Monday, April 27, 2015

This weeks insourcing value in the home...

Well I had a quieter week on the insourcing front last week.
My daughter returned to school after the Easter break, and I granted myself a week of taking things a little more slowly.
I was pretty proud of my Loyalty Point haul though, and you can read how I acquired over $300 worth of household essentials for free, here.
But even in a so called 'quieter' week, my insourcing efforts saved us on takeaway, fuel, cleaning and ironing, and gift making.
We never eat takeaway because I devote two hours every weekend, to peeling, dicing, grating and slicing all of our vegetable requirements for the week. Last night for example, I steamed some rice using my no-fail method here, pan fried some chicken thigh strips I'd cut up earlier in the week, added some sliced cabbage from a ziplock bag which had been prepped the previous weekend, some sliced shallots done at the same time, and some snow peas (mange tout) I'd topped and tailed on Saturday, adding a drizzle of Mirin and some soy sauce, and dinner was ready in less time than it would have taken to place the order and drive to the takeaway! This sort of pre-preparing saves an astounding amount of time, money and parental sanity, and once you get into the groove with it, you'll actually look forward to it. It's kind of mindless and soothing and I always have a bit of Ella Fitzgerald or Sade or something else sort of croon-worthy playing in the background and it's a bit of time for thinking and not talking. Always valuable for we Mums. I estimate this strategy saves us at least $100 a week, and probably more like $250 if you take into consideration all the takeaway and restaurant meals we DON'T eat due to having yummy, fresh, healthy alternatives immediately on hand.
Do you plan your car trips? Fuel is such a chunk out of the family budget these days, that hopping into the car without thought for where you're going and in what order, is really a bit foolhardy. I minimise driving, planning trips around where my daughter has to be, and shopping in areas nearby. I estimate that this strategy cuts my fuel bill by 30% or $30 a week.
So many people have a cleaning professional clean their homes these days. It's lovely, but what happens on the day that the cleaner doesn't show. This happens more often than you imagine. The stress and chaos that ensues would turn a young man, grey, as full time working parents, try to manage a house clean in addition to their already full schedules. Save yourself the time, money and aggravation, and have a regular cleaning timetable. This saves me $100 a week, minimum!
I made my daughter two bed ponchos. She likes to read in bed, but in the chilly weather, needs something around her shoulders to stay warm. A length of soft polar fleece with a hole and a slit at the neckine, does nicely. Saving countless dollars on heating over Winter here. Let's say $10 a week. Plus the price of the ponchos, let's say $50.
I made all of my daughters school lunches and after school snacks. I keep saying that this saves an astounding amount of money, at least $100 a week, and I only have the one child still at home. What would it save us if we still had the boys home as well!
I ironed. I hate it. But we do have things that must be ironed. I saved $30 on an ironing lady.
I think my worth in the home last week was around the $900 mark. Not bad for a 'Mum'.
How did you go last tell.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Getting the most out of Loyalty Points...

