31 January 2012

Rhubarb and Apple Sponge

It may be high summer but the rhubarb is thick in the garden and the apple tree is laden with rosy red apples, both of them just crying out to be used in this yummy dessert.  Don't think it's just for winter though.  It's great hot, with a little ice-cream but it's equally as yummy cold with a little cream or custard poured over it.

500g rhubarb cut into 2cm pieces
2 medium apples, thinly sliced
¼ cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
¼ cup water
2 eggs
1/3 cup caster sugar, extra
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Combine rhubarb, apples, sugar, lemon rind and water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until tender. Pour hot rhubarb mixture into deep, greased, ovenproof casserole dish (6 cup capacity). Beat eggs in small bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy, about five minutes. Gradually add extra sugar, beating until dissolved between each addition. Sift flours over egg mixture, fold through gently. Spread mixture evenly over hot rhubarb mixture, bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden and the sponge set.

30 January 2012

Getting stain into all the corners

Getting wood stain or varnish into the tight corners and crevices of that unfinished bookcase or table that you are re-finishing can be difficult and downright frustrating.  You can make a really simple and very inexpensive crevice tool for staining in just a couple of minutes and using two common household items.  Just cut a strip from the leg of a pair of old, clean pantyhose and wind it around the end of a chopstick, skewer or icy pole stick. Secure it with a rubber band and you're good to go - or get staining as the case may be. Dip the end into your stain and simply push it into all those tricky nooks and crannies for an evenly stained finish.

26 January 2012

Take a Shopping Trip and Save

If you live in a rural area where shopping options are limited you may be wise to travel to a larger town or city once every 6 - 8 weeks or so to do a large shop for staples and items that are noticeably more expensive at your local grocer.  I did this regularly when we lived in the country, travelling 120km each way to stock up on basic grocery items and those more exotic ingredients I couldn't source locally.  Even with the fuel and a whole day for the trip we saved a lot of money. You will need to do your sums and make sure you really are saving money and don't forget to factor in the cost of fuel and time.

Super Shiny Hair

Lemon juice has long been recognized as a wonderful rinse for blonde hair, but it gives any colour a gorgeous shine and makes it soft and manageable too.

You can make your very own lemon shampoo at home, right in your kitchen, using just three simple ingredients.

You will need:
1 bar pure soap - choose a good quality natural soap
Juice 2 large lemons
Cool water

To make the shampoo:
Grate the soap, using the zester side of the grater, so it is a fine powder. You can grate it in your food processor if you want to, but doing it by hand only takes a few minutes.  Add the soap to a medium saucepan and cover with water. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the soap. The mixture will bubble up, keep on stirring to dissolve. Add the lemon juice. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more water and stir. Repeat until it is the consistency of shampoo.  Store in a clean pump bottle. Use as you would your regular shampoo for soft, shiny hair.

25 January 2012

Don't get conned by the spiel

We've all seen the adds and heard the spiel:  It's tax deductible so why not buy it now, it's my money, I can spend it all if I want to, only poor people need a budget, consolidate your bills and save money, you have to spend money to make money, you need to use credit cards to build a good credit rating, why not buy it now, it's interest free, I'll pay the credit card off when the bill comes in, I deserve a treat.  Don't get caught in these traps, they'll only add to your debt, keep you tied to the debt round-about and increase your pain. You can be smart with your money. Before you buy anything stop and ask yourself:

    1. Do I really need this?
    2. Do I really want this?
    3. Do I have the cash to pay for this right now?
If you've answered no to any of those questions you have your answer: no. Ignore the spiel and keep your hard-earned right where it should be.

24 January 2012

MOO Pancakes

There’s nothing quite like fluffy pancakes from scratch for brunch on a weekend morning or for an afternoon tea treat.  We even have them for lunch when there is no bread. Here’s a recipe to help you whip up some great comfort food for breakfast. These don’t include a lot of sugar because the addition of syrup as a topping adds plenty of sweetness.

2 cups SR flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 ¾ cups milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

This recipe makes approximately 14 pancakes.

