“Dame Wash Alot.” Or rather, damn! I wash a lot…

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After seeing a post today by Be A Fun Mum and a recent post about washing by Barbara Good from The New Good Life, I thought I’d share how I tackle the never ending piles.
Pictured, is my indoor washing line. It doesn’t matter what season it is here in Victoria, there’s pretty much always a chance of rain. My dirty little boys can go through two to three changes of clothes a day easily, so with all those ‘little people clothes’ I often run out of pegs outside on the washing line. Thus, the overflow goes on here, a sturdy, tidy clothes rack with ample room, that doesn’t collapse like some of the other crappy wire/metal ones you can buy.
In addition to this, sometimes it can be 11pm before I get a chance to hang washing out so this way it’s easy to hang inside before I go to bed and is often dry by morning. It was originally one large playpen which was awesome for about 6 months but quickly out grown. This has given it another life – sideways. The beauty of this system is that I have room for a basket for each family member beneath so I can sort and fold straight into the baskets (with their names written on them!) That way, even if I haven’t put it away yet they know exactly where to find their clothes without having to rake through a big pile. In the photo, they are in the dining room-come playroom, but they are very light weight so I move them around the house to wherever I feel they are most out of the way at the time. The other thing that I love about my indoor washing line is that through winter we are running the heater anyway, so we might as well take advantage of this, killing two birds with one stone (awful expression!) instead of running the clothes dryer as well.
Another system I have which I think helps a lot is that I wash our clothes separately so they are easy to sort. The kids have a dirty clothes basket so I wash theirs together, my husband has two – one for his filthy work clothes and one for his casual clothes and I do mine separately. There is another basket in the bathroom for towels and linen. If I’m honest I pretty much always dry these in the clothes dryer. I don’t really use it for much else as its so expensive but towels come off the line like cardboard otherwise. (I’m not into chemical softeners.)
Finally, I don’t iron. Not one thing. I don’t even have an ironing board. I think there is an iron in a cupboard somewhere that a guest once bought to iron her shirt for a job interview. Honestly, life is too short and I am too busy. I spent my childhood watching my mother loathe her piles of ironing and while granted, thanks to her hard work, we always looked immaculate, I don’t want to spend 1/4 of my life ironing. Im not going to get to my death bed and think “gee, I wish I’d ironed that shirt in 2005.” Maybe when the kids start school next year I might do school uniforms but even then, with boys pants and polo shirts, I think I could get away with drying them on hangers. A lot of fabrics these days don’t crease badly anyway unless you’re wearing 100% cotton.
So there you go. That’s how I tackle the endless, thankless chore of washing! Well, me and a gigantic 10kg washing top loading machine.
Feel free to comment with your tips!

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Toy Storage

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I was just having a read of Barbara’s blog over at the new good life and she was talking about de-cluttering and the never ending battle against kids toys taking over our living areas.
Thought I’d post a few pics of some of my storage solutions.
That unit pictured with the shelving and wire drawers is brilliant for toys. I originally purchased it for the laundry but found the drawers weren’t big enough to be very practical for sorting our mountains of washing. For toys however, it’s ideal. It tucks away neatly in a corner. I can categorise types of toys in each drawer eg: cars in one, musical instruments in another, action figures in a third, puzzles in the fourth. And because the baskets are wire and the shelves open, the kids can easily see what they’re looking for without tearing 5 million toys apart as they do when they are all in a toy box.
Lego is a whole new world for us since my son’s 5th birthday a few weeks ago so at the moment we are working from an upturned kids’ play table. It keeps it contained and I can easily move it from the floor to the dining room table depending on where the kids are playing but long term I’m working on a better solution. Stay tuned!
And of course, every little boy needs a weapons chest yes?? Sigh… I quickly came to the realisation that boys will turn anything they can get their hands on into a gun or a sword so I’d rather it be something made of plastic than – my curtain rods for example. Or my now ruined rolls of wrapping paper. Or their father’s guitar, an attachment for the pram, a hobby horse, a broom… You get the idea.

