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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Spider-Man Cake And A House Full Of Five Year Olds

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My great big five year old celebrated his birthday last weekend and requested a spider man cake. I wasn’t sure if I could pull off a convincing additive- free version but the Hoppers natural food colours that I bought from Healthy Angels were really vibrant and looked great. I added a little yellow to the red to brighten it and used an entire bottle of blue! Piping the dark chocolate for the spider web was tricky for a decorating novice as it set quickly making it quite unforgiving but I was pleased with the overall outcome. I used this simple chocolate cake recipe and bought the Spider-Man chocolate moulds off eBay. J5 loved it and it seemed to impress the 18 little boys and 2 little girls that filled our house wall to wall! They were so well behaved though – simple foods make a huge difference – sausages, plain chips, fairy bread with real butter and natural sprinkles, yummy earth natural lollipops, honey joys etc…
There was no shortage of sugar but a noticeable absence of artificial foods, rashes and emotional melt downs!
The kids engaged in some fun party activities – decorating their own superhero masks, (I bought plain cardboard ones from a local cheap shop) playing “pin the Spider-Man on the web,” and of course, pass the parcel. The weather was cold, windy, rainy – everything you wouldn’t wish for, but kids being kids they still happily rugged up and played outside on the trampoline and in the cubby.
In all, it was an exhausting but really wonderful day making memories.

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Sunflower

It’s so c.c.c cold here in Victoria today. A perfect day for staying indoors, under a blanket and drawing. I really miss making art but with little kids in the house it’s hard to find space and time to set up materials anywhere. So when I discovered this free kids drawing app the other day, called “colouring book” it fired up a little creative spark. The app itself is very basic dot to dot drawing to create the outlines of trucks, cars and trains etc… But I got a bit carried away and started drawing over the top of the vehicles. A simple activity but really satisfying. Would love to reproduce the sunflower on a really large scale with paint or pastels.

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Banana Bickies

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I’ve been home sick with the kids for a week which is utterly exhausting. It’s not their fault however and I cant just put movie after movie on and hope for the best – especially when the weather is as sublime as it is here today in Melbourne. So I’ve been working hard on keeping them busy and engaged in household chores. It’s surprising sometimes, how willing kids can be to help. Especially when the tasks are more interesting than picking up toys off the floor.
Little jobs like helping with the washing is exciting for them. Pulling all the washed clothes out of the machine and into the basket, pressing buttons and turning it on, opening and closing the soap compartment etc… Passing pegs and clothes while I hang or at least having a play in the backyard until I’m finished out there.
Making the beds, unpacking the dish washer, setting the table… All tasks a 2 and 4 year old are happy to engage with.
The best one however, is cooking and baking.
It’s so easy to get them involved in this with jobs as simple as getting out the equipment and ingredients etc… To mixing, rolling, adding things in.
The best part of course, is licking the bowl/spoon. But it’s also such a relief for mum, when everyone is happy to sit down for afternoon tea and relax for 5 minutes while eating home made bickies!
Plus- lunch boxes are sorted for the week!
Today we finally got around to experimenting with Sonia’s recipe for 2 ingredient biscuits. If you’ve not visited Natural New Age Mum before, head on over – she has lots of yummy recipes and great ideas.
I added a bit of this and that to them, making it up as I went and my goodness… Yummy!!! But quite a few more than two ingredients! Still very simple and delicious. And healthy enough that I wouldn’t mind if the kids snuck them at breakfast time!
Here is what we did…

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BANANA BICKIES
(Makes approx 20)

3 small ripe bananas, fork mashed
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
approx 1 heaped tbsp melted vegan butter
1/4 cup rice malt syrup (you could use a couple of tbsp honey instead)

Combine all in a bowl in the above order.
Spoon small blobs onto a baking tray, flatten slightly and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven on 180 degrees C (350 F)
Biscuits will be golden brown and deeelicious!!
Cool slightly and enjoy 🙂