I got all this for nothing....and you can too!
I have some exciting things to share today.
I'm not a dedicated Coles shopper as some of you probably know. I skip between Coles, Woolies, Aldi, the local fruit market, and even the deli, depending upon where I am geographically that week, and what our requirements are.
When I shop at Coles and Woolworths though, I make sure I use my loyalty cards to accrue points. I have to say though, that I'm a bit vague about actually using the points. I don't plan spending them, or accrue points with a loyalty points purchase in mind. Nine times out of ten, I get to a stage where the newsletter arrives, and I blow them on gifts for friends and family, that I probably could have bought for less on sale or on eBay. Although I guess I'd have to use 'real money' then, wouldn't I ;-)
Nothing really wrong with that, but my choices are limited to what is on offer, and not what I might genuinely choose in any other buying situation. So really, I'm tailoring my points spending, according to what I'm being told to buy.
So, yesterday, Annabel and I were discussing on her blog, her idea of collecting the $5 voucher that Coles offers for giving them feedback on your shopping experience. You can claim one of these a month, when you spend over $100 in a single transaction, and they can be redeemed on any further spend of over $100. Although it doesn't sound much, that's $60 a year, so worth having.
She's often made the point, that by buying items that are discounted, you can actually double the value of that $5 spend. I'd read this before, even back when Annabel has made this comment here, but it never really gelled.
But yesterday, between her saying that, and the arrival of the latest Flybuys catalogue and statement, I had a light bulb moment. Bear with me, I am getting to the!
My statement had a big teaser on the front, that told me that I could convert my points to $169 worth of Flybuys dollars. Now remember, I'm not even really trying here. I shop there when it suits me, and not otherwise, so accruing those points hasn't been hard. I do fuel up at the Shell servo though, so I think that helps.
I also saw on Wendy the Super Savers blog, that the one litre Imperial Leather body was on special at Coles this week for $4.50. I checked the catalogue online, and discovered that several items we buy regularly were 1/2 price this week. Can you see where this is going?
The items were Finish dishwashing tablets 48 pack, 1 litre Sorbolene cream, Pantene shampoo and conditioner, Palmolive dishwashing liquid,1 litre Imperial Leather Body Wash, and for upcoming Parent Teacher interviews, boxes of Celebration chocolates.
I first converted my points to Flybuy dollars. These were loaded onto my card within 30 minutes, and I received a confirmation email.
I decided how many of each item I would buy, doing my best to use as many of the Flybuys dollars as possible, not because they expire (they don't), but to take advantage of the discounts on these items that I would be purchasing anyway at some stage. All items had to be things we already use, and non-perishable or useable in the near future.
I then went to my local Coles, and had my little buying spree. I had to ask for the Sorbolene as there was none on the shelf, and I had to visit a second Coles this morning to get two more of the 48 pack Finish tablets as most of the ones on special are only packs of 40 (different varieties). But ultimately I found everything I needed.
I kept waiting for someone to say you can't do that with the 1/2 price specials, but it didn't happen. Not only that, but I collected more Flybuys points on the purchase, AND got another $5 off coupon to use another day. What the heck??? Crazy....I mean good crazy!
My dockets tell me I saved $176.21 on buying these items when we'd normally require them, and paying full price. I've also done my survey, and will get $5 off my next shop AND accrued further Flybuys points!
Sorry, I know that was long winded, and I probably could have said it more succinctly, but you see why I'm excited!
So the secret is to ONLY buy items that are being offered at 50% off. I was tempted by a few that were 25% or 30% off, but I wouldn't be getting maximum value for my points then, would I?
 Fortunately for me, I was able to do that all in one hit, and that's just luck of the draw. Next time, I might have to make the spend over several shopping expeditions, but that's okay because the Flybuys dollars do not expire.
I won't change my shopping habits just for this, but I have a new incentive to collect my loyalty points, that's for sure!
$352.42 value, without parting with a single solitary cent out of my own wallet.
Good, huh?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mimi's Savings secrets...10 tips for painless saving...