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The formula tins pictured contain sorted small toys like army men, smurfs, animals, marbles and other bits and pieces. The empty baby wipes box holds about 50,000 matchbox cars. The shelf of books is the spillover from another matching bookcase full of children’s books.
I’d like to say this is where their toys begin and end but there is still a big plastic bucket tucked under the coffee table and 3 tubs of craft supplies in a cupboard. Plus other things like board games hiding away in any nook and cranny I can find!
How do you store your kids toys? Are you winning the war?
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Slow Cooked Porridge – with apple, cinnamon and honey

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The Best Winter Breakfast. EVER!
This morning we woke to the most delicious aroma of cinnamon and apple wafting through the house. If you ever needed a reason to get out of bed on a chilly morning, this is it!
J5 declared “yummy!” And R2 took one look at his bowl and said, “don’t like porridge.” Which is typical, but I managed to dot a small amount on the bottom of his lip from the spoon and watched his scowl turn into a smile declaring, “I do like porridge!”
Bowls were licked clean and with basically no effort at all, little bellies were sent off to kinder warm and content.

*Note: as this this breakfast cooks itself over night, it will only work if you’re a bit of a night owl like me as it will be ready in 6-7 hours. I put it on before bed at 11.30pm and it is ready to eat when we get up at 6.30am.

SLOW COOKED PORRIDGE with apple, cinnamon and honey
Serves 4

1. 2 cups of rolled oats
2. 2 chopped apples – I used red delicious as that’s what I had but any variety will work fine.
3. 2 tablespoons honey
4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
5. 4 cups of water

Combine in your slow cooker/crock pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours.
Dish into bowls and let stand for a couple of minutes while it cools and thickens a little.
Serve as is or with milk, extra honey, chopped almonds, fresh grated apple… Etc
Enjoy the goodness 🙂

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Morning Madness Made Over – Create an ACTION STATION!

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Tonight, the winter holidays and our family break comes to an end and we will be back to a frosty reality tomorrow morning. Hubby has had three weeks off work and being cold and wintery, we haven’t done a lot, but rather simply enjoyed spending time at home together. We celebrated our little one’s 5th birthday and caught up with my sisters’ family, down from Sydney for the school holidays and spent a weekend with C’s family. Other than that though, we’ve just relaxed and enjoyed slowing down a bit. The kids stuck to their father like glue which was in some ways a bit sad for me. My babies are now little boys learning how to be men and not very interested in hanging out with mum when dad’s around. (Especially as he was a bit of a novelty I suppose.) On the other hand, it was so lovely to get a break, sleeping in and spending some time on my own for a change.
Tomorrow morning however, the madness of getting the kids fed, dressed and out the door for an 8.30am kinder start, begins again.
In fact, term three starts for most kids tomorrow so I thought I would share my secret weapon: our “Action Station.” (Pictured above)
Each family member has a box on the top row for their bag, hat, and scarf and below it, a box for their shoes. My DIY key hooks mean never doing the mad key hunt and the silver bowl holds bits and pieces like phones, wallets and sunglasses. Having everything in one central spot is an easy way for me to pack everyones’ bags and lunches and the kids know exactly wear to find their boots and hats etc… To get themselves organized quickly.
The storage cubes were just cheap from Aldi, the frames for the keys were from target, and the hooks and wooden letters were from Bunnings.
I also lay the kids clothes out on the couch, make lunches the night before and put breakfast stuff out on the bench so everything is ready to go without requiring too much thinking.
And that’s how I make our mornings manageable, how about you? Would love to hear your tips and tricks!

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Making Over Mornings – one jar at a time.

I’ve written before how terrible I am at functioning in the mornings. My little ones however, suffer no such struggles and demand instant full bellies upon waking.
So as well as a recent commitment to earlier nights, I’ve been revolutionising our breakfast, one jar at a time, with smoothies and breakfast parfaits, but why stop there?

I give you, scrambled eggs… In a jar.

Now, I realise this is not rocket science. There is nothing complicated about scrambling eggs, but as a “non morning” person, when I’m half asleep, eggs just feel like mess and mucking around. So I took those two very things out…
Now honestly, you could do this with your eyes shut!

SCRAMBLED EGGS IN A JAR

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Here’s How

Before you go to bed at night, crack some beautiful, organic, pastured eggs into a jar.
Add a splash of milk. (or not, if milk is not your thing)
Add a couple of cracks of Pink Himalayan or celtic sea salt and black pepper.
Put the lid on the jar and place in the fridge.
Put a fry pan on the stove and your butter dish (or coconut/olive oil) beside it.
Place 3 bowls and 3 forks on the table.
Go to bed and sleep soundly in the knowledge that your morning will be easy 🙂

In the morning:

Heat pan, melt butter or oil, shake eggs in jar until well combined.
Pour eggs into hot pan. Push them around only a little.
When they begin to scramble, reduce heat to low.
When set, scoop into bowls and feed your hungry monkeys!

