Wednesday, July 29, 2015

50 & Fabulous....find your own style...

How do I find My Style?
I just spent near on two days searching for My Style. My Style pretty much looks like this picture here. It's kind of neat, respectable, practical Aussie Mum wear. Neat. I like neat. And comfortable. That too. Unfortunately it's not considered style as such.
Anyway, in pursuit of My Style, I Googled until my fingers seized, retreating into arthritic claws, begging for mercy. In desperation, I checked underneath the lounge cushions and in between the console and the car seat in case My Style had somehow got wedged in there. Everything else does.
My Style wasn't there. I did find my favourite lip wand though so ... BONUS... right?
Here's what else I discovered (Googling, not under the couch cushions)...but be not fooled...I'm none the wiser.
Apparently at 55 years old, I should not wear my hair long, nor let it be grey. I should maintain a svelte figure, but not dress to show it off. I should keep my bosom and my bottom bound and covered, preferably in lots of spandex.
One source said pastels were flattering. Another said no self respecting Fab-50 would be seen dead in pastels. I don't mind pastels personally, but for me, prints are a dead set no-no. Others like them though, so, you know...whatever. I'm confused already....are you?
Apparently if you dare to wear your hair gracefully grey, you should then not wear grey clothing. Or black. Black is too ageing and grey is just it's said. I like both grey and black and wear a lot of them...I like them.
To me, that piece of advice is like telling a blonde not to wear beige, or gold or yellow or ecru or taupe or this....
I actually like this look and when I WAS blonde (and slender), I leaned towards these sorts of neutrals. I've always been a fan of the monochromatic look.
So if you have dark brown hair, do you not wear brown? Bewildering.
One little wisp of a thing that looked all of 19 in her blog profile pic, advised we older ladies, to please not wear anything made for younger women because it just looks silly and we're embarrassing ourselves and the rest of the world. I'd direct you to her blog, but I wouldn't want her to get the traffic. Spiteful, I know.
Parisian women, we've all been told for years, wear fitted ensembles to their dying day, lest their naughty husbands stray. My French friend who is also a husband, takes great exception to this myth. His wife is cuddly and wears flowing bohemian outfits (albeit with stunning one of a kind sterling silver accessories made by a clever friend...but then I do that too, and I'm not Parisian) and the thought of straying has never entered his mind. Consider that myth busted.
All the same, flowing clothes make you look fat apparently. I've been wearing flowing clothes ever since Stevie Nicks did it back in the 70s. I wore them when I was a size 2 (size 8 in Australian). I like them. I like the way they ripple around me when I walk. They make me feel girly and feminine. Why should I change that and get all anal retentive (psycho scientific expression, not anything to do with bottoms actually), wearing cropped jackets and booty enhancing capri pants, now that I've gained a few pounds. I don't get it. Really shouldn't it be the other way around?
Another thing that bothers me enormously is where one is supposed wear all these things that a stylish woman is meant to wear. I'm all for zhooshing up the neighbourhood with my personal fabulous-ness, but picking plums from the ugly produce section of the greengrocer is a little at odds with the Chanel-esque way of life. Maybe the greengrocer would like it. He's Italian and always greets me enthusiastically, so there's a good chance it'd brighten his day enormously. But then he might think our little dalliances over the ugly plums meant more to me than to him. It might get uglier than the plums. Sigh.
I go to the school in the morning, stopping by the greengrocer on my way home. I stay home, cooking and doing home type things, then I return to the school. Occasionally I lunch with a friend. I visit my sons and granddaughters. I go to teacher meetings and committee meetings. I like to look nice, but Manolos don't work with two year olds and school carparks, no matter what anyone says.
And on the subject of shoes by the way, one person says heels elongate the leg and we should all be wearing them. Another says heels are too try-hard and we should all wear orthotic sandals and to hell with what the world thinks. I think both have their place, frankly. I favour anything that doesn't cripple me.
As for dresses, well we curvy girls should wear them (says someone with fashion nous), and all the photos I saw of curvy ladies in dresses certainly looked fab. But any time I try a dress on, it looks fine from the front, and as soon as I turn sideways I go 'what the HEY! I forgot I was FAT!'. I bet if they took side on shots of those plus sized models, we'd be saying the same about them. I just can't do it. Aside from that, I just don't like dresses that much. I'm a pants and long tops kinda gal. Dresses are channelling Granny to my way of mind.
Several bloggers swear that the element of surprise is the key and that we should all be wearing biker jackets with our emerald necklaces and chiffon, and that ripped jeans are terribly terribly wrong, with the inference that they're a bit....well....ugh....common. I can tell you right now that if I started wearing my black leather jacket over my chiffon, dripping in emeralds, there'd be surprise for sure. But not the kind they're talking about. And I like my ripped jeans. Mine have red Chinese brocade under the rips. I put it there. I like it. It's like wearing nice underwear, except others can see peeks of it. That's my biggest surprise.
And bows...well anyone over five shouldn't go there. Sniff. I love my bows. Always have.
Well. Gosh. Fail, fail, fail, fail, disastrous fail.
I'm done in. I can't be bothered asking anyone else how I should look. I'll decide for myself from here on in thanks.
So here's where my Pinterest board comes in. It's titled 50 and Fab, and it's here
I've been pinning on there for a couple of years now. A couple of years of things I like, how I'd like to look. More than a few sessions of finding the me I'd like to be.
So here's what I've found.
I like long, well groomed, well looked after grey hair. I like minimalist makeup and excellent eyebrows. I like flowing cardigans and white jeans.