Step 1: Preheat a large frying pan

Preheat your pan to medium high heat. If it is not non-stick, add a little butter to keep pancakes from sticking.

Step 2: Mix dry ingredients

Add the flour and sugar to a large bowl. Whisk until well combined and lumps are removed.

Step 3: Mix wet ingredients

In a medium bowl, whisk the  eggs, milk and vegetable oil until fully combined.

Step 4: Combine wet and dry ingredients

Add the wet ingredients to the dry.

Whisk until combined, but don’t worry about removing all the lumps as this will cause you to over mix the batter.

Step 5: Time to cook

Wipe a little butter over the bottom of your frying pan to grease it. Then, using a ladle, spoon about ¼ cup of batter per pancake on your pan or griddle.

Your pancakes are ready to flip when they become firm on top and lots of bubbles appear.

Once you’ve flipped your pancakes, they will only take a minute or two to be done. Make sure you don’t over brown them.

Serve the pancakes warm and top with MOO pancake syrup, butter, stewed fruit or whatever suits your fancy.

These pancakes freeze well and are a nice addition to lunchboxes. Butter them and spread with jam or lemon butter and sandwich two together, wrap in clingwrap and freeze. Then just pop one or two into lunchboxes, straight from the freezer. By lunchtime they will be thawed and just right for eating.

23 January 2012

Creative crayon fun for kids

Old fashioned was crayons are inexpensive and just perfect for these art activities.  As the school holidays slowly wind down, keeping the kids amused without spending a fortune can get tricky.  These four art activities use old fashioned was crayons and will keep  kids amused for hours.  Wax crayons are inexpensive and available at any $2 shop or discount department store if you don't already have dozens of them.  In fact for these projects the cheaper the better so don't pay more than you have to buying Crayola or Faber Castell etc.

Activity 1: Create colour
If you have a bunch of old broken crayons, make them new again with a vibrant mix of colours. Remove the papers from the crayons and fill a mini muffin tin with crayon pieces. Place in a slow oven (120 degrees Celsius) for 8-10 minutes. Make sure to cool them completely before using.

Activity 2. Rainbow designs
For a fun design, tape a few crayons together and start making shapes. It’s perfect for making rainbows. Try drawing one shape, such as a heart, with the crayon bundle. You'll end up with hearts inside hearts inside hearts!

Activity 3. Etch a picture

This is a lot of fun and older kids can create some amazing works of art using this method. Colour a sheet of paper completely with a variety of crayon colors. Then cover the multi-colour surface completely with black crayon. Then take a paper clip and scratch out a drawing. The black crayon will come off, revealing the colors below.

Encourage children to try mixing their crayon colours to see what new colours they can create.

22 January 2012

Making Pineapple Vinegar

I was browsing through the Member Forum yesterday and came across Amanda's post in the January 2012 No Waste Month Challenge and she was talking about saving the tops to plant. That jogged my memory (it needs jogging sometimes) to write about making Pineapple Vinegar. 

For those of us who have to buy our fresh pineapples, especially in the southern states, using the whole fruit makes the purchase worthwhile. And you have to love a fruit that actually gives back more than it's initial cost.

I tried this last summer with the peels from a small pineapple and it worked a treat. Not only that pineapple vinegar is so good in salad dressings and stir-fries. It adds a delightful touch of sweet acid to dishes. I know that sounds odd - a sweet acid - but you have a hint of pineapple flavour in with the acid of the vinegar and it really is good.

And making pineapple vinegar couldn’t be easier. You simply cover the peel with water, add a cup of apple cider vinegar, cover and leave it in a dark cupboard for a couple of weeks. By this time the vinegar mother will have formed and it's ready to strain and bottle. Easy!

If you are not convinced it really is that easy, here are the step-by-step instructions.

You will need:

A large, clean, wide-mouthed 2 litre glass jar
Muslin, cheesecloth, netting or a Chux
Peel and the top (leaves cut off) from a fresh pineapple
Any juice or trimmings from the pineapple, including the core
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 litre cool water

Step 1. Make sure the jar is very clean - sterilize it using either the boiling or oven method.