We get tricked into thinking that the only way to 'save' is to physically put money in the bank, but there are other ways to go about it.
I don't know about you, but I've never been good at 'putting money in the bank'. It just sounds like a chore, and more importantly, one I never get around to doing. Instead, I challenge myself constantly to see how much money I can leave in the bank. It's a subtle difference that works for me.
I call it 'Remainings' not 'Savings', as it's about how much remains in my account.
So here are a few little tips from me. None of them earth shattering, but simply a sharing of what works for me, and will maybe work for you too.
1. Pay small additional amounts on accounts like utilities, rent or your mortgage, school fees or car payments.
When we were young and my Mum was a single Mother (extremely rare in the 1960s and 70s), she used to 'save' for our annual vacation by paying a little extra on the rent each week. This was relatively painless for her, and meant that the rent money was then available to fund other things, somewhere down the track.
This allowed us to have a three week holiday at the beach every Christmas with no debt incurred. By the time December rolled around, she'd be six or eight weeks ahead in the rent (or later the mortgage) on our suburban home, and she'd be in a position to rent the holiday house, and use her normal fortnightly income, to fund our holiday fun.
She was the ultimate 'insourcer', and made do, made from scratch and made hay while the sun shined, stocking up on bargains whenever she could, sewing all of our clothes including school uniforms, and never buying anything that she knew she could make herself.
2. Find savings in anticipated purchases.
Another thing I learned from Mum, was to spread large purchases over the year, and by that I don't mean interest free, or using the credit card.
I'll often use the savings I've made from insourcing to stock my pantry with some little luxuries or purchase school requirements ahead of time. Who says you only buy uniforms and school supplies at the start of the school year? Those things are available all year round, so why not alleviate some of the expense, by spreading the spending over several months?
For example, I've made some savings on the food budget in recent weeks due to our new clean eating plan. I could have transferred that money to the account for our cruise in June, but I knew I'd just spend it on something basically one does on holidays.
I decided instead, to invest that unexpected surplus in a new dance uniform for my daughter, as they were selling out an old style at a discount, to make way for a new one. This alleviates an expense later in the year, when I know there will be other demands on our finances.
When you have even a small surplus that might otherwise be frittered away on something pointless, aim to make purchases that may not be necessities right now, but still things that would have to be acquired eventually, perhaps when there are other financial pressures. I know I'll appreciate this and other small purchases all the more when school and dance shopping rolls around at the start of the new year, and our list, and our expenses, are a quarter the size of everyone else's.
These are cash savings in and of themselves, as good as money in the bank for me, as it means that in  sourcing many items on sale, I can buy what we need, at the best possible best price, and not at a premium when everyone else is trying to buy the same thing.
This strategy frees our cash flow up for other purchases at a later date, as it means more money remains in the bank.
3. Buy when nobody else is buying.
That goes for property and holidays as well.
Of course you try to buy property when the market is at it's weakest if you possibly can. I've heard people say in recent times that they'd never invest in property in case the value drops. What nonsense. That might hold true if you're looking to make a quick dollar, but if you plan to live in the property for the foreseeable future, then the vagaries of the property market are of little concern. Property in populated cities, close to amenities, will always improve in value in the long term, and in the meantime, you have a roof over your head. You can't say that about most other 'investments'.
Ditto with holidays. When we were really young, and before the beach holidays we enjoyed as teens, Mum would take us on an annual trip on the Sunlander, an overland train that skirted the Queensland coast. We'd travel in Sleeper cabins for 3 days and 2 nights to reach North Queensland and stay in huge houses with enormous beds covered in mosquito nets a la Arabian Nights. We'd go in the May school break, as it was cold then, and most people wanted to go in the Summer. My wise Mum knew that North Queensland was an oven in the Summer and that Winter was the perfect time to go. She also knew it was the least expensive time to go. Thus we got to holiday not once, but several times on Green Island, Magnetic Island and Dunk Island, all of which are destinations now out of reach for the average family, due to the Five Star hotel chains taking the islands over.
4. Don't take the  money out of the bank to start with.
As I mentioned earlier....'putting money in the bank'? Well I actually don't. I challenge myself to withdraw as little as possible to start with, meaning that the dollars can mount up without ever having to be 'banked'. It works for me.
The terminology should be Remainings, not Savings, as for me, it's about how much remains in the bank!
5. Pay your bills on time.
Remember that bills still need to be paid, and there's no sense in saving money in a special account for a treat, if you have a nasty outstanding bill to pay! I know this sounds obvious, but I constantly hear of folk jetting off here or there, or sending Timmy or Tammy to a prestigious school or some crazy overseas 'educational' trip, when they're a payment or two behind on the mortgage and their credit card is choc-a-block. Or maybe they're a payment or two behind and the credit card is chokkers BECAUSE they're jetting off overseas and sending Timmy and Tammy to a prestige school that they can't really afford. What the heck? Paying the bills isn't as much fun as a holiday, but believe me, the sense of freedom and relief you'll get from getting that nasty vet or mechanics bill out of the way, and then being able to save for something special, guilt free, will be well worth the pain.
6. Credit Cards are not money.
They're someone elses money.
Would you turn to your best friend and say 'hey, spot me $1500 for this lounge, will you?'.
But you're happy to ask a perfect stranger? As in the bank or finance company that issues you the credit card, that is. Ohhhh....hang on, they ARE your friend? You know that they charge you interest, right? Of course they're your best friend when you sign up. They know they're going to make money out of you!
Conversely if your friend said 'Hell yes! Coz I know you won't pay me back on time and by the end of the year, I'll be asking you for $1800, not $1500.'...'d look at them like they'd gone mad, and say 'no thanks, I'll skip the lounge'. You'd probably skip the friendship too.
7. Don't shop for entertainment.
Just don't.'s Remainings not Savings.
8. If you have friends who only want to socialise if it involves spending money, find new friends.
 Okay, I know it's not that easy.
And for sure, going out for a nice meal is one of lifes great pleasures.
If you can afford it.
I'm appalled at recent television advertisements offering short term loans for such stupidity as DJ's for a toddlers party, or a meal out with girlfriends.
Don't. Ever. Ever. Did I say never?
Practice and perfect cooking one meal, then invite your friends over. The money you'd spend on one meal out, will buy some pretty flash crockery and glassware, and anyone can set an impressive table and serve a nice meal. Someone has to buck the trend.
Come on. Are you a follower or a leader?
9. Learn an heirloom skill.
Have you seen how much hand made things cost??
Even simple things like a set of three baby muslins stamped with a potato stamp and fabric paint, sell for $60-$80, and can be made for under $15.
Anything hand embroidered, you're looking at spending into the hundreds of dollars.
The price of chocolate truffles is ridiculous. You do realise that chocolate truffles are just equal parts good dark chocolate and cream, melted together and allowed to cool, then rolled into balls and dipped in cocoa, right?
Cupcakes. My gosh. $6.50 for one?? They're still just cupcakes. If you want fancy schmancy icing, do what my friend Annabel over at The Bluebirds are Nesting does, and pop a marshmallow on top of the cupcake, and swirl your icing over it. Top with some metallic sprinkles. Done. Costs about 40c, not $6.50.
10. Do not ever allow anyone to make you feel bad about NOT spending.
We all have different priorities, and if theirs are at odds with yours, well too bad.
You're the one that'll be laughing ten years from now.
What painless savings.....sorry can you share?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Five Star Frugal and Roasted Tomatoes....