I have an unhealthy obsession with fabulous flat shoes. From Lanvin ballet flats with chain embellishment... metallic Wicked-esque green Oxfords from Dieppa Restrepo... all kinds of things with patent leather and bows...yes bows...

...I love bows no matter what anyone says. This is not my behind, nor my bows, but it is grey, it has bows, and it's probably something I would wear, so it's included....

...and grey hair. With bows. I wear bows in my hair often. I'm 55. I don't kid myself that I'm some sort of Audrey Hepburn Ingenue. It's more a Brigitte Bardot vibe...womanly...and feminine...
...grey hair, Balyage silver hair...all gorgeous.

Layers. Flowing, soft layers. But neat. Neat layers. It makes sense to me. You don't want to look like you just rolled out of bed and forgot to take your sleepwear off before getting dressed.

I love a bit of chiffon and lace too. Lace trimmed sleeve cuffs, and deep lace frills on utilitarian fine knit hoodies or roomy cashmere sweatshirts are sort of Mumma glam round these here parts. This lady is my role model....

...sleek hair. I love sleek, well groomed hair. I'm sleek and smooth these days. I finally wrestled my GHD into submission.

Grooming extends to nails. They don't have to be red. Mine are mostly pinky, peachy, opalesque or neutral.

I rather like the Rock Chic look too. This lady is 72 years old and she OWNS this look. Not for the greengrocer perhaps. Not here. But something to aspire too when I'm 72.

And clearly this lady below, didn't get the memo about the ripped jeans either. Or the pastels. Or the one that said rolling your jeans up over your ankle is strictly for when you're wearing sneakers. I'm with her.

I do love a neat handbag though. So well ordered and tidy.

And must add, I have a fetish for fabulous hair accessories. This one is to-die-for.

