Thursday, April 28, 2011

Death of the Slippers



My old slippers have died. I've been trying to hold them together for the past few months, hoping to get just a little bit more wear out of them. I got these when we first returned to NZ, so they've lasted me almost 2 years....if you don't count the 6 months where the soles have been slowly pulling away from the foot! They finally fell off completely last week. I have discovered that slippers simply aren't the same without a sole! What's the point of warm ankles if your feet are freezing!?



I'm now waiting (rather impatiently) for my new slippers to arrive. I'm getting some ugg boots...genuine sheepskin this time after frustration over sweaty, cold feet in these synthetic ones. I had sheepskin ones before these - they lasted around 10 years of almost daily use and I pretty much loved them to death! I am hoping that my new ones will have the same durability!


Now, any ideas on how I could re-purpose the soles of my old ones? It seems a waste to just throw them out but I'm stumped for what else they could be used for!


Amy


Thursday, 28th April, 2011

Munchkin's Mandarin's First Autumn



I was admiring Munchkin's mandarin recently and took a couple of photos to share with you. We've had it for probably around 8 months, and watched it bud and flower here. Now it has 2 mandarins on it, just starting to colour. It actually had heaps more but I removed most of them as the tree itself is still pretty little and we want it to grow strong enough to support a lot of fruit in future. It won't be able to do that if it is spending all its energy on fruit production this year! I love the shiny green of the newer leaves. And look who I found enjoying its branches! We've had an almost infestation of praying mantis lately. One has even laid her egg sack on our front door handle!




Amy

Thursday, 28th April, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Love Soup!



Soup weather! YAY! I just love soup!

Throw a whole lot of stuff in a pot, simmer, bang it in the blender, and wha-lah: meal in a bowl! Now that's my kind of meal. Easy, versatile, and healthy too!


I have made a few batches lately. I just love the ability of soup to take some boring old leftovers that I really don't feel inspired to eat, and turn it into something delicious, nutritious, and oh so satisfying for my 'waste-not' soul. Leftovers suddenly become inspiration. A recent soup started off with some leftover sauce from the previous night's dinner. The interesting thing is that the sauce wouldn't probably be your first thought for a soup base. It was juiced apple with cooked onion slices that had been used to cook some pork chops. Add a whole bunch of veges, a tin of baked beans, and it was just delicious!


Today's soup was inspired by a roasted pumpkin that needed to be used but didn't look quite good enough to make pumpkin soup. I teamed this one up with some leftover casserole sauce (the beef casseroles started to overflow their dishes and create havoc in my oven a few nights ago so I scooped the tomato based sauce into a pot and shoved it in the fridge till I could decide what to do with it all!). I added kumara, potato, carrot, and onion. Then a tin of borlotti beans, 1/4 of a cup each of red split lentils and pearl barley, and some silverbeet, thyme and parsley from the garden. A dash of sweet chilli sauce and some salt, an hour's cooking, a blend and we have just eaten yet another delicious soup!


I quite like blending vege soups like these. I find I can put a larger proportion of energy dense foods like beans, lentils and pearl barley, without feeling like I'm just eating beans and beans and beans (not really a fan of beans!). We get a really filling soup that is both good for us and tasty enough that we actually want to eat bowlfulls of it. Even Boyo (not a soup fan) will have soup and bread for dinner...especially if bribed with the promise of apple crumble for dessert!



Do you have a favourite soup, or favourite way of making it?



Amy



Wednesday, 27th April, 2011

Stocking up the Cupboards

We are special shoppers. I admit it freely. There is a certain pride in hunting down specials. But we are very careful to make sure the items on special are things we actually NEED. There's not much point being suckered into buying something that you aren't actually going to use. Plus of course these days you also need to take time and petrol costs into account - no point heading right across town to save 30c on a grocery item if it took you an hour and cost $2 of petrol! But within our usual haunts, special shopping works well for us!




We save quite a lot of money on our groceries by buying things on special. We can do this because we almost always have a little bit of extra cash available for just such occasions. Plus, as we live off last month's income (a habit of the past couple of years that has revolutionised our cashflow and my stress levels and one I cannot recommend highly enough!), we sometimes dip into next month's grocery money if we see a really good special on our regular buys ahead of time.