Step 2. Place the pineapple trimmings and peel in the jar, pushing them down.

Step 3. Combine the water and cider vinegar and pour over the pineapple peel. Make sure all the pineapple is covered, you may need to add a little more water to the jar.

Step 4. Cover the jar with cheesecloth, muslin, netting or even a clean Chux and put a rubber band around the rim to hold it in place.  Do not be tempted to put the lid on. Vinegar requires air to ferment so use a covering that will let the air in and keep the bugs out.

Step 5. Place the jar in a cool, dark cupboard and let it sit for four - six weeks. During this time it will form a scum on the top and the liquid will get very dark and murky. Don't worry, it's supposed to.   You'll also begin to see a whitish scum forming at the bottom of the jar. This is the vinegar mother and you'll know your vinegar is working when the mother forms.  You can use the vinegar mother to start another batch of vinegar.

Step 6. When the vinegar mother has formed and the liquid has cleared your vinegar is ready. Strain the vinegar through a double layer of cheesecloth. Bottle in clean sterilized bottles. Store in a cool, dark cupboard.

Use this vinegar in salad dressings and stir-fries. It is lovely in marinades too. Add it to spicy dishes such as tacos or chili to make them extra special.

When you've strained the vinegar put the leftover peels into the compost or if you have chickens let them have a treat.

And there you have it -  a lovely fruit vinegar and absolutely no waste from your fresh pineapple.

20 January 2012

Markdowns Build Savings and Pay Off Debt

Every time I get something from the supermarket that has been marked down, like bread, rolls, meat, milk, etc, I always put the difference between the normal price and the marked down price in a separate jar, and put that money into a savings account or towards my credit card debt. 
Contributed by Sue, Morley

19 January 2012

Conquer Dropsy

Do you have Dropsy? You know, that bad, bad habit of dropping whatever you have wherever you finish with it? Dropsy is highly contagious and can spread to other members of the household very quickly. Unfortunately households contaminated with Dropsy very quickly become untidy and out of control. A simple way to conquer Dropsy is to develop a new habit. Whenever you have something in your hand, put it away, exactly where it belongs, even if this means you have to move to another room or even go outside to the garage.  Taking those few extra steps to put things away every time will eventually conquer your Dropsy habit and the result will be a tidy and organized home, with a place for everything and everything in it's place. It won't happen overnight, but little by little it will happen and you will have a clutter-free home and less housework.

18 January 2012

Go for the higher excess

Insurance is a fact of life. You must have it for your car and your home, most of us have it for our health and some have it for income protection and life.   When you choose to pay a higher excess you are basically self-insuring for a part of the policy. You do this by taking the chance that you won't get sick, the house won't burn down or your car won't be stolen so you pay a lower premium. Most insurance companies offer different levels of excess. The higher the excess the lower the annual premium.  Choose the highest excess you can afford and then make sure you are covered by banking the excess amount immediately. Hopefully you'll never need to touch it, but if you do it will be there, ready to be used.

17 January 2012

What to Make for Dinner When It’s Too Hot to Cook

What is worse than the dreaded question, “What’s for dinner”? In the summer, it’s the thought of turning on the stove or oven to make dinner. I thought it would be good to share some great summertime dinners everyone in your family will love. Not only do they not require any cooking, but they are healthy and delicious as well.

In the summer many families enjoy some wonderful salads. Here are a few of favourites. Of course you can incorporate whatever ingredients your family prefers.

Not your traditional tossed salad: A traditional tossed salad is awesome and easy to make, but sometimes as a standalone meal, it may not fully satisfy those hungry appetites at dinner. To enhance a traditional tossed salad try adding some of the following ingredients for extra flavour and protein:

  • Chunks of cubed cheddar cheese
  • Slices of lunchmeat, like turkey, chicken breast or ham
  • Leftover chicken breast
  • Zucchini slices
  • Yellow squash chunks
  • Crumble some leftover taco meat, tortilla chips and salsa for a taco salad
Chef’s salad: Basically a chef’s salad is an upgraded tossed salad. Just add hard boiled eggs, chunks of cheese and sliced ham, turkey, chicken breast and roast beef and voila, you have a chef’s salad. Hearty and yummy!