Frankly, no matter what you wear, there's a lot to be said for general grooming, and looking like you've made an effort.
I saw a lady today who was wearing something that broke very style rule in the book. But upon closer inspection, she had immaculate nails, clean comfortable shoes that made her walk with a spring in her step, hair that looked like she'd just washed it and fluffed it and let it be, a killer smile and red lipstick.
She looked fabulous.
What's your style?
P.S. I've since softened my stance on some of these views. If you go to my Dressing the Petite Plus Apple sized posts, guided by my menu across the header of my blog, you might get some tips that are actually useful ;-)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Insourcing tally for the week....#13

The relevance of my insourcing was really brought home to me last week when our whole family was stricken with a particularly nasty virus. The mere thought of having to rise from our sick beds and feed ourselves, was almost more than we could manage.
As an experienced Mum of 37 years, I assessed the ailing family, and decided that it was indeed just a nasty flu with the predictable aches and pains, fever, headache and malaise so common at this time of the year. We could have all hauled ourselves to the doctor, but all he would have told us is that we had the flu and sent us home. Of course had our symptoms worsened, or vomiting and diarrhoea been in evidence, then haul ourselves to the doc we would. Common sense must prevail.
Disclaimer: Being sick is not usually a time for valuing money saving strategies over getting well, or seeking medical attention when warranted. I share the following information in the spirit of 'being prepared', and using common sense to help your family weather the usual ills and chills, flus and colds and general nasty viruses prevalent, particularly in the Winter months. If you are at all in doubt, or if your or your family's symptoms worsen, then do not hesitate to seek medical attention.
So given that were ALL under the weather, never was I more grateful for my well stocked refrigerator and pantry than over those few days. We had staples like milk and bread, plus powdered milk and gluten free bread mix had we run low. We had chicken soup galore, as well as miso paste(Japanese soup), and Bovril (beef stock paste)...covering all bases in the 'all I feel like is soup' brigade. Jelly (jello) featured heavily in the menu, as did Powerade icy poles made with the powdered premix I buy for The Diva, hot lemon drinks with lashings of honey and ginger, and good old fashioned peppermint tea for upset tums. All those good Nanna style home remedies did us the world of good, and in fact, for a bunch of sick people, we actually ate well. That's if you can call eating flavoured water in all it's forms 'eating'.
I always have some honey infused with lemon wedges and slices of fresh ginger on hand at this time of the year. This added to black tea or freshly squeezed lemon juice diluted with hot water, is really soothing and pampering too.
The main thing was, we focused on remaining hydrated, and slept when sleep called us. We banned visitors (even well meaning ones) and visited no-one, to diminish spreading of our illness. We stayed home. In bed. Rested. Drank water and soup and ate ice blocks.
And guess what?
We got better. We got better in four days. Friends of ours who were afflicted with the same virus a week or two ago (perhaps they shared it with US!), are still not well, having remained determined to soldier on. Now I am a fan of 'soldiering on', so I generally admire this. But sometimes, you have to say 'Ok...body telling me something. Stop now'.
So, the funny thing is, that being sick is certainly a novel way of limiting spending. If you don't go anywhere and you're too sick to care whether your milk is full cream or skim, and your eggs free range or just barn raised, then there really isn't a 'savings' strategy to report!
That said, I will mention the following....
Vicks on soles of feet to alleviate coughing saved on buying cough suppressants...saving $20...not an important saving, but rather one thrust upon us due to the fact that we were all too sick to leave the house and go to the pharmacy! The Vicks works well in case you're wondering!
The PowerAde iceblocks were a stroke of ingenuity, when I thought of asking my sister to stop at the pharmacy to buy Gastrolyte iceblocks to freeze, then remembered the PowerAde premix, which I intuited would be similar. A phone call to the pharmacy confirmed the idea. So I simply made up the drink, and froze it in iceblock molds. Frankly they tasted better than the Gastrolyte too. Saving $45.
The Musician Husband rang on his way home on Day One of not feeling the best, asking whether, since he was in the supermarket getting lemons, we might not want to stock up on ready prepared 'fresh' soups. Good grief, what was the man thinking? At $9 for 500mls, the answer was no, and anyway we had four litres of home-made-from-scratch Jewish style kill-anything chicken soup in the freezer. So let me see, that's the equivalent of 8 packets of the pre-made stuff, so a saving of $72.
I didn't grocery shop at all. You may recall from last week that I spent more than I usually would, so that was well timed. A top up shop would have been necessary though, and we simply managed without those things, or enjoyed the relief of being able to draw upon our stores of dishwasher tablets, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, toilet tissue and teabags. I guess we would have done that anyway, but in real terms, having those stocks (paid for with Flybuy dollars some months back) still generated a saving of  $100 on those items.
We insourced entertainment, resurrecting old movies we hadn't watched in years, avoiding the DVD hire kiosk, and saving probably $60 in keeping our sick selves amused.
We used good old fashioned Panadol or Nurofen to manage temperatures, preferring to avoid the Cold and Flu type medications. Saving $30.
So all up, when being a sick family usually means all kinds of expenses, we still managed to insource as much as possible, and save ourselves some money. By being prepared, we saved over $300 on things that we may have considered 'essential' had we not had good alternatives on hand.
That's worthwhile!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Motherly Advice...What do kids really remember when they grow up?