Welcome to a new week and a new Five Star Frugal Linkup.
I've found some lovely thrifty produce at the local fruit market lately, and one of my favourite purchases has been one kilogram (2.2lbs) trays of Roma tomatoes, they're the egg shaped ones, for around $1 a tray. Now when I see these, it's like Pavlovs Dog. I immediately start salivating and the deep rich scent of tomatoes, slow roasted with balsamic vinegar, fills my brain and my nostrils as if I were right there in my kitchen.
What can I say, but YUM.
These are such a divinely delish thing, served as an accompaniment with anything from roasts and steaks, to pasta and salads. Once you've tried them, you'll be hooked!
Just line some trays with silicone baking paper, and cut those babies into thick slices, lining them up, row upon row upon row. It's quite therapeutic once you get going, and I'll usually do up to ten trays worth in a session. These collapse down like you wouldn't believe, so storage is easily taken care of in two or three cube shaped Klip-It containers.
Shake some Balsamic vinegar over them, and grind a bit of pepper on them too if you like.
Roast them at 200C fan forced for anything up to 90 minutes. Keep an eye on them though. When the vinegar starts caramelising it can burn, so turn them down if need be.
Once they collapse and caramelise and look all sort of rich red and tempting and smell like heaven, they're done. Take them out, let them cool slightly, then transfer them with tongs, to your containers. Refrigerate immediately.
I adore these on Corn Thins with a smear of Ricotta for an easy and super healthy breakfast or snack anytime. They are so flavoursome that they cure that 'I want something but I don't know what' thing that we all get sometimes, and with pasta, risotto, or atop a salad, they are the dreamiest thing ever.
What's not to like?
So on to our Five Star Frugal Linkup.
Thankyou again to all contributors, and here's the weekly round-up....
Please click on each contributors name, to get a peek at what they shared.

