know where things belong.

Use different fonts and tape colours to have fun with your organising. The kids just love the coloured ones and for the rest of the home I’ve been liking the black on white tape.

Use what you have to organise. Bowls, platters, crates, jars, bottles and old drawers all make great storage ideas so there is no need to buy more containers. Label what you have, pile things neatly and stay organised.

Garbage bags are your best friend when organising. Think about the last time that you used an item and if it’s been too long or your tastes have changed then pass it on to someone else who can put it to good use. I give some things to friends and family and the rest to charity

Keep your label maker out of reach of your children. One boy thought he’d have fun writing his name lots of times and used a whole roll of tape. Not happy. Luckily you can pick up tapes easily from shops like Officeworks, independent stationery shops and more.

I have enjoyed getting organised with my Brother Label Maker and as a special little gift to you I’m giving away 1 Brother Label Maker and tape to my readers.

Just let me know the first area of your house that you will tackle if you win!

Entries close 21 January 2016, giveaway is open to Australian residents only, full terms of my giveaways can be found here.

back to school lunchbox ideas

The kids will be back at school before you know it. And I’m already thinking about lunchboxes. You might have someone starting school for the first time, someone on a special diet, someone complaining they need a bit more variety, someone who never eats what is in there or you just need some new ideas. I always need some new ideas. There is nothing wrong with a vegemite sandwich and piece or two of fruit but my older children are often telling me of their friends with sushi, schnitzel or sausages in their lunchboxes. Oh and chips, I always hear about the kids who get chips in their lunchboxes too. Mine don’t.

Each week I start out with loads of fresh fruit, packs of tortillas, 2 loaves of bread in my freezer, a spinach or salad bag, ham, cheese, hummus, rice crackers and a few other things.  For morning tea and snacks think of a variety of fruit, try something new like raspberries, blueberries or cut up watermelon, homemade biscuits or muesli bars, hummus and crackers and carrot sticks, sultanas, homemade popcorn, cherry tomatoes, an egg sliced up, homemade banana bread or a healthy slice.

For lunch instead of sandwiches think about wraps, frittata, savoury muffins, sushi, rice, cold pasta, cooked quinoa or couscous with tuna or some veggies stirred through, crackers and dip. If you have really picky eaters then leave out the spinach but they will love wraps with something simple inside. Cream cheese and smoked salmon is a nice treat on a friday.

Think about a protein source when you are packing the lunchbox especially if you are packing for a bigger eater or your hubby or someone on a gluten free/special diet. Protein fills you up and if you have a few choices in your fridge then you are sorted for lunchboxes. Cooked chicken (you can do it in the slowcooker the day before or poach some chicken breasts on the stove), cooked eggs sliced up, some canned tuna (out of the can) with some crackers or to put in a wrap during the day.

I have some people with an aversion to lettuce and spinach but I can put at least 3 or 4 pieces in a wrap and it gets eaten even at home. Grated carrot is also great in a wrap. Tomato is a bit hit and miss here with my little customers.

Last words of advice

Keep nuts and peanut butter at home and away from school. Check the school’s food policy as eggs, yoghurt or other foods might be banned if there are serious food allergies.

Always have a spare loaf of bread in your freezer

Buy fruit in season, mandarins are always popular and last well. Have a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter if you don’t already so that kids can pack their own fruit.

Always check school bags for leftover fruit. We’ve had a banana incident and a few apples go bad in the bottom of bags and they can stink out the bag and require a big clean up. You’ll always have one member of the family who leaves some food in their bag.

Make up biscuit dough and keep it in your freezer wrapped up in a log in baking paper with the ends twisted. Take it out, leave it for 5-10 minutes, slice while still frozen and then bake. Perfectly round biscuits.

Have little containers that you can send cut up fruit, crackers, biscuits in as a little snack

I always have a pack of tiny teddies tucked away in my pantry just in case

Quinoa only takes 20 minutes to cook and is great in the fridge and can be used plain or with some salad ingredients and it’s great for older eaters who want something different or complain about boring sandwiches.