Weetbix is one such item. Usually around $6.00 a box, Boyo goes through 1 box every 11 days. That's 33.2 boxes a year according to the calculator! So if we can get it on special at $5 a box, we will save ourselves $33.2 a year. Not much, you say? Maybe not, but when you add that to all the other things we get on special, it all adds up. And, we fairly often get it cheaper. Today it was $4.50 a box. Sometimes we get it at $4 a box. Next time that special comes up, I plan on buying up large...Weetbix has a long expiry and as this has been Boyo's staple food for the past however many years, I don't think we are likely to end up with unused Weetbix on our hands anytime soon!







We recently got some beans on special (seen above stacked on a shelf in the pantry...ah, the garage!). They were $1.29 a tin. Usually a 'good' special is about $1.50 so I was keen to stock up. I've started using them regularly in soups, casseroles, and meat dishes. Good protein, and a lot cheaper than meat even when bought by the can. I used to buy dried beans and cook my own, but have found myself too busy lately so that's one task that was always getting missed out, and we weren't benefiting from having beans in our diet. So I've decided to compromise and buy tinned beans. They are still good for us, and still comparatively cheap. Our bean tin stock now consists of: borlotti beans, cannellini beans, chick peas, and 4 (or is it 5?) bean mix. Hopefully they will last us several months!





Are you a specials hunter? What's your favourite regular item to get on special? Some of our others include: Munchkin's formula, toilet paper, and juice...all items we use a lot of.






Amy




Wednesday, 27th April, 2011

Carrots Anyone?

Munchkin was a bit ratty recently while I was getting dinner ready. This is not to be unexpected. He happens to like eating. A lot. And dinner time is invariably late by his standards, especially now that his daddy is off at Polytechnic several afternoons a week. Some nights we give up and feed Munchy first and eat our dinner when he is in bed. But this certainly isn't first choice...we like to eat as a family, and I don't like waiting for my dinner any more than my boy does!





To keep the boy occupied recently while dinner was in the final cooking stages, I handed him a carrot. I thought he would just roll it around the floor. Yeah, silly Mummy. Munchkin knew exactly what that carrot was made for. He looked like a rabbit, gnawing away. And he was very happy waiting for his dinner. Here's the proof:








Amy





Wednesday, 27th April, 2011

Colours of the Rainbow

One of the things I love about knitting peggy squares is the different colour combinations that are available for each new square! I am so loving this 'random' blanket - each new square is like starting a whole new project, complete with its visual design and creative planning.



Here are a couple more recent projects!




I have been busy starting to crochet some rows together, now that I am over halfway through the knitting phase of the blanket. I find it amusing that I have tended to struggle with long term projects in other areas of my life, yet here I am, year after year, finishing a full blanket each year! I think it is that I don't need to find 3hours of free time in order to accomplish something. 10 minutes is enough for me to sense the satisfaction of progress made, because even if I've only done a few rows I can SEE that I've done a few more rows! Then when I finish a square, I get to tuck in all the ends and add it to the pile of collecting squares. Each stage is a milestone in itself. A row. A square. A pile of squares. Crocheting a row together. Then all the rows to each other. Crocheting round the edges. A finished blanket! Each part has a completion about it, that allows me to enjoy a sense of purpose and achievement, and that spurs me towards completing more.



Amy



Wednesday, 27th April, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Protecting the Furniture

Munchkin has decided he quite likes the round bed ends on our wooden queen bed. We quite like our bed. We got it second hand in Australia and liked it so much we brought it back with us...the only item of furniture that we shipped. We don't really want it to have chew marks all over it. So he gets told, repeatedly, "Not in your mouth!" I put my hand in the way. I pick him up and move him elsewhere. He returns. He can move quite quickly, so I turn around and there he is back at the bed end again, mouth wide open, happy gleam in his little eyes as he prepares to gnaw.

A recent experiment:





It failed! We have gone back to physical removal from the scene of the crime.



Amy

Tuesday, 19th April, 2011

A New Toy

Munchkin has been very happily playing with a new toy this past week.