Spinach salad: Made with yummy spinach leaves or baby spinach leaves, a spinach salad is cool, refreshing and yummy! I like to add grated cheese, slices of ham, turkey and roast beef, cucumbers, pickles, black olives and for added zest some jalapenos! I top mine with an Italian dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.

Sandwiches: Another great meal idea you can create without cooking is sandwiches. Yes, sandwiches for dinner. When it’s too hot to cook, some cool sandwiches are the ticket. Not only are they easy and heat free, but they are also less filling than a big huge dinner! Some great summer sandwiches are:

Chicken salad: I love chicken salad and love to have a batch made up for last minute, easy on the go meals. I use cooked leftover chicken, sliced celery and mayo, whizzed in the food processor until it comes together. Serve some on a pita or flat bread, in a tortilla or in a croissant to change things up a bit.

Deli style sandwiches: I love to sink my teeth into a yummy, thick sandwich filled with all of the fixings of a deli. Pile on the salad, add a little meat and cheese and  you'll have a sandwich fit for a king! Some of my favorites are:
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Roast Beef
  • Chicken Breast
  • Corned Beef
  • Salami
  • Alfalfa or Bean Sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Pickles
  • Tomato
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Capsicum
  • Grated carrot
  • Shredded beetroot
  • Grated cheese
  • Sliced onion
  • Baby spinach
  • Cos lettuce
  • Coleslaw
Serve on thick wholegrain bread with mustard, if you like, and mayonnaise.

Dinner doesn’t always have to be a huge 3 or 4 course cooked or baked meal. A hearty salad or sandwich will satisfy your kids, hubby and guests, while keeping you cool at the same time.

16 January 2012

Cute Chore Gloves

From time to time I suffer from dermatitis. It could be anything that causes it, but it's usually when I've been spring cleaning or doing lots of gardening and not wearing gloves.  I don't like rubber gloves, eww, and the traditional garden glove is too stiff. I really like soft cotton gloves, although they are rather expensive to buy.  But they are very easy to make and if you use scraps of fabric or an old t-shirt they are virtually free!

To make one pair of cute chore gloves you will need:

1 sheet A4 paper
A marking pen
Dressmakers pins
25cm 100% cotton knit (see suggestions above)
Thread to match
A sewing machine that does a zig zag stitch

Step 1. Wash your fabric according to the directions on the label. This is important; knit fabrics can shrink quite a lot so it is essential you wash and dry the fabric before cutting and sewing. You don't want to end up with ugly, puckered gloves that don't fit.

Step 2.  Place your left hand (right if you are left-handed) on the paper and trace around it, leaving a 6mm border.  Cut around the border. This will become your pattern.

Step 3.  Fold your fabric in half, right sides together, horizontally and then in half vertically.

Step 4.  Pin the pattern in place, being generous with the pins (you don't want the fabric to move during cutting, you'll end up with different sized gloves).  Carefully cut around the pattern, making sure the fabric doesn't stretch or move. You should have two fronts and two backs.

Step 5.  Place a front and back together, right sides together. Set your sewing machine to the widest zig zag and the shortest stitch length. Starting at one side of the wrist stitch right around each finger, finishing at the other wrist.   Repeat to make the other glove.

Step 6. To finish your gloves turn the raw edge of the wrist under 6mm. Press. Zig zag around the edge, catching the hem in the zig zag stitch. Repeat for the other glove. Turn right side out, using a point turner (or the top end of a pencil if you don't have one) to shape the fingers.

Then slip on your gloves and start gardening, dusting, scrubbing - or give your hands a treat - just slather your hands with hand cream, slip the gloves on and sit down with a cuppa for 15 minutes!

13 January 2012

See clearly and save money

I've been wearing glasses (or contacts) almost all my life and they are the biggest health related expense I have.  These days I wear my glasses almost all the time so I like to have a couple of different styles for different situations. Before I buy new glasses I always do some research and shop around for the best deal. 

Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

Check Your Health Insurance Cover
Look over your health insurance coverage to see if vision care and spectacles are included and if it is, what specifically is covered. While not everyone’s insurance plan covers the purchase of glasses or contacts, it may offer a discount when you purchase these items.

Shop Online Sites
I’d heard friends mention shopping online for their glasses but I had no idea how much was available. To buy glasses online you will need the prescription from your optometrist as well as your frame size and the measure of your pupillary distance (PD).  Eye tests are bulk billed to Medicare so there are no out of pocket expenses for you (if you haven't had an eye test in the last two years), just ask for the prescription when the test is finished .

Check Your Memberships For Discounts
Some membership groups  offer discounts on eyeglasses and contact lenses. Check the organizations you belong to and see if there are any discounts available.  For instance I have an RACV membership and receive 20% off at OPSM.

Watch for Sales
Many optometrists these days will offer a buy one, get one free sale and these offers can save you a lot of money and give you two pair of glasses - one for everyday and one for going out, or to match different outfits - whatever you like. 

The bottom line is that as with everything, there are always going to be ways to save money. You just need to take some time to research what your saving options are.

12 January 2012

15 Minutes to a Sparkling Fridge

Next to the shower and oven, cleaning the fridge is the most detested household job. It is put off and put off, until it just can't be put off any longer.

So you've decided to clean the refrigerator; you’ve put it off long enough!  Here are some simple steps to cleaning the refrigerator shelf  by shelf to hurry along the process.

Step 1.  Take everything out of one area, shelf or door at a time.

Step 2.  Look at everything you've taken out. Put any out of date or obviously spoiled food in either the compost or the garbage bin.

Step 3.  Wash and dry any containers you've emptied and put them away.

Step 4.  Take out the shelf, rack or drawer and wash it in hot, soapy water.  A word of warning: if your fridge has glass shelves, don't put them straight into very hot water. They will be extremely cold and the sudden change in temperature could cause them to crack or even worse, break.

Step 5.  Use a damp cloth to wipe over the inside of the fridge.  Dry with a clean tea-towel.

Step 6.  Replace the shelf or drawer and re-stock if necessary.  Line the bottom of the veggie bins with a folded tea towel to absorb any moisture. Some people use paper towel but as I don't have paper towel in the house I use a tea towel. It's easy to change each week and put in the wash.

Step 7.  Put an opened, small box or container of bicarb soda at the back of the fridge. The bicarb will absorb odours. Replace it every three months, but don't toss it. Use the bicarb to clean your drains.

Step 8.  Wipe over the outside of the fridge.

And you are done!  Just 15 minutes and working one shelf or area at a time makes cleaning the fridge easy. If something happens and you get called away, you don't need to just stuff everything back, you only have one shelf out. Unless it's a dire emergency you can either quickly finish off or close the fridge and come back to it later.

11 January 2012

Charge Less

A lot of people believe it’s unrealistic to live without using credit, it's not.  Some people rave about being able to use their credit cards for rewards and additional savings on their purchases, never taking into account the interest they are paying on the balance on that card that gives them so much for free. This year, try using your credit card less by switching to a cash budget.  If you feel  you really need your credit card, choose your bank’s debit card that’s linked to your savings account instead. You'll be spending your own money and not adding to your debt.  Nothing curbs the urge to splurge better than seeing your money leave your wallet.

10 January 2012

Crockpot Sweet Mustard Glazed Ham

This glazed ham is simple and delicious.  Serve it hot with vegetables and then slice it for salads and sandwiches and dice it for fried rice or omelettes. 

Now is a great time to buy a ham. The unsold Christmas hams are on sale in supermarkets right now and they are an excellent price, much cheaper than the sliced or shaved ham from the deli.  Ham freezes well, either in slices, diced or whole. Buying ham whole on the bone is a very economical way of buying sandwich meat too. Use a very sharp carving knife, an electric knife or a meat slicer (if you are fortunate enough to have one) to shave the meat just like the deli does, you'll save a fortune.