Cherry tomatoes last well during the week, are sweet to eat and bright and colourful in a lunchbox.

Don’t pack too much food especially for kindergarten students as it can be too much choice and they just want to play

No chips or chocolate, start out with good habits from kindergarten and then your children won’t ask for them – no, well they might ask for them but at least you haven’t set a precedent

Water, water and more water. Always water. A good drink bottle and ditch the juice or cordial. Again it’s better to start out the good habits in kindergarten and primary school and better for their health and teeth. Even some of my kids who haven’t been big water drinkers are now great because there is nothing else on offer at our house but water. Trust me on it, my 3 and 5 year old are the best water drinkers but it wasn’t always that way.

Ask your kids what they like to eat – if like me you have a vegemite sandwich lover then go with it. Let them cut their own sandwiches and make their own when they start to show an interest. If we’re having a crazy morning then it’s not uncommon for me to ask my big 3 to make their own sandwiches with some help from me as I run past!

 

Get $500 thanks to ME Bank

Sponsored by ME Bank

Congratulations Jo. T  you are the winner! Thank you everyone so much for entering and your great ideas! 

I can’t think of a better time of year or a better giveaway. $500 to one lucky retro mummy reader. Keep reading. I’m so excited to be offering this as I know what a crazy time of year this can be.

Do any of you work for a bank at the moment or have in the past? I enjoyed it except on social occasions when you weren’t with bankers and someone would find out that you worked for a bank. And even though you didn’t have anything to do with bank fees, interest rates, lending criteria or customer service you would hear people’s complaints. Oh yes. I’m glad those days are over. Now that I don’t work for a bank I have my own issues. Like why can I never, ever, find an ATM for my own bank when I need some cash. At my last 2 houses we had local shops that had other ATM’s but just not mine. So taking out money meant paying ATM fees at other bank’s machines. I hate it. Somehow each month I can still have anywhere from $5-10 in fees from using ATMs that aren’t my own.

This is why now that I’ve been using the ME Bank Everyday Transaction Account with buck Debit MasterCard. I can proudly say that I have a new transactional account. Why? Because I can use any bank’s ATM, anywhere in Australia.^ I like that. You can use your buck Debit MasterCard at any Westpac, St. George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne ATM for free and if you happen to use another Australian bank’s ATM in Australia and get charged then ME Bank will refund you. By my simple calculations I’ll be saving almost $100 a year just in ATM fees. And so for one week I went about my usual routine with this card in my wallet. I like the idea of debit cards because you can’t get yourself into trouble like with a credit card but you have the flexibility of using the card over the phone, on the internet and overseas. And you can take this card overseas with you without a problem.

First outing with buck was Sunday and a trip to Spotlight for supplies for the school fete and a few craft projects. And a pretty hydrangea on the way home because as soon as I see them the shops I get excited.

Monday and a trip to the ear dr for 2 children. I paid for parking and the appointment.

Tuesday morning we needed a few grocery items from the local shops so I could Tap & go™.

Wednesday and Thursday were home days and pretty crazy ones so we ordered some pizzas from our favourite place for dinner. I love that you can order over the internet, pay with your card and get it delivered to your door – great with 6 hungry little people at home.

Friday I had to go the Motor Registry….always fun waiting with 3 small children but I’d been carrying around the paperwork for a fortnight so Friday tends to be my ‘get things done’ day. $40 to pay for my lodgement and just put it on the card. 

OK I may have bribed the kids with the toy shop afterwards. A little something each……….

and with $50 left on the card I picked up a gorgeous vase for my dining table to finish off the week.

 

And now what you really want, one lucky reader will win $500 on their own ME buckcard. All you need to do is answer 2 simple questions. Visit the ME website here and tell me what colour card you will choose if you win and also your number 1 money saving tip. Too easy! 

Giveaway is open to Australian residents, entries close on the 18th January 2016 and full terms and conditions of this giveaway can be found here. 