This ball cost $3 from a local "$2 / dollar value" style store. You can even get ones twice as big, which I think would prove to be a load of fun for lying on, and rolling around!

They are great because of the spikey bits. The ball itself is quite soft, so while it has good bounce, it is also really easy for hands to grab and keep hold of. I rather like it myself, being a somewhat ball challenged person! Don't you just LOVE the colour!?!? And I don't usually go for yellow. Grin.


Munchkin loves balls. He loves anything that can be thrown that will roll or clang. He discovered recently that the kitchen floor (being lino) is much better for rolling things on than the lounge carpet, so he started crawling there, with a shaker or small ball in one hand. Once there, he would sit up, and throw his object onto the floor in order to watch it roll. Lots and lots of entertainment. This has been encouraged and extended by his mummy! I give him metal lids. He's tried cake tins (they proved a bit loud for both his and my comfort so we've tried them on the carpet instead). I put a ball into a small plastic container for him to try and get out. He rolls the onions around the floor. The variations are endless.


But he now has a new game. He stands in front of one of his toy cubes (they are wooden cubes, stacked 2 high, I think about 400mm each). He clears most of the toys out of it onto the floor. Then he gets a ball, or one of his shape shakers, or perhaps a metal lid, and drops it onto the cube. There is just enough slope that a ball will roll from the back of the cube to the front, and fall onto the floor, to be picked up and the process started all over again! Immense concentration. Great determination. Lots of rolling, dropping, and shunting. Very, very cute.


Amy


Tuesday, 19th April, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Quiet Evening

The brunt of my heavy study load has been completed and I have survived (again) to tell the tale! My group handed in our big assignment on Thursday night. Deep, collective sighs of relief. Doing a group assignment by distance learning sure does have its difficulties...fortunately they gave us a chat room to use on our online site, which meant we could sit and discuss how we wanted to do the unit planning 'live' with each other. Anyway, it is done. Handed in. Yay! We are now entering the first of two weeks of study break. Boyo has no classes. Neither do I. He has various assignments to complete though. I have one big one. That feels a little more managable. I have a much lighter study load for the rest of the semester, and I am hoping that it will help me feel a little less crazy and a little more calm about my life.



I have had to reprimand myself a little today though. It is our sponsored girls' birthdays in May. And I had yet to get to organising them a gift or card (we send a monetary gift through Tear Fund/Compassion which a local worker helps the child/family choose a gift with). You have to allow at least a month in postage time, sometimes it can take up to 3. I kept telling myself that I "just don't have time for it right now." Which was kind of true. Assignments do take priority. But with that finished, there's nothing really holding me back. I thought about watching a movie on tv tonight. Both I had seen before, and in all honesty probably didn't need to see the first time so definitely won't miss too much by not giving them a second viewing! Tv is very alluring in the evenings, particularly after I've studied as it helps me to wind down so I do actually go to sleep when I head to bed. But it is such a dead zone. I mean, not a single useful thing gets accomplished. Oh, except a few rows of knitting while I try to avoid watching any ads. Grin.


So tonight I decided to can the tv. Instead, I have been creative. It is a rather satisfying feeling to know that in one evening I have made 2 posters, one for each of our birthday girls. I find that it is oh, so easy to procrastinate on anything related to our sponsored kids. It is so much easier to just let the automatic payment go out each month and for the most part forget about their existence. I frequently find myself saying "I don't know what to write" or "I don't have time to write" but have realised that often this is just an excuse. Let's call it what it is: lfrequently laziness, poor time management perhaps, maybe a dose of tiredness and lethargy thrown in for good measure. But when push comes to shove I probably do have time in my life for all the things I consider to be REALLY important. Or I can make time somehow. By watching less tv, for instance!


I decided to send the kids posters recently when I was thinking about how to treat them more as a part of our family. Posters like these were a bit of an informal family tradition when I was growing up, so seemed a logical thing to do, as well as providing a big splash of colour and life for the birthday kid! Here's my artwork from this evening: It took me the grand total of 1hr and 1ominutes from deciding to pull out the paper and crayons, to having put them away again afterwards. And I must say that it was an incredibly relaxing time...brush stroke after brush stroke, just me and my thoughts, crayon in hand, the paper in front of me.




