28 November 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

Mum gave me a huge bunch of silverbeet yesterday. Now in our family silverbeet isn't a favourite vegetable, but it's tolerated in small doses. I usually steam it with some garlic and then toss through a little cooked rice and about a teaspoon of butter and I find that the fuss pots will eat it. But this was a huge bunch so unless I planned on serving it for a week I had to think of something to do with it.

Friday is my clean out the fridge day and while I was digging around on the second shelf I found some feta that needed to be used up and a little grated cheese left from Tuesday night's pasta. In the freezer I had some filo sheets so spinach and feta rolls popped into my head. I don't have a recipe as such, I adapt the recipe off the back of the filo packet to suit so each time I make them they are a little different.

Here's the recipe from this afternoon's spinach and feta rolls.

Spinach and Feta Rolls

6 sheets filo pastry
Bunch silverbeet
200g feta
2 eggs
60g grated cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
30g butter, melted

Steam silverbeet until wilted. Drain until dry. I tipped it into the colander and when it was cool enough used my hands to squeeze the liquid out of it. Beat the eggs with the nutmeg, add to the silverbeet along with the crumbled feta and grated cheese. Mix well. Take a sheet of filo and brush with the melted butter. Layer another sheet of pastry, brush with butter and then add a third sheet. Take half the silverbeet mixture and place in a row longways down the middle of the pastry. Fold the sides in as you do for sausage rolls. Repeat with the other three sheets of pastry. Place the rolls onto a greased baking tray. Bake in a hot oven, 200 degrees, for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is set. Remove from the oven trays and let cool. Cut into slices to serve.

They must have been good because the kids attacked them for afternoon tea. The leftovers are in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch. They'll be good cold with salad.

I also made the first batch of fruit mince tarts for this year's Christmas season this afternoon. I love fruit mince tarts, they are my favourite Christmas food. Thank goodness they are a Christmas tradition because they are very rich and very high in fat (all the suet in the fruit mince). I cheated this afternoon and used bought shortcrust pastry sheets to save time. Four sheets of pastry and one jar of fruit mince made 26 pies - not a bad effort. Total cost $7 - $3.23 a dozen. Considering I saw them for $9 a dozen at the supermarket on Thursday I can live with that price. And they are very yummy with a cup of coffee.

It has been spitting rain all day so the washing has been on the clotheshorse under the verandah to dry. Apart from the seams on the jeans it's all dry and ready to be put away. Unfortunately this is the part of doing laundry that is the hardest part. It's just one of those things that I tend to procrastinate on. I have no idea why, it's easy enough to do and the sight of the empty washing basket really makes me smile. OK, off to put the washing away and start dinner.

Today I am thankful for:
The constant drizzle to water the veggies
A verandah to keep the washing dry
Mothers who share the fruits of their labours (and their veggie patch)

26 November 2008

Is there such a thing as too much cleanliness?

Carol McIntosh says "I have a theory about all the eczema, allergies etc around today - too much cleanliness! Soap and water is cheap and effective. I always remember an old lady telling me that she always wanted a lovely bathroom but never had enough money to change her it. When her children grew up they could not remember the bathroom but remembered the days at the river in summer etc. Perhaps there is a lesson in this. Relax a little, just chill out with your children and see what happens to the eczema."

Before my first baby was born my doctor told me a similar thing. Actually what he said was I'd have to lower my standards once there was a baby in the house. I was stunned. You have to understand my mother's nickname is Mrs Sparkle and I have inherited some of her cleaning genes so being told to lower my standards was unbelievable.

He then went on to tell me that soap, hot water and elbow grease were more than adequate for cleaning most household surfaces. Another suggestion was to keep the disinfectants, bleaches and stinky chemicals for when they were really needed, such as during outbreaks of contagious illness.

Dr. Max wasn't telling me to leave our home dirty. He was telling me to keep it clean, not sterile. So, clean it has always been and I can tell you that cleaning with soap and hot water and elbow grease works. I will confess right now that I tend to use mostly water and micro fibre cloths, with soap for the baths basins, sinks and outside of the toilets. Even the windows are washed with cold water and dried with a micro fibre cloth.

In the cleaning cupboard at the moment is a basket of rags for cleaning and polishing cloths, a box of laundry soap, some scrub buds, white vinegar, a half box of bi-carb, borax and washing soda and about a dozen assorted micro fibre cloths. I love those micro fibre cloths, they do a great job on everything.

Those few simple items, along with a soft broom, the vacuum and the steam mop keep the entire house clean.