Patties Salsa Verde got the nod and passed the taste test.

Rita from Panopoly had me running down to make my list and check it twice for my upcoming garden escapades.

Benita at Chasing Quaintness had me foraging for mini milk bottles and silver paint.

Laura at Harvest Lane Cottage introduced us to Mrs White.

Jess shared her trials and got some much needed blogger support and sympathy.

Patsy inspired us with her Working Pantry update.

Fiona reminded us that school holiday activities don't have to involve shopping malls.

Darling Downs Diaries shared a mouthwatering Pasta Salad.

Joan shared her version of the Classic Layered Salad...yum!

Julie shared a review of a new Beauty Balm Stick.

Annabel made us all wish that we were on her card sending list with her pretty works of art.

Kathy shared a trip to a favourite shopping destination.

Nellie posted a favourite Cuban recipe for Picadillo...looks scrummy.

And Katy reminded us all, that staying at home is NOT boring.
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Sunday, April 19, 2015

This weeks insourcing value in the home...

I like to put a dollar value on what I achieve in the home week by week.
It makes me feel I'm contributing something important to our life, and gives me a real sense of satisfaction.
It also allows me to put actual money saved away, for something more exciting that a cleaning lady or a takeaway meal. Things like our Mediterranean cruise, which departs in just nine weeks. We can't wait. Insourcing went a long way to helping us save the substantial sum required not just to cruise, but to fly to the departure destination, enjoy a stopover on the flight home, and provide spending money for us all. That's a lot-a-dollars saved and a lot-a-insourcing!
Here's the dollar value of my work in the home this week....
* I prepped at least a weeks worth of bargain fruit and veges and stored them in the crisper in ziplock bags. This saved not only on buying ready prepared salad and vegetables for the week, but also made staying on track with our Michelle Bridges plan very easy and smooth, and prevented any random shopping. My savings at the fruit shop were already substantial on similar buys at the supermarket, so I'm going to say I saved a bare minimum of $50 by doing this.
* I spent $35 on remnants at Spotlight, but those remnants have the potential to save me up to $400 in gifts for family and friends, and formal wear for DD15. So I'll subtract the $35 I spent, from the $400 I WOULD have spent, and call that a $365 saving.
* I made 5 gathered ball cushions, the same as the one I saw in the posh homewares store for $59. Actually I think mine are nicer due to the fabric and embellishments I've used. Total spend including embellishments was $54. Total spend if I'd bought five similar cushions, $295!! So I saved $295 - $54 actual spend....actual saving $241.
* Savings on purchases at the fruit market, freed up money in the budget to buy some bargains on toiletries this week. I got toiletries to the value of $80 full price, for just $30. Saving of $50.
* We're sewing a tulle skirt refashioned from a bustle on a vintage wedding dress bought some months ago for under $50. We bought the dress as it has the potential to be a semi formal dress next year, and the bustle had so much fabric, we just knew we'd get one if not two tulle skirts out of it. Saving of $100 on two similar tulle skirts and gosh....lets conservatively say $150 on the semi formal dress. Value generated $250, from a $50 spend. Savings of $200.
* Cleaned, decuttered and ironed, saving $200 on a cleaning lady and an ironing lady (or man!).
* Rejuvenated herb garden, and sowed some seeds to generate a new crop. Saving up to $100 in bought herbs over the next three months.
Total insourcing value this week $1206.
Even when I was at my career girl heights, I never had a take home pay anywhere near that, and I still had to accomplish all of those cleaning, gardening, meal prep, gift buying, and clothing goals.
I'm very happy with that :)
What did you insource this week, and more importantly, how much money did you save?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pretty Things....Gathered Ball Cushion....