From this: nice easy writing to do!




To this: Mariam is turning 9 this year. I used words in her own language from the pictures she sends us (I think there is something so special about using a person's own language).



And this is for Shipra: She is turning 18!!! I have sponsored her for at least 8 years now. You can see the inspiration for the picture in the background - a recent gift from my wonderful man.



Amy


Sunday, 17th April, 2011





Swear Words

I bet you are wondering what on earth I have to say about swear words. As well you might. If you know me personally, you would know that I do not swear. Okay, so I do say 'crap.' But that's about as graphic as it gets. I grew up in a home that didn't use swear words, and was taught that there's always a much more descriptive, better word you could use to express your feelings than a swear word. I have sworn a couple of times in the past 18 months. Once at some pasta spaghetti that just would not stay in the collander. It insisted on spilling over into the sink while I was trying to rinse it. Not a big deal, really. Yeah, except when you have a newborn baby, are getting an average of 5 hours sleep in every 24, are studying full time, and are just a bit beyond anything rational. The spaghetti got the brunt of my anger, because it was safer than exploding at anything else and it just happened to be the 'straw that broke the camel's back' as the saying goes. And as I did not really feel any better for it, swearing has remained something I don't generally do. So why talk about swearing? Well, my son was this week. He's not quite 11 months old, so a little young to be heading down that route. I said to him, "Munchkin, please stop using my name as a swear word!" He had been standing at the gate to our conservatory, saying "Mum, mum, mum, mum, mum!" Or rather, whinning, "Mum, mum, mum, mum, mum!" Why is it that Daddy gets the "Dada!" said with ecstasy and delight each morning, and I get the whinging, whining, moaning, and complaining? The only time he says my name is when he wants something. Grrr. Motherhood is so over rated. Or is that under rated? The pay is appaling at any rate. So honestly, it sounded just a little bit too much like swearing to me. You know, that mumbling under your breath when things don't go right kind of swearing. I am looking forward to the day when Munchkin decides to use my name as a happy word, rather than a complaining one. In the meantime, I will endeavour to instil in him the fact that there are plenty of words in the English language that can be used to describe feelings of tiredness, grumpiness, impatience, boredom, or otherwise, so he really can use something other than "Mum!" Amy Sunday, 17th April, 2011

Pocket Money

After a recent chat with some friends about pocket money for kids (or allowances, or whatever you prefer to call them), I found myself thinking about it again, and wondering what we will do with Munchkin. I never really had pocket money as a kid...there wasn't a great deal spare to go around so that was one thing we just didn't regularly have.
Someone I know gives their kid (about 10-11yrs old) $5 each week. It doesn't seem like much, especially as part of the deal in that particular situation is that the child has to give 10% (50c) and save 50% ($2.50) which doesn't leave them much left to spend. In today's society, $2 can disappear awfully fast!



Then I stopped and realised that this child receives almost as much pocket money a week as I do! I am 29 years old, and get $25 a month. Yup. $25 a month (which is about $6-7 a week). That's all mine. I can do whatever I want with it. The rest of our budget is not for me to do whatever I want with...not even any spare change from the groceries or parking meter money. We are living pretty tight, so this is kind of how it has to be. But in saying that, we instigated pocket money about 5 years ago. It is very useful. It helps keep you accountable in other areas - leaving more money for family goals and needs, as you fulfill your own wants with your own allowance. Anita Bell suggests a Sanity Allowance in her books about housing (How to Pay off a Mortgage in 5 Years by Someone Who Did it in 3). In her suggestion, each person buys clothes, personal food, birthday presents, etc out of it - basically anything not a fixed bill. We run our budget a bit differently. Things like birthdays and clothing are a budgeted expense. Personal items like shampoo or deodorant come out of grocery money. So our pocket money is really just for splurging on personal desires. When we first did it, I had MILE long list of things I just HAD to have. Over time, the pull of that list has diminished. I am learning to live in contentment with much less than I ever used to think I could. It is a long journey, and one I am sure is not over yet. Sometimes I wonder what the point is. Why can't I have, or at least want, more? But I realise that in order to do some of the things I feel God has made me for, I am going to need to show good stewardship. Having less 'stuff' also frees me to focus on other things - instead of cleaning all my knick-nacks, I can be spending time with a friend, or knitting another peggy square for orphans, or being outside getting some much needed exercise and being refreshed by the outdoors.