^free ATM access terms and conditions
Free access at any ME ATMs and their preferred ATM network of Westpac, St.George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne ATMs. Open your new Everyday Transaction Account & receive a refund on fees incurred at all other ATMs in Australia within 30 days of the transaction. ME Bank may change or withdraw this offer at any time.
other important information
Terms, conditions, fees and charges apply. This is general information only and you should consider if this product is right for you.
MasterCard and the MasterCard Brand Mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated. Tap & go is a registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated.

 

back to school shopping this year

Just 3 weeks until our baby girl starts school for the first time and the big kids head back. This year we send 4 kids off to school, 1 returns to preschool and the baby stays home with me. And yes it’s proving to be an expensive time of year getting everyone ready. One needed a complete uniform to start big school, two need a few bits and pieces as they move on from infants to primary, most needed a new pair of trainers, one needed new black school shoes, everyone needed new lunchboxes, one needs a full list of stationery, three need a few textbooks and me? I need to give my bank balance a rest. I’ve been tallying everything up in my diary and it’s all adding up.

SHOES

Well the first thing I did was make everyone bring down their school shoes and trainers. 2 of the kids had new school shoes midway through last year, 1 girl had a choice of 2 school shoes a size up from a girl who never scuffs her shoes so that was one nice relief. 1 boy had the stinkiest trainers out there and 1 girl had a pair that were too small. And our sweet little girl needs trainers as her school shoes. So I went to the kids shoe shop who had 20% off Clarks and 3 pairs of trainers, 1 pair of school shoes later we were done school shoe shopping. I did think about the day I might need to get 6 pairs of school shoes and trainers. Oh boy.

Last year I had this great idea to do all the kids school shoes at a budget shoe place. It was ok for 2 girls with the school shoes but the girl trainers fell apart and the boy school shoes lasted half way through the year before falling apart. So it wasn’t the cheapest option in the end and one of the girls needed a wider shoe.

Everyone has a different budget so look for good quality that you can afford, a solid back of the shoe that gives support and that you can’t push down easily, width of your thumb at the end of the shoe for growth and if you can get them fitted then go for it and get the correct size. It’s ok to get fitted and shop around to get the best price. My other advice is if you have very narrow or very wide – we fall on the very wide side of shoe fittings – then don’t leave it to late. Oh and wear those shoes around the house before school starts. Or if you’re like our 5 year old, wear your shoes to church with a nice dress because you just can’t take those shoes off. She loves them.

LUNCHBOXES

Next up was lunchboxes. This year I’ve decided to go stainless steel. The tupperware/lunchbox cupboard is heaving and things fall out on me. We’ve got mismatched containers, broken lids and who knows what else lives in there. I decided to bite the bullet and go stainless steel for lunchboxes this year. I know that there are cheaper options but I’ve wanted to do it for a while and just decided out with the old and in with the new. And my Tupperware cupboard will get the mother of all cleanouts.

I settled on the lunchbots for most of the kids (I bought mine here) and the yumbox (not stainless steel) for our school starter as it is easy to open herself. I’ve never sent a little one with special needs off to school but I know that they will have some help with lunchboxes but this is an easy clip on the yumbox and she seems fine with it.

I’m going to write a post on lunchboxes but have to say if you’re looking at a good affordable one you can’t beat the nude food mover lunchboxes from the supermarket which have pretty much lasted the year and were great with the small containers for fruit break in the morning at school. Even my biggest boy with his huge appetite had enough room for plenty of food in there.

DRINK BOTTLES

Drink bottles? Well I just love the Tupperware ones. We have them in an assortment of colours and you can write their names or place the stickers on the top or bottom sections and they are a good size with no leaks. I hate leaking drink bottles. We also have a few good stainless steel ones in the mix but make sure that your kids can close them properly…if you want a dry school bag.