Here's me at 12.
I remember this day distinctly.
Mum was having my portrait done in order to capture the last days of my childhood. Soon I'd be a young lady (or so she!), and those days would be behind us. I think she timed it well.
I didn't particularly like this dress. It was chocolate brown, with red and yellow flowers, and rather plain. I wanted to wear my Sunday best, which was cream and had lace sleeves. The photographer wisely advised this one to give the photo some depth.
I am the eldest and was happy in my role as head babysitter and only child in our family of seven to have a bedroom all to themselves. Oh, the sheer luxury of decorating a whole room with your own stuff was indescribable. Having a real bedside table and a lamp by which to read was a special thing for a bookworm too.
I remember that room fondly. Our home was a big airy Colonial, with fretwork above the doors, brass doorknobs throughout, and linoleum on the floors. I loved my room because it was in the front corner of the house, had coloured panels in the casement windows, and lovely polished floorboards. It was very much like this....
There was a poster of a fabulous fairy in blue tones on the wall, and a white rayon quilted bedspread with yellow roses embroidered on it, and the curtains almost matched. The flowers on the curtains were pink though, and try as she might, Mum was unable to source the matching fabric with yellow roses embroidered on it. For some reason that was important to me and it caused me angst. I've always had an odd sense of order, and it offended my eye to not have yellow roses on my curtains. I eventually graduated to a chenille bedspread, and finally to a purple faux fur one. I never said my taste improved as I grew!
That first bedspread was a bit like this....
The strangest thing is that I dream of this house regularly when we really only lived there for a few short years. It was a rented house, and Mum bought elsewhere, not too far away. Clearly it was a happy time for us there. It was a lovely leafy neighbourhood, we had a macadamia tree to climb, a lemon tree, orange tree, mulberry tree, mango tree and passionfruit vine to raid, and a sloping back yard where we'd roll over and over down the hill to the bottom fence on hot Summers afternoons just to amuse ourselves. We'd also swing on the Hills Hoist rotary clothesline, like the one pictured below, and that would cause a ruckus for sure, because we weren't supposed to. But the slope of the yard meant that there was this heavenly moment as you pushed off to swing, when your feet seemed suspended in mid air forever.
There was no 'landscaping' by the way. Just grass and trees. Balls and hula hoops.
We didn't have a lot of money, but we never really wanted for anything. A chunk of chilled watermelon and iceblocks in plastic tubes in Summer, steaming mugs of Ovaltine and piles of hot buttered toast in Winter, and lots of love and hugs. That's why friends gathered at our home. Everyone was accepted and valued, fed and watered, soothed and counselled. Mum was clever like that.
At least half a dozen times a year, I dream of this  house. Its long, cool, dark hallway, with bedrooms branching off to each side. The coloured leadlight windows displaying patterns on the floor in the setting sun. The long bank of open windows along the back of the house, where the kitchen and dining room were, and where Mum would lean out and call 'Dinners ready', because we'd still be in the back yard, cracking nuts with a brick in a groove in the concrete, or playing Tiggy or What's the Time Mr Wolf.
We'd all pound up the long back staircase, and wash our hands, say Grace (usually Thankyou for the world so sweet, thankyou for the food we eat, thankyou for the birds that sing, thankyou Lord for everything...Ahhhh-men), and eat our meal nicely, using our best manners and always asking 'may I please leave the table' when done. Heck, who even does that any more? There's an interesting article about why you should say Grace even if you're not religious here.
Strangely, to this day, when I'm roused from these dreams, I always wake with a strange sense of contentment and yes, a teensy bit of longing.
I've tried hard to replicate that home, because it was a 'home' in the true sense of the word. But it was a moment in time, comprised of a place, a way of life, and a very different 'normal' to the one we live now.
But 'contentment' I can strive for. Contentment, tranquillity, a feeling of being somewhere that's a safe place to land, where no matter what happens, someone still loves you.
That I can do. That's pretty much what my older sons remember about 'home'. It's what I remember about 'home'. I think I can manage that.
Here's my final thoughts, a few key words, a few randomly expressed memories, on that home of my childhood.
Safe, warm, welcoming, content, simple, enveloping, love, fun, friends, baking, pets, peace, quiet, cool, airy, casual, laughing, cubby house, go-kart, mulberry pie, lemons and sugar, bonfires, pressed flowers, inflatable wading pool, Reef tanning oil, Camay soap, Avon Crème Conditioner, jam donuts, fresh hot bread, tinsel Christmas tree, Easter Egg hunt, marshmallows with toasted coconut, toffees with sprinkles or coconut on top, knitting baby bootees, crocheting afghan squares, sewing sundresses, making barefoot sandals and raffia dolls, Mum .
That's what I remember.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Savings Secrets....2 ingredient potpourri to keep or gift....