So here's my take on the gathered cushion I spotted last week at a posh homewares store.
Mine is above....
...theirs is below....

Mine was based on the same method you'd use to make a Suffolk Puff or as some of us know them...a Yo-Yo puff.
There are many tutorials online for making those. Google is your friend there.
So I just made a gigantic Suffolk Puff. That's all that red cushion looked like to me.
I used that lovely soft green-grey damask, as I had a huge remnant of it in my fabric stash. I think I paid about $4 for it, and it's yielded three lovely gathered ball cushions, thankyou very much.
I used my daughters Hula Hoop as a guide for cutting, but again, there are trillions of 'how to cut a circle' methods online. Bear in mind that you need the circle to be at least three times the size of your desired completed cushion. This also means you need as much width in your fabric as possible.
I machine stitched all the way around the edge of the circle, and then ever so carefully and gently, pulled on the thread to gather it, regularly coaxing the gathers along the line, so they were even. In hindsight, hand sewing with embroidery thread would have possibly been easier, but I'm yet to test that method.
Once I had the gathers about right, but still had a wide enough opening, I filled my cushion with Hobbyfill to the extent of puffiness desired. As I won't be sitting or leaning on my cushion, but rather using it for decorating purposes, I didn't go overboard, but I still used about a quarter of a bag of Hobbyfill for mine.
Then, going gently again, so the threads didn't break, I coaxed my circle edge closer into the middle, to form the ball. Once I had it about as small as it could go (like a Suffolk Puff remember), I tucked the edges in and stitched the opening closed.
I then pinned a vintage brooch to the centre, and voila!
I think I like my cushion better to be honest. It certainly suits my d├ęcor more than red velvet would have. I love that the damask has a sumptuous sheen, and the vintage brooch really adds to the Victoriana feel.
I have two pastel pink velvet ones on the go for my daughter now. I'll post a photo of those when done. They look completely different to my grey-green ones, but just as lovely. In preference to vintage brooches, I've used proper rhinestone buttons for hers. These added to the cost, but again, as I was using remnants, my cushions still aren't nearly as expensive.
All up, I've made five gathered ball cushions, for $54. Each one has taken me no more than an hour to complete. Probably more like around 40 minutes.
The red one, had I succumbed to temptation, would have set me back $59.
I'm happy :)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Healthy snack bags....