STATIONERY

This year I did stationery online with officeworks and their free delivery to avoid the shops and taking all 6 lovely little ones with me. Don’t forget to buy contact to cover books. My girls did use some of their Christmas money to buy smiggle pencil cases which is definitely not the budget option but was a practical way to use their Christmas money. That shop is just heaven for my girls and my littlest one loved it.

SCHOOL UNIFORMS

I tend to always buy new because I have little ones to hand down to. Anything that I won’t need because our little girl is going to a special school will be going to the 2nd hand uniform shop along with the netball uniform since art and gymnastics are on the activities list for 2016 and not netball.

Look after your school uniforms especially winter dresses/skirts and blazers as you can get a good amount back on them in the uniform shop. I hand wash most of mine and dry clean blazers during school holidays.

Don’t be afraid to buy extra shirts or summer dresses 2nd hand to keep as spares/back ups. I always do a quick scan of the 2nd hand rack and we got a great sports jacket when my big girl started school that is still going strong.

Please be sure to buy yourself 2 sunhats for the playground. The kids hate missing out on playtime because they’ve misplaced their hat or had it taken. Hats going missing kill me because they always do but it does get easier when the kids get older/more responsible. But trust me I have a few who lose their hats on a very regular basis. Get the name written on the hat with a sharpie as soon as you get the hat or before you leave the uniform shop!

 

NAME LABELS

Name labels well of course I used my lovely new label maker. However for my little girl starting special school I wanted something very big that she could recognise so fruit and her name in big letters made it easy from a personalised label shop were in order. I bought her a complete set.

And that’s that. With most of the back to school shopping done I can now look forward to saving for term 1 fees.

Any tips or words of wisdom from my readers?

And while we’re in a back to school mood, here are a few posts you might like

gluten free lunchboxes

baking for lunchboxes

Why you need a Brother Label maker

Brought to you by Brother

When my big girl and twins started preschool I went crazy with personalised stickers. But over the years and many house moves later I tend to lose them. I’ve thought of a label maker before but had never used one before so had no idea just how handy they could be……..until I got one. And if someone had told me that I could be making pink labels then I would have been on to it much earlier!

And this couldn’t come at a better time as I work my way through the best selling novel that everyone is reading. ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo.  I’m married to a born organiser but I am definitely one busy mummy who doesn’t put things back in the right place and then it all catches up with me. So I went through the house and nothing was off limits. Once you start labelling and organising there is no stopping you…or the kids. My girls were very excited with the label maker and the pink tape got a good workout. It was so easy to use, pop the batteries in the back, the tape goes in too and you don’t need a PhD to put it in, back back on and off you go!

First to be labelled was my iPhone charger to end all debates over whose is whose because apparently someone’s always go missing. No more problems now. I know what mine looks like.

My cupcake carrier was next up as well as my favourite Tupperware containers that I take a cake or slice in. Also great when you need a take a plate and want your plate back. Because the labels are waterproof (amongst other things) they won’t come off in the dishwasher or while you do the dishes.

I also had fun with my organiser. I tend to be a scribbler and have good intentions for a neat and tidy organiser but scribble and cross things out and use pencils, pens and any of the kids pencils I can grab if the phone rings and I need to jot something down. I do however sit and put regular activities in for the month ahead and love the look of the labels in my diary so will stick to this for 2016 I think.

Next up were kids wardrobes. We pulled everything out and decided what we wanted to label each section with. My big girl made her own labels and had some fun putting everything back. I’m just kidding she didn’t have fun putting the clothes away but loved that she made her own labels and that they were pink.

One of my biggest jobs is keeping wardrobes under control. We have some children who grow quickly and others who have a stockpile of the hand me downs. We also have one who stuffs everything into the one cube, another who wears 3 outfits in a day and some kids who never touch their wardrobe! I think the labels look gorgeous and I hope that she can now put everything in the right spot and keep it organised. One wardrobe down and 5 more of the kids to do. Also great for babies as you could do nappy, wipes, singlets, onesies etc and it would make it easy for people to help out if they wanted to.