I regularly see bunches of roses marked down at the supermarket to next to nothing, and I used to think 'who'd buy those...they'll be dead tomorrow!'. Well now I know you...because this is the most gorgeous way to use them.
They don't have to have a scent either, because they mainly make your potpourri look pretty, so choose colours you love. The more vibrant the better because they will fade over time.
Strip them of their leaves, tie some kitchen string or ribbon around them, and hang them upside down somewhere for a couple of weeks until they're crisp and bone dry. You end up with these lavish looking multi coloured dried rosebuds, or petals, depending on what you purchased.
This was clearly a bunch of roses featuring a variety of colours, and I just adore the combination of the fiery orange, delicate mauve, deep burgundy and pastel cream and pink.

You see lots of complicated recipes for Potpourri on the net and in crafting books, but I've always found that a simple combination of dried lavender and dried roses or rose petals, gently tossed together, with a little essential oil to freshen it occasionally,  is all you really need.

Displayed in a little vintage sugar bowl or sweet dish,  or with a gauzy lace tie and a pretty card, it's a sweet gift for next to nix...'s also very pretty scooped into organza bags for gifting or tying on doorknobs or looping over coathangers.
What's not to like?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Motherly Advice...What makes a good cook and a memorable meal?

What makes a good cook? Why are some really simple meals memorable, and some very posh ones, not so much? Do you remain within your capabilities and not get too fancy? Is it someone who follows the recipe to the letter? Or perhaps it's that person who can deviate from the recipe and still manage success. Is it precise weighing and measuring, or the ability to know what a cup of flour and a tablespoon of butter looks like? Is it the person who knows how to make the perfect al dente` pasta, or sublime peanut brittle, or crispy salty pork crackling? Or the one whose roast chicken is talked about for decades, if not generations?
 For sure it's about using the senses....the colour of a fresh salad or the way a dish is presented (sight), the crunch of perfect pork crackling or pine nuts (sound), the scent of earthy spices or a smoky barbecue (smell), the balance of sweet, sour, salty, spicy (taste), and the surroundings in which it's served such as location, table setting (touch..which encompasses skin sensations like breezes or warmth, and the mouth-feel of foods) all make a difference. How else can you explain that a fresh fish caught on the beach and immediately cooked over open coals, can remain in the memory forever, while five star restaurant meals come and go with no one thing standing out?
So here are some thoughts from me on what makes a Good Cook and a Memorable Meal.
1.  A good cook will focus on a handful of simple meals, done really well.
Pasta Pomodoro for example, is the number one choice of many Italians for their main meal, and is nothing other than pasta cooked al dente`, and coated in just a little home made tomato sauce (no meat at all) that has been simmered down with garlic and seasoning, and topped with a few slivers of Parmesan from a wedge in the fridge. Right there, with the addition of a fresh crisp salad, you have the makings of a truly memorable meal. That definitely falls into the category of 'something from nothing' for me. After all, who doesn't have tinned tomatoes, pasta, and cheese in their kitchen?