3kg ham
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp cornflour

Place ham in crockpot. In separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, mustard, and orange juice.  Pour mixture over ham, put cover on crockpot, and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. urn crockpot down to LOW temperature and cook for 6 to 7 hours.  Remove ham from crockpot and keep warm, and turn crockpot to HIGH.Mix cold water and cornflour in small bowl until cornflour is dissolved. Whisk cornflour mixture into drippings in crockpot, cook until sauce begins to thicken, whisking several times. Serve ham with thickened glaze spooned over slices.

09 January 2012

Edible Jewellery

We are at that stage in the summer holidays where the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year is over and the excitement of new games and toys has worn off.  Kids are getting the "I'm boreds" and parents are starting to pull their hair out.

One way to keep younger children busy for a while is to let them make edible jewellery.  Remember years ago we could buy necklaces and bracelets made of small sweets? They were strung on hat elastic and were great fun.

Your children can make their own edible jewellery, using jelly beans and dental floss.   The dental floss is strong enough to hold the weight of the jelly beans and easy for little fingers to handle.  A blunt-nosed No. 18 tapestry needle will glide through those sweeties easily.

Edible jewellery - yummy and fashionable!

06 January 2012

How an Old Sheet Can Save Your Shoulders

We have a rather large walk in robe in our bedroom. Not that I'm complaining at all. It comes in handy for storing all manner of things aside from our clothes. We have the party boxes on the top shelf, spare doonas and pillows are in vacuum bags on another shelf. I can hide special things in there and know that they won't be found by prying eyes. I have the storage tubs with extra pantry supplies in there too. All in all it's a great space. Except for the dust.

We have roadworks happening up the hill from us, major roadworks that won't be finished until the end of the year at the earliest and the dust blows down the hill and into my spic and span (ok I may be exagerating a little here but it is clean) house. And into my walk in robe, where it gathers on the tops of my coats, jackets and skirts.

The obvious solution would be to buy some shoulder covers to put over the coat hangers so off I went to see what I could find. After an hour of traipsing from store to store, through Kmart, Big W, Howards Storage World (boy is that shop expensive) and the Reject Shop I finally gave in and bought one. For three dollars. It was the sturdiest looking cheap one I could find.

I bought one because I have used it as a pattern to make some more myself. They are surprisingly quick and easy to cut out and stitch. Two simple half ovals, hemmed and then stitched to within 5mm of the centre top. Then a quick snip to make a small hole for the hook part of the coat hanger to go through and they were done. To stop the small hole from fraying or tearing I brushed around the edges with clear nail polish. Less than 15 minutes from laying out the pattern to putting them over the hanger.

My overlocker wasn't co-operating so I used a French seam on them and a double turn for the hem. If you have an overlocker then that won't be necessary, just stitch them up.

I made 16 in one afternoon and they didn't cost a cent. I had an old queen size sheet that was torn and beyond repair. Being a plain cream colour it was ideal for the job. Now my coats and jackets hang in the wardrobe, shoulders nicely covered and free from dust.

05 January 2012

Set up a Laundry Centre

Caring for clothes and linens is the second biggest chore in a household (meal prep and clean-up is the first).  It is also the second biggest chore to get out of hand easily and quickly without a routine. 

Make your laundry room and the actual chore as pleasant, easy and routine as possible. Start with cleaning and tidying the laundry. My laundry isn't even a room - it's a tub and washing machine at the end of a corridor - but it's clean and tidy.

Have at least one basket or bag for dirty laundry. If you have the space having one for whites, one for darks and one for coloureds makes sorting easier. The containers don't have to cost anything, they can be recycled boxes if you don't have anything else. Next you need a shelf or basket or cupboard to hold laundry supplies. 

I have a $2 shower caddy on the wall above the sink to hold the plug, stain removing soap, a couple of scrubbing brushes, the soaker and a bottle of Miracle Spray. These are the things I use just about everyday so keeping them handy saves time and the caddy keeps them tidy.  The washing powder box fits neatly on the windowsill, right next to the washing machine.