Now I found more things around the house to label while I was on a roll. Flippers for swimming lessons as we lost a pair this year (but thankfully no more now that we have our name on the flippers and not just the bag they come in). And with back to school right around the corner it’s a great time to label drink bottles, lunchboxes and school bags. The great thing about having your own label maker is that you won’t get caught out at the last minute if you have an item that needs a label. Just a minute later and you’ve made your own label to go straight on a school item. And why not get the kids to make their own. Mine are still fighting over who is going to use it next.

And Christmas handmade gifts had a little personalised touch with these gold labels. So easy and I just trimmed the tape to the width of the space on the jar and done! So sweet and I think the gold tape became my new favourite.

And my biggest job was turning my mess of a pantry into something lovely and organised. Now this took a whole afternoon because it was in such a state but I was speaking my husband’s love language when I did this job. Usually he stages an intervention in the fridge, pantry and car when things get out of control. Once upon a time I would put things back in the right spot but with 8 people in one busy household things kind of go everywhere and anywhere. But I pulled everything out of the pantry, grabbed some garbage bags, cleaned it out and got stuck into labelling all of my containers.

One afternoon later and the kids fighting over who was going to do the labels. It was great to be able to make your own for all the odd things you have in there like gluten free flour or quinoa or cupcake wrappers. And if you’re not into plastic containers they look great on jars too. I just love how the pantry looks and it brings back memories of going to cooking school where they had the same labels and everything super organised.

You get a lot of use out of one roll of tape and I did the whole pantry with one roll which was pretty good. The TZe laminated labels are sun, germ, water, chemical, abrasion and temperature resistant and that means you can use them anywhere inside or out and for any job that requires a label. Or as I’ve discovered any surface you want to make a label for.

I think the Brother Label maker makes a great gift and is an essential for any busy household. There are so many uses and the different coloured tapes make it fun and offer something for everyone. Who knew how addictive it would be? I really just thought I’d have one font and one kind of tape but am really impressed with how many options there are. I was given the PT-H105 and you can view the complete range of Brother Label makers here. And if you’re having trouble convincing someone that you need it just say you will organise the pantry from top to bottom if you get one………….I could be getting tapes in every colour if I keep up this organising!

And come back for my post next week where I tackle the craziest parts of my house – the craft room and linen cupboard. These really are the disaster areas of the house but I’m hopeful………

lovely lemon slice (gluten free)

Rainy days in the school holidays just call out for some baking. And when it comes to dessert and sweet treats I love anything with lemon. Sadly no lemons are ready to pick off our trees just yet so with 4 lemons from the supermarket and a pantry full of ingredients I wanted to make lemon slice.

This tastes so much like lemon meringue pie that I’ve made it twice and love it. We made it gluten free by using gluten free flour (that is a cup for cup substitute) but you can use plain flour instead without any problems.

This is a great recipe for your little egg crackers too! My little miss elodie loves to crack all of our eggs and has got it down pat. It’s also a great activity for counting the lemons and eggs. Ok we just love baking and using it to teach numbers and important skills:)

The hardest part will be leaving it to cool before you slice it but you can do it. I actually had a little corner then popped in the fridge to help it cool down so I could take a photo….and eat it as soon as I could!