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Summer In The Garden

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Summer… Days and nights on end of intense heat, strong winds and not a drop of rain in sight. Last weekend, terrifying bush fires raged close by and much of the landscape driving into town has been completely blackened. Fortunately no lives were lost but properties and homes were destroyed and many local animals suffered and are now displaced.
It was the closest I’ve ever come to the threat of bush fires and despite being in quite a built up neighbourhood, we are surrounded by a lot of grass lands and paddocks and bone dry rolling hills. It certainly made me rethink the need for a fire plan and we packed our things and headed to my parents place, nearby but out of the apparent danger zone. Better to be safe than sorry! The sky has been thick with smoke all week which is a heavy reminder of what has happened nearby and of the fires still continuing to burn.
Despite the harsh weather conditions, my garden has held up quite well but it has required a fair amount of watering. The cherry tomatoes got a little battered by the winds but are still producing plenty of fruit so that’s good.
Cucumbers and zucchinis are coming by the dozen – at least 3 a day of each! We’ll be turning green soon! We have been giving a lot to friends, family and neighbours but still have bucket loads.
Beans and leafy greens are flourishing and I dug up the first of a few good potatoes last night.

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Lots of good things still to come though…
Sweet corn almost ready for harvest.

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Butternut squash going bezerk.

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Spaghetti squash -and lots of them! I’ve never eaten them or even seen them as they are not so common here in Oz but can’t wait to taste! How do I know they are ready to pick? Do I wait for the autumn frosts and the vines to wither as with the butternut squash?

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Capsicums and chillies aplenty.

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And nothing quite so joyful as a garden full of sunflowers…

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Garden Tour

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. For various reasons. Tonight however, I have seized a great opportunity to write. I find myself in the incredible position of being home alone for the first time in almost FIVE YEARS!!! My boys, 2 and 4.5 are having a sleepover at my mum’s and the hubby is out with some mates. I often spend nights up alone while the rest of the house is sleeping but that’s not the same as an empty house where there is no chance of any little footsteps creeping down the hall and wandering into our bed. Oh! Bed… Alone! No snoring husband, no restless four year old beside me and no 2 year old in the next room calling out for mummy at various intervals through the night. Imagine… Sleeping uninterrupted all night and waking at whatever time I like in the morning. Pure JOY!!!!!!
Anyway, I could paint my toenails, shave my legs and have a shower – with the door closed! But so far I’ve just spent some time in the garden and poured myself a wine.
My garden is flourishing at the moment despite a slow start this season due to three things.
1. Snails
2. A serious lack of sun and warmth
3. This guy…

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We thought he was so cute the first time we discovered him in our back yard. (my veggies are out the front) We found out that he belongs to our neighbours over the back fence and is apparently a “free range bunny,” that is, no cage/hutch.
This sounds all very lovely until he began escaping every day and eating my entire patch of seedlings. Well, whatever the snails hadn’t already demolished.
Lots of rain meant lots of snails and, the horror, black spot fungus! Between this and the rabbit, my garden was really struggling. I had to replant all of my cucumbers, all of my yellow button squash seedlings were eaten the minute they sprouted and my tomatoes were covered in blackspot. I was tempted just to pull them out and start again but decided to just cut them right back to almost nothing which turned out to be a great idea. They’re doing beautifully now that we’re finally getting some sun.
The snails I discussed with my local nursery lady and she suggested some pellets which are approved by the USDA for organic gardening. Apparently they are just iron based with nothing harmful going into the soil. These made a HUGE difference and finally my seedlings started to grow.
The rabbit also disappeared. No one seems to know how, where or why. Poor bunny, but glad my garden’s safe!
So anyway, here’s what’s happening…

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Lots of cherry tomatoes beginning to ripen. These pots have only just survived very strong winds as we live on the top of a hill. I’ve now anchored them to the blinds.

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Capsicums, growing slowly but surely. Tomatoes beginning to flower. Sunflowers, marigolds and zucchinis.

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Zucchinis growing before my eyes, have already picked about six beauties 🙂

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Some sweet little stepping stones from Aldi.

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Fuji apple tree going beautifully. Should probably think about netting this though.

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Garden seat, potato patch and bed with sprouting carrots, spinach and silver beet.

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Three fantastic cucumber plants, all bearing veggies though can’t remember which are continental and which are Lebanese. Pretty sure the ones pictured are continental. I didn’t have a lot of luck with cucumbers last year but this year they are much happier in a sunnier spot with marigolds at their feet.