Note: You could always dice up some capsicum, spring onions, mushrooms, bacon etc… as well to add to the scramble, but I’d put this in a separate jar and fry it off a little on its own before adding the egg.

Enjoy 🙂

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Beautiful Bone Broth

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Dear lovely Vegan friends, look away now.

I’ve been making my own nourishing, flavour packed stock for about a year now and as well as being so good for us, it adds such a depth of flavour to so many meals. Well, actually, I’ve recently learned that what I’ve been making is in fact broth not stock. The difference apparently being that meat stock is the product of slow cooking pieces of meat (such as a whole chicken) in water flavoured with some veggies, herbs, salt and pepper, while bone broth is as it sounds, a flavoursome broth made from roasted bones, slow cooked in water, also flavoured by veggies, herbs, salt and pepper.
Both are delicious and full of healthful gut healing and immune boosting properties. As the meat or bones are cooked, their nutrients are slowly released into the water – vitamins (particularly the B vitamins) amino acids, nourishing fats and minerals. Meats cooked in water are a good choice for people with digestive issues as they are easier to digest than roasted, grilled etc…
This is hardly a new concept or surprising info. What’s the first thing people crave when they are sick? A comforting bowl of soup. One of the oldest, most popular home remedies for healing all ailments and ills, is a hearty chicken soup.
For more information about the healing benefits of Broth/stock I highly recommend checking out “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” (GAPS) by Dr Natasha Campbell-Mcbride.
Now, lets get down to business and make some broth!
I should add, for the record, that making broth/stock is so easy (especially if you have a slow cooker) and costs basically nothing. You’ll wonder why you ever bothered with cubes and cartons.

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YOU WILL NEED

* 2 carrots, halved

* an onion, quartered

* 1-2 celery sticks, halved

* any other vegetable scraps you have or those that are looking tired in your crisper.

Note: Throughout the week as I cook, I collect things like celery tops, broccoli and cauliflower stalks, kale and silver beet stalks and stems and store either in the fridge or freezer to add to the stock.

* 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

* 1 teaspoon good quality salt (pink Himalayan or Murray river if in Australia)

* 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

* 2-3 bay leaves

* 1 tbsp mixed dried herbs

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* And most importantly, BONES!

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It is important that your bones come from healthy free range animals – apart from the obvious ethical issues – you’re not going to get a lot of nutrition from a malnourished factory famed animal.
Until recently, most of my stock was made from chicken (bones) as it was the easiest free range animal to source locally. Drumsticks in particular are always a hit with my kids. They’re cheap, easy to cook and the meat falls easily away from the bone. When I’m making stock, I usually request that the meat is cut away from the bone rather than chewed and sucked dry! Mind you, after being re-roasted at a high temp in the oven and then slow cooked for 24 hours, I’m pretty sure that any bacteria from our eating would be well and truly killed.
Recently, good old social media put me back in touch with an old school friend who shares similar concerns and ideas around food and nutrition. She put me onto a local farm who deliver to my door, delicious bulk orders of beef and lamb from ethically farmed, grass fed animals. Check out http://www.braelandsbeef.com I also received a huge box of bones with my order for free. Some went to the dogs of friends and families, some into the freezer for a later date and some straight into the oven to roast for what would be the richest, darkest, best broth I’ve ever made!

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HERE’S HOW

* Roast bones (in a couple of knobs of butter, coconut oil etc…) at 200 dc (390 F) for about 30 mins or until nicely browned

* place all other ingredients in the slow cooker (crockpot)

* add your roasted bones

* fill with water, making sure all ingredients are well covered

* for chicken bones – cook for 12-24 hours
* for larger beef or lamb bones – cook for 24-72 hours.

Note: The finished broth pictured (from beef bones) was cooked for 40 hours.
You may need to top the water up once or twice during cooking.

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* When the broth has finished cooking, remove all ingredients from pot with a slotted spoon and discard.

* Ladle the liquid through a strainer (sieve) into a jug and pour into clean glass jars.