I haven't added up how much money we have saved over the years by not getting brainwashed into believing clean wouldn’t happen without a dozen different products but I'm pretty sure it's a lot. According to the grocery tracker we have spent a grand total of $8.72 since January on cleaning supplies. That was for some soap, 2 litres vinegar and some scrub buds. I'm thinking that's not too shabby, how does it compare to your spending?

24 November 2008

Graduation day

Today is graduation day for my firstborn. I can hardly believe that my baby is 18 already and at 9.30pm tonight will officially finish his formal education. Any schooling that comes after this may still be formal but it will be because he wants to continue his learning, not because Mum and Dad have said "it's a school day so you go to school".

I just know that I'll have a tear in my eye as I watch my strapping 6 foot tall son with his mop of unruly blond hair step on stage to collect his certificate and say goodbye to school. I wish I could say he has enjoyed school but the truth is for the most part he found school boring. This boy finds learning easy and if the challenge is to easy or not even there then he wanders off to find something else to focus his mind on, something not all his teacher appreciated or really understood, but still they supported him and encouraged him to the very best of their ability. And now that stage of his life is about to end.

What the future holds I don't know. He's hoping to get into uni and we are hoping that he gets his wish. Whatever happens I have to know that I have done my best to raise a young man who is kind and caring, who doesn't have a selfish or greedy bone in his body and who takes responsibility very seriously.

Which is why his father and I have an appointment with our family solicitor to update our wills. Now that we have a legal adult as a child it changes a number of things for our family and we need to make sure that those changes are properly documented and recorded. It is so important to make sure that our dreams and plans for our family will be carried out if something unforseen happens to us.

If you haven't updated your will recently (and I believe it should be reviewed at least every two years) or God forbid, you don't have a will (and even if you are single with no assets and no living relatives you should have a will, if only to leave instructions for your burial) then take the hour to see a solicitor and get one drawn up. It is worth getting a will drawn up by a solicitor the first time, at least so you can gain some understanding of what is required. After that you can use DIY kit if you are confident that you know what you are doing. But whatever method you choose, write a will. Without it you are leaving a whole lot of worry and distress and I'm pretty sure that you don't want to add to your family's grief in any way.

Enough of the morbid talk. We are moving into the time of year that is supposed to be the happiest. I love Christmas and the summer holidays. I can't wait for school to be finished for Thomas and Hannah because I love having the kids home (but mainly so I don't have to rush so much in the mornings). We are gearing up for the big decorating day which if the kids get their way will be this coming Friday because they have a pupil free day. I've tried to tell them Monday is the first of December so we should wait until Sunday but their selective deafness kicks in and they just don't hear me.

Hannah has printed off the Advent calendars. I did wonder if they weren't too old for them but they all assure me that they'll never be too old and if I breathe a word to any of their friends they'll tell them I've flipped my lid and must be dreaming. They are quite cute, Christmas trees ready to decorate with coloured balls. There are 24 balls on the tree, one to colour for each day and the kids have decided to have a competition to see who has the most colourful calendar by Christmas Eve. I put the link to the calendar in this weeks newsletter but in case you missed it you can print one off here.

20 November 2008

The silly season has arrived

Yes, it's that crazy time of year again. It comes earlier and earlier each year and I'll confess to being a fan of Christmas. I love the craziness of it all, decorating, baking, wrapping, eating, drinking and laughing with friends, family and neighbours.

I adore choosing gifts to make or buy and deciding how to wrap them. I'm like a kid in a candy store while the Christmas trees are going up (yes, we really do have more than one), I love going through the boxes of decorations, deciding where to put them all. Choosing stickers to put on the Christmas card envelopes takes me hours - they have to be just right. Writing the cards takes a few evenings, it's important to get the message in each one just right and I just love getting settled down with pen and card (and address book) and writing those messages.

But my very favourite part of Christmas is putting the gifts under the Wishing Tree. As a family we have put gifts under the Kmart Wishing Tree since Allan was three weeks old. These days the kids choose their own gifts and who it is to be for and on the first Sunday after school finishes we go through the present box to choose something suitable or the materials to make something, then we deliver the gifts to the tree and stop off for a 50 cent ice cream from Maccas on the way home.

There are only two weeks of school left for Hannah and Thomas and talk on the way home today was what to put under the Wishing Tree and when to go through the present box. It seems this is a favourite part of their Christmas too.