We really like having our own allowance each. It gives just a little bit of freedom to be frivolous. Not very frivolous, mind you, but enough to help ward off the constant 'I wants' of modern society. I must admit that when we were earning well in our last year before returning from North QLD to NZ, we did increase our pocket money to $50 each a month. Bliss. It would be nice to have enough to buy 1 cd or 1 average priced book a month (i.e. $35 a month) but I can't see that happening anytime soon. Grin. In the meantime, I am at present very happily squirrelling my pocket money away to build a chook cage. It will take 6 month, and I'm maybe almost halfway there.

Back to pocket money for kids. $5 a week doesn't sound so bad to me now that I realised I don't get much more than that. I really like the ideas that Eilleen at Consumption Rebellion has regarding pocket money. Her kids have to show that they understand what money is and how to manage it (like counting 1s, 5s, and 10s and having a longerterm savings goal). I imagine we might do something similar to this, once Munchkin is older. He will be expected to do household chores just because he is part of the family, although I imagine his dad will probably come up with a few 'extras' he can do to earn more cash (like washing the car - might mean it gets done more than biannually!).


Did you/do you give your kids or yourself pocket money? What are the benefits, do you think?


Amy

Sunday, 17th April, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Autumn


I have just been cutting up fallen apples...a job intended for last Thursday when I brought them home from the Big Garden. They have been sitting in a bucket on the bench, rotting, since then. Gross. But I did at least still get to use some of them, despite the belated attention.


As I cut apples, I realised that I like autumn. Now this is a bit of a revelation because I have always preferred spring. Cute little lambs, daffodils, a hint of warmth creeping into the sun air (can you tell I feel the cold?!). Spring has always been my favourite season. But today I realise that I like autumn. I like how the air is getting cooler at night, and it is so nice to go walking during the day without expiring from heat exposure. The air is cool, but the sun is still oh, so nice and warm. Mostly though, I think my new-found love of autumn is to do with food. You see, in spring the garden is barely getting started. I have punnets upon punnets on our warm window sill, with tomatoes and capsicums poking their heads through the soil. But out in the garden, there's hardly anything to eat. Food takes time. That's one thing I'm learning. While I am ready to eat tomatoes in September, in reality they take until January to be ready (unless you're using a heated glasshouse). Our capsicums have only really come into their own at the end of March! There's also hardly any fruit around in spring. A few oranges and mandarins left over from autumn. You're still waiting for the first spring strawberries. Autumn, on the other hand, is a season of abundance! This is why I love autumn. There is fruit galore. Vegetables are still fairly plentiful too. Our climbing bean plant has just finished its summer-long production marathon and will be pulled out this week. There are heaps of pumpkins for soup and still greens for salads. We are eating the very last of the grapes and raspberries. The apples might last a couple more weeks, but the feijoas are only just starting. I can so understand why in times gone by late summer and early autumn would be spent canning, bottling and storing the summer's bounty in the cellar! It is a great time of year!


Amy


Tuesday, 12th April, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mealtimes

Munchkin has started choosing food for himself! He currently gets presented with a plastic plate, which he can eat from in his highchair. Because he loves eating so much, this works really well...the plate usually manages to stay in an upright position on the highchair tray with the food on top(with a Mummy intervention or two). He loves being able to choose what to eat and how to eat it. It is rather interesting to note that he currently eats like his Daddy. He picks one food, and eats all of that, before moving on to the next one (Mummy, on the other hand, is a grazer - eating a bit of that then a bit of this all in a rather more random manner!).