Come mid to late afternoon, we all feel like something to snack on, don't we?
Something crunchy, salty, crisp, that we can mindlessly transfer from a packet to a waiting mouth.
Usually it's a packet of chips, isn't it. Come on. Own up.
I'm guilty of this one, and a dozen other mid afternoon slump evils. Sometimes it's cheese and crackers, sometimes it's corn chips and salsa, sometimes it's just a packet of chips to eat mindlessly. Not good for you, and really, if we're honest, not that tasty. Just crunchy and salty, right?
Here's my alternative. It's crunchy, it's salty, and tangy, it comes in a packet and it can be eaten mindlessly whilst trawling your preferred social media site or favourite blogs.
Best of all, it's healthy. And inexpensive. One packet of chips (crisps) costs around 80c from the supermarket and up to $3 from a vending machine. Each of these snack bags, costs 70c-$1.20 depending upon how much protein you include, and what vegetables are used. If you use what is in season and therefore less expensive, you'll hover around the $1 mark.
I make a dozen of these at a time so that the whole family can have healthy snacks for a few days.
For one dozen healthy snack bags, you'll need:
12 medium sized zip lock bags
2 chicken breasts
3 lemons
1-2 kg of green beans, snow peas, or any other vege cut into sticks (you can virtually have unlimited veges in your snack bag, so go for broke...but no added salt or butter or other naughties!)
Pepper, dried chilli, oregano or any other herb you like
1 tablespoon olive oil
Then just:
Preheat the oven to 180C fan forced. Add the oil to a large baking dish.
Remove the tenderloin from the chicken breast (that little bit that hangs off one side), then cut the larger section in half lengthwise, and in half again, so that you now have a tenderloin, and two flatter fillets, cut into four smaller strips. Thus you'll have six chicken pieces from each breast.
Place them in the baking dish and coat them in the oil.
Sprinkle with your chosen herbs and spices. Zest the lemons and sprinkle the zest over the chicken breasts. No salt, as the lemon is going to provide the healthy zing for this snack.
Bake the tenderloins for 25-35 minutes. You don't want them to dry out, so check often after 20 minutes. Cut into them if you aren't sure. They should be just white through the middle and plump and moist. They will NOT be browned. Just cooked through.
While they're cooking, trim your veges. Top and tail the beans or snow peas, or peel and julienne other selections. Stick with water dense veges like zucchini, beans, snow peas, broccoli, carrots, or even low carb like cauliflower florets.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and dunk the veges in, leaving them for no longer than about 2 minutes to maintain the crunch. This is important as it tricks your brain into thinking 'chips' when you're eating 'veg'.
Drain the vegetables well, and dunk them immediately into cold water to halt the cooking process.
Spread them all on paper towels on the bench and pat them dry.
Cut each lemon into four wedges.
To each ziplock bag, add a generous handful of blanched vegetables, a lemon wedge, and a piece of chicken. Seal and refrigerate.
Consume as necessary, squeezing lemon juice over first, and ignoring all calls for other crispy, salty, tangy and generally delicious but completely unhealthy, snacky type thingos.
Watch weight melt away, and mid afternoon slumps disappear like magic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sweet Potato Hash Brown Stack....

This is the savoury breakfast for those with a sweet tooth. It's sweet, and satisfying without being loaded with sugar, and believe it or not, it's healthy too!
These quantities serve two or three people depending on serving sizes.
You'll need:
2 sweet potato, peeled and grated
1 egg
4 tablespoons plain flour
8 semi dried tomato slices for serving (I make my own)
Smooth ricotta
Fresh basil
Olive oil for pan frying
Then just:
Combine the grated sweet potato, the egg and the flour in a bowl. Mix well.
Heat a large pan or skillet over a hotplate heated to the highest temperature. Add a tablespoon of oil, and swirl to coat the pan.
Drop in a large, heaped tablespoon full of the mixture, and gently form it into a circle. Allow it to brown for about two minutes, then gently flip it over to cook on the other side. Lower the heat to ensure that it cooks through, without burning on the outside. Pan fry for about four minutes, flipping once more to ensure even browning and cooking.
Remove to some foil wrap to keep it warm while you repeat the process with the rest of the mixture.
To serve, place on hash brown on a plate, spread with a little of the smooth ricotta, and top with two of the semi dried or oven roasted tomato slices, and a sprig of fresh basil. Top with a second hash brown, a little more ricotta, two more tomatoes, and garnish with more basil.
Each mouthful is like a party in your mouth! Really. Crunchy hash brown, smooth ricotta, sweet tomato, fragrant basil. Awesome.
Try it.
You'll love it.
Good for lunch or dinner too!

Friday, April 10, 2015

French....DIY inspiration....