Today I am thankful for:
a son who has successfully completed Year 12
three gorgeous kids who willingly share and are generous to those less fortunate without being nagged
the beautiful rain that is finally falling here
the SES and other volunteers who put others before themselves in the Queensland storms this week

04 November 2008

Happy Melbourne Cup Day

Are you as amazed as I am that a horse race can be considered so important that it warrants a public holiday? I'm not complaining, I love Cup Day. It's traditionally our family picnic day, has been since I was a little girl. We are breaking with tradition this year and barbecuing at home so Allan can keep reviewing for his exams without missing all the fun (and it's raining YAY!). It's also Wayne's birthday today so I'll be busy making a cake for afternoon tea.

We used to go to the beach and it was made extra special because we would stop off at Kentucky Fried Chicken and Mum would go in and get a box of chicken for us to have with our picnic. Oh my goodness we loved Cup Day. It was the only day we ever had anything as special as bought chicken! My Mum was good at stretching her dollars and I am pretty sure she stretched a few meals to be able to buy that KFC for us once a year. And I'm pretty sure if she could have figured out how to make it herself she would have to save that money.

Thank goodness this website and Cheapskates Club members are here to help with hints, tips and ideas because there is a recipe for homemade KFC in the Recipe File and it's pretty darn good. And very, very cheap, about 34 cents per drumstick as opposed to the $2 per piece KFC charges!

A birthday tradition in our family is that the birthday boy/girl/mum/dad gets to choose dinner and tonight we are having homemade hamburgers - Wayne's favourite mock takeaway. Making burgers at home is so much easier than buying them from the fish and chip shop and only a fraction of the price. Instead of costing $7.50 each they cost under $2, depending on how generous I am with the salad. To get the burgers just like bought ones I use my Tupperware burger press. It's one of those gadgets that can be pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten but is actually quite handy. If you have one lurking in your kitchen dig it out, it will save you money and everyone will think you are a burger maker extraordinaire.

We like wedges with our burgers and they are so easy to make I don't know why anyone would bother buying them. I use one potato per person and scrub it clean. Then I cut them into quarters and then cut each quarter in to three or four pieces, depending on how big the potato is. Toss the pieces in a bowl with a little olive oil and some paprika (1/2 - 1 teaspoon depending on your taste). Bake them on a flat oven tray in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, turning after 10. They may need a few minutes longer, test with a fork to see if they are cooked through. Again, the savings are big: 1 kilo of potatoes cost around $1.00, add approximately 50 cents for the oil and paprika and the saving is at least $2 on the bought product.

I also make a secret 'burger sauce' that everyone loves. It's a secret because it's so easy to make I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how I make it. Well not really. It's super simple, very cheap and makes burgers extra special. I add two tablespoons Kraft Coleslaw dressing to 1/2 cup tomato sauce, stir to combine and spread it on the buns. It's that easy.

Well if I am going to make a birthday cake and burgers and wedges as well as send the newsletter and help Allan with some revision I need to get moving.

I hope you all enjoy Melbourne Cup Day, wherever you are.

01 November 2008

I've been on a shopping spree

Just after we were married my sister-in-law told me that I would need to replace all the linen every five years. Her theory was that sheets, towels, tea towels, tableclothes only lasted five years and then they had to be replaced. So, if the linen you were using was all wedding presents, then around your fifth anniversary you'd be up for replacing your entire linen cupboard and that could be expensive.

Well we've been married almost 20 years - how time flies - and I am just now coming to the stage where I need to replace sheets, towels and tea towels. With this in mind Mum and I went on a little shopping spree to refill my linen cupboard yesterday.

Towels were the most important thing on my list. I had made bathmats and hand towels from some of the older ones so the supply of towels for the bathroom was sadly depleted. We went to The Towel Shop, a fantastic outlet in Bayswater and I had so much fun choosing colours (colour schemes have changed somewhat in 20 years!) and sizes.

I bought four new bath sheets for just $5 each (RRP $19.95 each) and another four bath towels for $5 each (RRP $14.95 each) along with 4 new bathmats for just $3 each (RRP $11.95 each) and 20 face washers for just 50 cents each. Face washers make great cleaning clothes so I now have five burgundy for the bathrooms and five navy blue for spills and floors. The other ten are for us to use. All up I spent just $60 with a saving of at least $135.40 (I have no idea what the RRP of the face washers is). Now the linen cupboard is full again, everyone is happy with nice new towels to dry off with and I am pretty sure I won't need to buy new towels again for a good few years.

Oops, nearly forgot to tell you where this great outlet is. You'll find The Towel Shop at Factory 12, 52 Corporate Boulevard, Bayswater. Corporate Boulevard runs off Dorset Rd, just down from the Mountain Highway intersection. It's a fairly new estate so it may not be in your street directory.