Here are some recent Munchy samplings:






Amy


Monday, 11th April, 2011


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rearranging

I have been feeling a little frustrated lately. I think it might be to do with being so tired, all the time. The study/baby/work juggle seems a little beyond me, still recovering from my second cold in as many months (or has it been less months than colds?!). We want to get Munchkin a table and chairs for his birthday, which is in a couple of months. Only we don't have anywhere to put it. So we've been considering other gift ideas instead. We need to get him more nappies as he's outgrown another set (this is not a birthday present, this is just something else he needs - note to self: tall kids cost a lot more to feed and clothe than the average!) and there's bootees and another set of onesie bummsies to get still too...and no $$ with which to get them. I get a bit frustrated when I can't 'find' money from somewhere for things like this. So what did I do? I tried rearranging the furniture this week. As I wrote to my sister-in-law:"...looked at a desk going into our bedroom for Andrew to study while Michael is up...yeah, that won't work without us having to climb over it to get into bed! So then I tried rearranging the lounge furniture just because I'm bored with it. Took photos. Will put it back how it was again today because I don't like it enough! Silly narrow living area. Silly big furniture. Silly students with desks and a baby! Grin...I've had to give up for now..." I have also managed to consume half a block of Whittakers Caramel Milk Chocolate in the past 2 days. Not a great idea. It did taste nice. I could totally go for some more now, but as I can't eat chocolate anytime after about 3pm without being wired all night, I am refraining. The thing is that I KNOW that it doesn't make me feel better. I just always hope it will! And figure that if I'm going to feel miserable and/or frustrated, it may as well be with a bit of chocolate romancing my taste buds. I think I am just feeling frustrated over all with our lives. With the monotony of it, and the dreariness of struggling to pay bills and clothe ourselves (Boyo needs shoes, I need slippers, and then there are those jolly nappies again!). I keep forgetting that the reason I can't just wander off and live some of my big-time dreams is because I am in fact living some! I wanted a child really badly. I have a gorgeous son! I wanted to do something as a career, that I felt passionate about and am gifted at, and here I am studying an Early Years teaching degree and really enjoying it. I have to remind myself that life is about seasons, and we simply can't experience them all at once. It would be too confusing! So because I am experiencing these two major dreams, many of the others are on hold for now...they will come at a later season. A snipet from this morning's sermon at church made me want to plug my ears and hum ("hmmm, I can't hear you, I can't hear you, not listening, hmmm..."). It was: "There is no easy road to the Promised Land." The context was referring to Caleb's life and how long he held onto a dream and waited with passion while almost everyone else around him doubted its possibility...and he did get to live his dream, but he had to go through desert and waiting first. No magic carpet. No pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Just hard work, and trusting, and continuing to walk one step at a time in the right direction. Not exactly inspiring when you're tired and worn out. But true. I look at many of the things I want to do in life, and I know that my life will be so much more relevant and useable for having gone through hard times like now. But that still doesn't mean I don't hope for a way of escape! I think today God was reminding me that there might not be one, and that might be okay. I can hold onto the dreams. They aren't going anywhere unless I let them. Amy Sunday, 10th April, 2011

Peace and Quiet

"Peace!" said Daddy, "Peace!" said Mummy. "Milk!" said Munchkin. This miniature poem was written last night, as Munchkin happily guzzled his evening milk. After a day fraught with grizzling, whinning, and outright tears, it was a blessed moment of peace and quiet. Our boy is always on the go and the past week has been somewhat harrowing due to yet another cold doing the family round. I think I might have the makings of a good picture book, don't you?! Amy Sunday, 10th April, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Taking a Moment

I love watching the sun set or rise. The colours are amazing! I must admit to being rather preoccupied with other things most of the time though, and usually my 'viewing the sunset' these days equates to a brief glimpse out one window or other, and a "Wow, that is gorgeous, Lord!" before I carry on tidying up, studying, or other urgent matters. I am trying to remind myself that I really do have a couple of minutes available to linger and refresh my eyes and my soul. There's something particularly special about the early evening for me. I think it has to do with this exhaling of breath, as if the day is almost done and I can start to relax. I love the song of the thrush and blackbird in the dusk, and the way cool or crisp slowly creeps into the evening air. Here is a recent glimpse of sunset from our house (photo taken by Boyo). Don't you just love the oranges?! I honestly don't think anything we can make as humans rivals the incredible world around us. It is beauty: inescapable, indescribable and yet so easily overlooked in our busy lives. Amy Saturday, 9th April, 2011