Annabel my blogging friend from The Bluebirds are Nesting, and I agree on many things, not the least of which is that posh Homewares stores are not meant for buying things. They're meant for inspiration for DIY!
With this in mind, I visited two of my favourites this week. One a Shabby Chic type barn tucked away in a suburban side street, the other, a nearby French homewares and furniture emporium.
The red velvet cushion above, caught my eye straight away. That one's on my list for this weekend. It was priced at $69...probably a fair price, but not one I'm prepared to pay when I can do it myself for one third the cost.
This artificial agapanthus plant in bronze urn was $499. $499 people. I know someone will snap it up at that price, but it wasn't going to be me!
Well, then I spotted these Phalaenopsis orchids in a silver urn/bucket. Sheesh. I've done that one and it didn't cost me $399... 
This version was $799!!!
Then there were these, and I think these are the reason I was drawn to this particular shop on this particular day. They are rhinestone applique's, mounted on black velvet and framed. Aren't they stunning?
I've ordered my appliques, I've already found the the long wait for delivery. Mine will cost around $100. I couldn't see the price on this one, but I bet it wasn't $100!
What did you find to inspire you this week?


Friday, April 3, 2015


My daughter and I used this picture as inspiration to make over her room a couple of years ago.
I think we did okay....and before you ask why her room is so dark and what are those bars on her windows, no she's not in a guarded turret. The 'bars' are shade slats and very common in our part of the world where the Summer sun can turn a West facing bedroom into a sauna. And the intentional 'gloom' is the very shade that keeps her room liveable. She loves's like a permanent cubby house.
Winter came and the Summery vintage patchwork, made way for a strawberry coloured chenille number....

Now she's rearranged her room according to Feng Shui principles and favours another vintage Candlewick bedspread....she's nothing if not predictable.
Me? I love anything French. I sketched this myself one day when I was bored. It's been hanging over my desk for a year or two now. Everyone loves it and wants one, but it was one of those 'moment in time' things. I'm not sure I could do it again.
Anything with texture, preferably in neutral tones gets the nod from me. I made this faux mink throw myself when those things were popular a year or seven ago. I don't think they're quite the go now, but I love mine. Curling up with on a cool night to watch TV feels quite decadent.
Ballet shoes and bling get a good look in round here too.
The girl child took this photo on her iPhone using the aforementioned rug, and her most recent pointe shoes. Quite arty, I thought.
Gelati colours are a favourite when we're not neutral or ballet pink. Limoge teacups and Vintage canisters for example...

We rather like orchids....even fake ones which are so good these days, you can scarcely tell they're fake anyway.
And we have lots of thingies displayed. You know. Useless stuff that we just like looking at.
More Limoges china stacked with calico stamped with French script from the lovely Annabel, Frenchy books, jars of travel mementoes like viewing glasses from the Lido...I think Husband used those to zoom in on some of the sequin action in the show. That's what he said anyway.
More Frenchy books, and a DIY cloche hung with ballet pink ribbon and antique French keys.
Pineapples, red tulips, red books and classic books, ducks, horseheads, brass telescope in wooden box, we've got it all. And nearly all completely and utterly superfluous to modern day life.

Frankly it drives my poor husband around the twist. But I would die without my pretty things around me. I keep trying to exercise restraint, but I just don't think it's in me. All I can do is rotate the stuff so that it all gets a viewing.
What about you. Are you a Minimalist? Or are you more lavish and flamboyant? Do tell.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Life's purpose...

Here's me at 12. My mother knew I was on the cusp of adult life and had a special portrait taken of me. Similar portraits of my siblings also exist.
I had no idea at the age of 12, that I would become a disability advocate due to my sons diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy.
Fast forward 30 years ahead, and here's our family at my son's 17th birthday gathering.
Note the joie` de vivre and hope and natural enjoyment in everyones posture. The simple, crazy certainty in my youngest sons roar of happiness, and our joint knowing, that a good life lays ahead.
Two years later, despite being told it couldn't be done, our son had a government funded unit, and money to pay for around the clock care. It didn't come easily. It entailed many tears and tantrums. But we got there.
I always believed I had a purpose.
I think this was my purpose.
Happy 24th birthday Mr. A.
We're so very proud of you.