“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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Slow Cooked Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup

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Nanny’s Soup

There are few greater feelings for a mother than having dinner on at 9.30am – knowing that you won’t have to pull a rabbit out of a hat later on when everyone is tired and cranky. Better still, is when dinner is this magical healing soup.
It’s based on the delicious soup my mum made us every winter to fill our bellies and ward away the coughs and colds. Which we all have here at the moment – terrible coughs, aches, fevers and chills. It’s rough taking care of sick kids when you’re delirious with fever yourself…
Anyway, hopefully this soup will help return us to good health. (And hurry up Spring!)
It’s cheap, it’s easy and utterly delicious. I make a huge batch so that I can freeze half.
Nanny adds a packet of chicken noodle soup to hers at the end for a bit of extra flavour but as we like to avoid additives I add half a cup of risoni, some mixed dried herbs and a good pinch of sea salt instead.

Here’s How:

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In a slow cooker (or large stock pot if making in the stove top)

Add:

At least 500 g of a cheap cut of beef – I used 4 pieces of Osso bucco this time as I like to get all those healing minerals from the bones and marrow but I’ve also used gravy beef, casserole/chuck steak etc…
1.5 cup soup mix (Barley, split peas etc…)
1 diced onion
2-3 minced/finely chopped garlic cloves
2 carrots diced, chopped or grated
2 celery sticks, chopped
Optional (1 grated parsnip)
2 litres stock
Top up with 1 litre of water
Good pinch of salt and cracked pepper
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
1/2 cup risoni

Cook on low for 8 hours
After 4 hours, remove meat and cut into bite size pieces, return bones and all to the pot.
Add risoni 1 hour before serving.

Enjoy:-)

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Really awesome things to do with leftover bread – Part 1

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*If you are not into grains or carbs, this post is not for you I’m afraid…

Mind you, we don’t eat a lot of bread here. Well, C does actually. He drives a truck for work and he needs food that can be managed easily so sandwiches or wraps tend to be a daily staple for him. J5 loves a toasted sanga, but while R2 will munch on some toast, he won’t eat sandwiches at all. I love bread, I just don’t think the love is mutual…
Anyway, we often end up with half a loaf of uneaten bread. I’m not one for wasting food, to me it’s just like throwing money in the bin, so I thought I’d share a series of posts about what we do with our left over or day old bread. This is part one…

TASTY TRIANGLES

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These are essentially little tarts made from bread and leftovers. You can fill them with anything – bolognaise, savoury mince, tuna mornay, casseroles, baked beans, bacon and eggs etc… This time, I used the rest of last night’s bacon, zucchini and tomato risotto. (made with brown rice though, not aborio)

Step 1
Cut a diagonal slit from the centre to one corner of a piece of bread.
Cut one crust off and fold the bread in to form a triangle cup.
Squish the bread together to seal and line a muffin tin with 12 pieces.

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Step 2
Fill triangle cups with leftovers.
*I drizzled a little olive oil over the empty bread baskets too but it’s not really necessary.

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Step 3
Top with grated cheese and bake @ 180 C for approx 30 minutes.

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Step 4
Such a perfect weekend lunch or quick midweek meal Enjoy 🙂

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Bread Posts Still To Come…

Part 2 – “Savouries”
Part 3 – “French toast, family style”

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Snow Day!

I realise for many of you, snow is nothing new. But for us here in central Victoria, Australia, it’s a real rarity.
Don’t get me wrong, it gets cold, really cold. Frost covered lawns, hail, rain and crazy winds. Even snow occasionally, but rarely does it fall so heavily and settle on the ground so thick.
Today was just magical for us. Our boys now 5 and almost 3, have never seen snow and I haven’t had many opportunities in my life either to have a snowball fight or build a snowman. Limbs and leaves clothed in sparkling white, it was truly a sight to behold.

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We live in a country-ish town at the foot of Mount Macedon and this afternoon we bundled the kids into the car in their warmest woollies and headed up the mountain. Snow began hitting the windscreen as we drove higher and was met with squeals of delight… By all of us!
Honestly, it was like driving into Narnia.

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A place where magic happens and memories are made.

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The kids were beside themselves when we jumped out of the car, running off to make tracks in the snow, noticing how it crunched beneath their boots.

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Television has obviously taught them about snow ball fights as they wasted no time getting stuck into that.

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And before long, C and I joined in too.

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J5 got busy rolling snowballs…

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While R2 went exploring…

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And of course, snowmen were constructed by cold, wet little hands.

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Big and small…

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It was the most fun we’ve had as a family in as long as I can remember.

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Sometimes as adults we forget how to just play

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Home for hot showers, hot cuppas and hot, salty fish n’ chips.
Perfection 🙂

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Colourful Chicken Stir Fry – fast food for families

If you haven’t noticed by now, I like to eat the rainbow. And not just for the amazing health benefits. As a former art teacher, cooking with colour is as close to making art as I get these days. I’ve really had an urge to do some drawing lately. Maybe it’s all the drawing J4 has been doing, on the walls, the couch, his chest of drawers, the sliding door, the kitchen shelves, the coffee table, the storage cubes… Not to mention R2’s efforts with the green crayon on the professionally cleaned carpets.
Or maybe it’s seeing my good oil pastels, scattered and squashed over the back porch, big fat pieces of chalk crushed to dust on the concrete, or endless blunt pencils and textas without lids under couch and under foot.
In truth, it’s probably the pure joy I can see my boys having, as they stand either side of their easel and create something.
Some people create, some people destroy. My boys seem to have figured out how to do both…

Anyway, for now I create meals. And this one is simple, fast, fresh and tasty.