Next to the washing powder is a little dish. This is where I put the things I find in pockets - pens, screwdrivers, memory sticks, etc.  The rule in our house is any money found in the laundry in Mums and it goes into the money box for saving. Needless to say I don't very often find money in the washing machine or pockets.

There is a rack over the door for hanging things. This is where I hang the drip dry items - straight from the machine onto coathangers and then to the rack.

On the wall above the sink I hang the clotheshorses when they are not in use. They are up out of the way, neat and tidy and still easy to get to when I want them. Next to them is the dryer. It gets used as extra grocery storage and saves a bundle, simply because if I'm tempted to use it I have to empty it first.

If you have the room, a table or bench to fold on makes life easy.  I use the top of the chest freezer, which means the piles need to be put away so I can get into the food, a definite plus for efficiency. 

Once you have your laundry centre set up, keep it looking good and the washing under control by doing a load every day. Just choose the basket with the most in it and wash it.  Doing one load a day takes only a few minutes, about 30 all up by the time you load the machine, hang it out, bring it in and put it away. And it's not all at once, that 30 minutes is broken down into smaller segments, so no "I don't have time" excuses. You can do anything for 10 minutes, even laundry.

Keeping things simple saves you money, time, energy and space.  And it makes doing the laundry a whole lot easier.

04 January 2012

How long before you retire?

For many of us retirement is only a few years away. Do you have enough in your superannuation, savings and emergency funds to allow you to live comfortably, without financial stress, in retirement?

If you expect to live on more than the Age Pension ($19,469, or $29,354 for a couple, as at September 2011), you need to find the income from your superannuation and non-super savings.

If retirement is fast approaching for you, start living on the basic age pension now. Have a trial run and see how you manage. Can you live on just $374 a week (for a single, $564 for a couple)? This will give you a pretty good idea of what you need to cut back on and what you will no longer be able to afford.

Try it for a month and see how you go. Then start cutting back on the unnecessary things now and sock that money away, into super if you can, otherwise into a good savings account, and build your retirement nest egg.

With Australians living longer and healthier lives than ever before you can expect to live in retirement for a good, long time. A little forethought and planning now will see you living in a comfortable retirement for a good, long time.

03 January 2012

Pizza Quesadillas

If you need a quick lunch to feed a hoard of hungry kids (or adults) during the holidays, these  quesadillas fit the bill perfectly.  They can be made in the kitchen in a fry pan but they are even better if they are done on the barbecue and the bonus is not heating up the house.

You can add to the filling if you want to. Try sliced mushrooms or thinly sliced capsicum, add a little shaved ham or chicken - use your imagination to see what yummy combinations you can come up with.

One more thing: you don't need to use tortillas. If they aren't on sale, use Mountain bread. It's cheaper and is ideal for these snacks.  Of course making your own tortillas is always the best option; they are cheaper and so easy. If you haven't tried them yet, give them a go.  The recipe is in the Bread Recipe File.

8 flour tortillas
1 cup of pizza sauce (bought or homemade)
1 cup of cheese, grated

Lay 4 tortillas into a large, non-stick fry pan and place over low heat. Spread 1/4 C of sauce evenly over each tortilla. Sprinkle each tortilla with cheese. Place a second tortilla over the top. Cook 5 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned. Carefully flip the tortilla and cook an additional 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove and cut into triangles.

Note: If your frypan isn't big enough to hold four tortillas do two at a time.

02 January 2012

Get Out Those UFOs

Every crafter has at least one. The project that was started and for whatever reason put aside to start something new.  Some crafters have dozens of them, all taking up space and wasting money.

Start the new year with a decision to get those UFOs finished. Pull them out and have a good look at them. Any you find that you really don't want to finish pass on to someone who would love it.  Any kits you have that  you just know you will never work, donate.  Sort your projects according to the work involved to finish them. They're just like paying down debt - work on the quickest and easiest first and you'll be inspired to keep going until even your biggest challenge has been finished.