lovely lemon slice (gluten free)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 12
What you'll need
  • BASE
  • 185g (3/4 Cup) raw sugar or caster sugar
  • 200g butter, cubed
  • 260g gluten free flour (about 2 scant cups) (we used white wings)
  • TOPPING
  • 275g raw or caster sugar (about 1½ cups)
  • 55g gluten free flour (about ¼ cup) (we used white wings)
  • 3-4 good sized lemons, juiced
  • 4 eggs
  • icing sugar to serve (make sure it's pure icing sugar if making gluten free)
Instructions
  1. Line a lamington tin with some baking paper. You could also use a small foil tray about the same size. I like lining with baking paper so I can lift the slice out when cool.
  2. If using your thermomix then place raw sugar in TM bowl and process speed 9 for 10 seconds. Set aside.
  3. Place butter in TM bowl and melt for 2 minutes, 100 degrees, speed 1. Add in flour and sugar and combine speed 4 for 20 seconds. Scrape down and process another 10 seconds.
  4. Tip into a lined lamington tin and press down with your fingers.
  5. Bake in a 180 C oven for about 20 minutes until lightly golden. Carefully remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. I just set my oven timer for 20 minutes and made the filling
  6. To make the filling juice the lemons. Make caster sugar by processing the raw sugar on speed 9 for 10 seconds. Add in lemon juice, eggs, flour and process 20 seconds speed 4 scraping down the bowl once in between.
  7. **When your base has cooled slightly pour the filling over the top and bake for about 20 minutes in a 175-180C oven until the top has a bit of a wobble and looks cooked right through.
  8. Leave to cool complelely, yes I know this will be difficult for some of us then slice, dust with icing sugar and enjoy.
  9. if you are making the old school way or without a thermomix then start with the base and melt your butter and stir in the flour and sugar and press into the lined lamington tin. For the topping combine all topping ingredients and follow from **.
  10. Enjoy! If you find the filling too sweet leave out a little sugar the next time. Some people prefer a really tart slice but I love sweet with just a hint of tartness.

 

Simplicity 1121 first dress for a new year

Happy New Year! We were  up early and hit the cinemas to see the new Charlie Brown, it was such a sweet movie and I think the 3 year old and adults loved it best but we all loved it. OK I might have been the most excited to see the movie. See if if you’re after something that the whole family can watch together. Not too long either and our little guy was yelling out ‘go charlie brown’ and killing himself laughing. It was just a gorgeous family movie.

Anyway I’m talking about this lovely dress that I made yesterday. The pattern is Simplicity 1121 and I had my eye on it for a while. An hour with just my big girl and the baby at Spotlight was a nice way to spend the morning of New Years Eve and we came home with some sewing supplies. My big girl chose the pattern and fabric herself.

She measured a 7 but we went up to an 8 because I like to get at least 2 summers out of it. The pattern instructions and construction of the dress were very straightforward. Thank goodness for that. I found them very clear and really like the way they attached the shoulder ruffle so that it was lovely and neat. Often I make vintage patterns and there is some hand stitching here or there or vague details on how to attach ruffles but this pattern was better. However you’ll want to have some experience reading patterns as a few details weren’t made obvious like making the other strap which required positioning of the ruffle on the other side of the strap. In fact I don’t think the pattern even tells you to make the other strap but obviously you will. And the straps are adjustable as they tie through the loop on the back so it’s a dress that can grow over seasons.

We bought enough fabric to make option c which is the long chevron dress on the pattern cover but we ended up doing option b without the lower ruffle to make it a bit more grown up for her.

The fabric was on sale so the total cost of the dress comes in about $20 and I’m happy with that. Now trying to get photos of this girl modelling are now hilarious as she wants to act the whole time.

Overall I think this is such a great pattern for both the little and big girls. It would suit a confident beginner who has done gathering stitches and can read a pattern and it’s not too complicated, no zippers or buttons or anything too fancy. The instructions really are step by step with good pictures alongside but I would say to make sure that your back before the elastic goes in matches up to the front finished bodice, mine didn’t and I’m still not sure what went wrong but on my 2nd dress I’m sure I’ll work it out. Make the elastic channel for the top elastic on the back just a teensy bit wider as mine was a tight squeeze and before you sew the elastic ends in measure on your child as I could have made the elastic a bit tighter. Oh and the little tab for the straps to go through was a teeny piece of fabric that I couldn’t pull through so I doubled the width, pressed in the ends and then folded on itself and sewed a seam. So much easier than mucking around trying to pull a narrow strip of fabric right side out. Trust me on that one.

And that’s the last bit of sewing for last year and a new dress for a new year. Now the girls are lining up patterns and their choice of fabric for some pjs and shorts so I think my night times will be at the machine!