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Lots of chillies. Eggplant seedlings also in this bed but only recently planted. Watermelon seedlings planted not long ago in the next bed too. Had to wait for room until all of the garlic and onions were harvested and the bed turned over.

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Garlic harvest.

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Yellow butter beans. Two out of four plants doing well.

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Green beans, although I’m a bit disappointed. I obviously didn’t buy climbing beans so not likely to curl themselves around the corn stalks as I had imagined. Oh well, any beans are still beans!

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Gorgeous corn, spaghetti squash and butternut squash.

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My lovely new garden arch, a christmas gift from my three sisters to mark the entrance of my “three sisters” garden bed! What should I plant to climb it? Something beautiful and colourful but not too heavily scented as it will send my hay fever nuts. Mum suggested happy wanderer. I like the sound of that 🙂

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Little hedge trees growing quickly. Can’t believe how much our garden has changed in just a couple of years.

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We put the front hedge in too. There was nothing but the weeping birch.
The herb garden beds below the front windows are still to come but a lack of time and money after Christmas have halted that temporarily.
Oh, lots of peas have sprouted all over the place from the pea straw too. Vey exciting ’cause hey, free peas! Are they the kind I shell or more like snow peas?
I love my garden, it is such a place of peace, change and joy. It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re standing in there, surrounded by green goodness!
What’s happening in your garden?

Lentil Pot Pie

Before I moved in with and married my husband, I ate very little meat. I suppose I was a student then and couldn’t afford a lot of it. I also lived in lots of share houses over the years with vegetarians, and with communal cooking, it was generally just easier to cook vego. Canned tuna and chicken were probably my main meat source, maybe a lamb kebab after a big night out… although I did waitress at a few cafes and probably had a beef salad here or there and a good weekend fry-up with bacon.
These days, we eat a fair amount of meat. I was seriously anaemic earlier this year and it really knocked me around so I have been more conscious of the amount of iron I’m getting in. That, and I live with 3 meat loving males.
I still aim for about two, sometimes three, meat free dinners per week. Always ‘Meat Free Monday’ and generally an omelette, a frittata or something bean or vegetable based else where. The reality is, organic or good quality, grass fed meat is more expensive but ethically, it is all that I’m willing to buy. I like to think the animals we eat have had a good life and have been treated well. Factory farming is an absolute disgrace and it is pleasing to see the beginnings of a move away from that sort of food production in this country.
Anyway, as I said, my men love their meat so I tend to entice them into their vegetarian meals by making them hearty and with simple flavours. This one is a real people pleaser… Especially if it’s a little chilly where you are!

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Lentil Pot Pie (Serves 4)

4 large potatoes (or sweet potatoes) peeled and chopped.
* I used red potatoes tonight as they were on special and for a bit of a treat. We eat very few potatoes, usually opting instead for the sweet potato for its low GI (slow release energy) properties.
1/2 an onion, diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
1.5 cups diced vegetables (I use frozen peas, corn and carrots in this, as they are kid friendly, quick and easy)
1 tin organic tomatoes or 4-6 diced fresh tomatoes
1 tin organic brown lentils, drained and rinsed. (look for BPA free tinned goods. I use the Global Organics brand)
1 tablespoon organic BBQ sauce. (I use the Macro brand)
Cracked sea salt and pepper (use pink Himalayan, Celtic sea salt, or Murray river salt – hasn’t been stripped of all it’s nutrition!)
Optional: Vegan butter, plant milk, olive oil, vegan cheese etc… for mashed potatoes.

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Here’s How

Boil your potatoes in a large pot.

Gently sauté onion and garlic.

* if using fresh diced veggies instead of frozen, add now and sauté.

Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil then reduce heat.

Add frozen veggies, lentils and BBQ sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes.

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Fill individual ramekins (or one large oven proof dish) dividing the mixture as you see fit. I put a little less in the kids ones.

Mash potatoes to your liking – I add grass fed butter, salt and pepper and a splash of full cream, organic milk.

Top each dish with potato and if using, a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Place under a grill or in a hot oven to melt the cheese.

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Enjoy 🙂

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