COLOURFUL CHICKEN STIRFRY

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You Will Need

500g (1 lb) chicken tenderloins or sliced breast. (I use tenderloins so I can throw this meal together quickly.)
1 red onion, sliced
1 inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 red capsicum
1/2 yellow capsicum
1/2 green capsicum, all sliced in small lengths
1/2 head broccoli, chopped
1 cup (or a large handful) snow peas
Coconut oil for frying
2 Tbsp raw local honey
2 Tbsp of coconut aminos (a healthier substitute for soy sauce or tamari which you can find in health food stores, some supermarkets or online here or here).

Optional: 2 cups cooked brown rice to serve.
* I cooked my rice in homemade stock. Delicious and nutritious!
* When cooking rice, it’s always a good idea to cook extra and either freeze in portions or use from the fridge within a couple of days.
* I always keep at least 1 family bag of 90 second brown rice in my cupboard for emergencies. The “Sun Rice” brand is free of additives.
* For a grain free alternative, try cauliflower rice.

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Here’s How

* Note: if you’re organised you can marinate your chicken for an hour or even overnight. But if you’re like me and suddenly it’s Chicken Tuesday and you need to get dinner on the table ASAP, this is the method for you…

Heat a wok or large fry pan and melt coconut oil.

Brown tenderloins in small batches, placing aside in a bowl.

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When finished, add honey to that bowl of cooked chicken, tossing to coat.

Add all vegetables to the hot wok bedsides snow peas.

Add coconut amines and fry for 3 -4 mins

When veggies have softened slightly, add honey chicken back to the pan with the snow peas and toss to combine.

Serve as is or with rice.

Add sliced chillies and fresh coriander if you have some! (At least to mum and dad’s plates)

Enjoy 🙂

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Make This, Not That…

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FRESH & CREAMY TUNA PASTA

I’m not into cooking separate meals. In this house we are extremely fortunate to have dad home in time for an early dinner, so we eat as a family every night. I love this ritual. C and the kids are all in bed early which means the only time we all get to connect with each other, discuss our days and practise the dying art of conversation, is at the dinner table. Little R has just graduated from the high chair and is absolutely delighted to sit beside his big brother. Mind you, that’s an invitation for all sorts of Tom foolery…
Anyway, the challenge with eating an early dinner, means that I’m always looking for fast and simple dishes that will please everyone. Something I can throw together in half an hour with whatever I can find in the pantry and at the bottom of the crisper. This versatile dish is perfect for such occasions.

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HERE’S HOW
Dice whatever veggies you have on hand. If you having nothing fresh or fabulous, use the packet of frozen peas/carrots/corn in your freezer. If you don’t have this in your freezer, put it on your shopping list. Now!

I USED:
1 small leek. (I generally use red onion but I just pulled a beautiful fresh bunch of leeks from my garden.)
1 celery stick
1/2 green capsicum
1/2 yellow capsicum
kernels from 1 fresh corn cob
(You could also use: garlic, grated carrot, zucchini, red capsicum, peas, silced green beans, silver beet, tinned corn, etc…)
You can use 2 or 5 vegetables. Either way, it will still be delicious!

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Sauté vegetables in a tablespoon of butter or olive oil for a few minutes until soft.
Add 1.5 cups of good quality stock, preferably homemade. (If you’re a bit light on with the veggies just use 1 cup.)
Let this simmer on high for about 10 minutes until stock reduces slightly.
Meanwhile, get your pasta happening. I use gluten free spaghetti as I find wheat difficult to digest. You can use whatever pasta you like. Zucchini noodles are a delicious option if you’re not into grains.

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Pasta Tips:
1. If you’re cooking for kids, break the pasta up into smaller pieces while raw by bending the packet over the edge of the bench. This makes it easier to stir through the sauce and means you don’t have to cut up their dinner for them later.
2. Gluten free pasta in particular, does not like to be crowded in a pot. Make sure you use a large pot with a generous amount of water to prevent clumping and give it a shuffle with a pair of tongs every now and then.

Meanwhile, add a drained 425g tin (or 2x185g) of responsibly fished tuna to the veggies and stock. (“Pole and line caught” is the most ethical commercial practice for tuna fishing as far as I know or white albacore is always a good option.)
When the pasta is ready, drain and stir it through the veggies, tuna and stock.

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FINISHING OFF
Turn the heat off and stir through 4-5 heaped spoonfuls of Greek or natural yoghurt. I’ve recently discovered the “five am” brand of natural organic yoghurt. If you’re in Australia give it a try, very yummy! I bought it at Woolworths.
Serve on a bed of baby spinach and top with fresh herbs and grated cheese. (I used chives)

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Quite often, this jar of pasta bake sauce used to be my “go to” quick and easy family meal. It is free of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives which is great, however it is still highly processed. Frankly, why would you eat that from a jar, when this meal is just as easy, a million times more delicious and so much better for you?
Enjoy 🙂

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