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* fill the jars leaving about an inch from the top. (This is important as the liquid may expand while freezing and if too full, cause your jar to break.)

* store in the freezer for a least 3 months but probably a lot longer. Mine is always used by then!

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Enjoy the goodness 🙂

Getting the good stuff in. Ren’s top 5 tips…

A friend popped in briefly today and said “your recipes and posts look amazing! I feel like such a bad mum ’cause I think, yeah I should do that – and then I go, oh, who’s got time for that? Here kids, have a vegemite sandwich!”
Well, I reminded her firstly that little R will not and never has eaten sandwiches. Anything bread like for that matter. He turns his face away in disgust like I’m trying to feed him poison. (Does he know more than we do?) He used to occasionally munch on a bit of toast when he was very small but only really to suck the butter off. So sandwiches were never an option for me with him. J, 4yrs, loves sandwiches but depending on the bread, they don’t always love him. Although generally more expensive, I’ve found spelt or kamut flour breads or mountain bread wraps are the best option on the digestive front with no hidden nasties. (My local food works supermarket has a great range called “Ancient Grains.”) Or of course, you can bake your own.
The other factor to note is that with two busy boys, my house looks like a bomb has hit it most days. I’m busy failing in all sorts of other areas too! Different people, different priorities 🙂
But she’s not the first frazzled mum to ask me “how?” or “when?” so these are my top 5 tips for getting the good stuff into you and your family:

1. Keep a container of veggie sticks in the fridge (carrot, capsicums, cucumber, celery, fresh green beans)

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Chop up enough to last the week on a Sunday night while you’re watching 60 minutes and then when you or your munchkins are sniffing around for a snack, plop them on a plate with some dip and some plain rice crackers if you need to ease them into the veggie idea. (the Sakata ones are the only brand not covered in artificial junk) The dip pictured above is my ‘best of a bad bunch choice’ for when I haven’t made my own, as its list of ingredients is actually recognisable foods and it’s preservative free. Making your own dips however, is a much better option. (I will post some recipes soon but in the meantime, feel free to share your favourites with the rest of us!)

2. Make veggie soup.

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Now, you’ve already got a whole lot of veggies out that you’ve been busy chopping up for snacks, so why not roughly chop some more and throw them in the slow cooker with a diced onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, some dried herbs, a tin of tomatoes (try to find a brand that don’t line their cans with BPA. Alternatively, use a jar/bottle of passata.) and a litre or three of nourishing homemade stock. (Depending on how many veggies you’ve cut up.) Cook on low overnight and ladle into jars in the morning. (It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or for at least 3 months in the freezer. Then simply heat and serve for an easy winter lunch or snack. If your kids won’t eat it chunky like this, purée in the blender first and give it to them in a mug. I like to serve this with something protein based to keep them full. For example: hard boiled eggs, some leftover meat from dinner the night before or J’s favourite: a ham roll up – a slice of Istra Ham (ethically farmed, preservative free) rolled up in a slice of buttered mountain bread.

3. If dinner includes bones, make stock

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Check out my post here about how to create a rich, nourishing homemade broth/stock.

4.Keep your juicer/blender on the bench otherwise you’ll never use them. And pre-prepare fruit and veggies

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These days I buy two bags of delicious oranges a week -in season, fresh, juicy and perfect for boosting your vitamin C during winter. One bag i keep for whole fruit snacks and one to peel and store in the fridge for juice/smoothies. (It’s the hospitality training in me!) Celery is a pain to store in the fridge anyway so before you put it away with your groceries, rinse it and chop lengths into halves. Bananas going brown? Peel them, slice and freeze for smoothies and ice cream. You get the idea.

5. Always make more than you need

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I always make our smoothies the night before when the kids are in bed and sanity is returning. When little people aren’t pestering you, EVERYTHING is easier to prepare. And I ALWAYS make enough for two days unless it is quite acidic. (With lemons/oranges)
The https://renlikesred.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/breakfast-moothie/ keeps really well for two days but no longer. Always make double batches of casseroles, stews and soups, roast extra veggies for lunch the next day, cook extra chicken drumsticks to shred for tomorrow etc… And make sure you use everything up!

So there you have it, these are some of the ways I try to stay as organised as possible so I always have something nourishing to feed my hungry little monsters.
Would love to hear some of your tips!