2. A good cook creates their own traditions.
There's nothing like the aroma of a pot roast in the slow cooker in Winter, a fresh and tangy and super moist lemon syrup cake on a hot Summer day, fragrant and fudgy chocolate chip cookies cooling on the bench for school lunches on a Sunday afternoon, fruit cake or cinnamon cookies leading up to Christmas, a special chocolate cake for birthdays, or simple, earthy roast garlic pizzas for supper on Saturdays.
 Scent is one of the most powerful memory triggers, and to this day, I cannot smell apple cake or vanilla, without thinking of my Nanna, with whom I baked as a child.
What cooking scents would you like to be remembered by? 
3. A good cook grows a few things and uses them generously to make simple meals, more memorable.
Have you ever had scrambled eggs with fresh herbs straight from the garden? A caprese salad made with juicy tomatoes still warm from the sun? A pizza topped with rocket (arugula), feta and cherry tomatoes from the bush outside the kitchen door?
These things are all super simple to create, yet have the potential to create lasting 'good cook' memories, and the secret is to grow just a few simple ingredients yourself.
Now don't be alarmed and don't be frightened off by the blogs and websites that lecture you about dig or no-dig, mulching and so on.
I grow my few little things in large pots on my sunny verandah, and the pleasure we all get from snipping a bit of rocket for our salad, sprinkling some freshly cut garlic chives on our eggs, or pinching a sprig of basil for our pizza, is immeasurable.
Are you a good cook?
What do you think makes a memorable meal?


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I left my heart in.....#2...Istanbul....

These Harem Slippers....straight out of the Arabian Nights, right?
Oh. My. Goodness.
Did I tell you we had no intention of visiting Istanbul this trip? Well, ever really?
It just wasn't on our radar. We even discussed not getting off the ship as we'd heard scary things about thieves and pickpockets.
We sailed in to Istanbul in the early daylight hours of the morning, and one look at that skyline, and there was no way I wasn't getting off.
Of course we hadn't booked a tour in Istanbul, so we found our own way around. We didn't have to go far.
Having nixed The Grand Bazaar as too big and overwhelming, and having done some research prior to leaving home, and determining (just in case we got brave) that The Spice Market offers everything The Grand Bazaar does on a smaller scale, we made that our destination.
With great trepidation and some nervous giggles, we made our way out of the port terminal and wandered through a somewhat industrial, but pleasant enough area, to the bridge that would take us to The Spice Market.
We entered The Spice Market via an under bridge tunnel, down into the tunnel, then back up the stairs and out again, where even the tunnel itself is a sort of Bazaar. Shoes, clothing, and funnily, Superglue and Bandaids were on offer. We thought the Superglue and Bandaids rather odd until we reflected on what obviously useful things they are when travelling!
I expected a sort of produce market, but let me tell you, it's way beyond that.
Apart from the expected spices, sweetmeats, and souvenirs, we ogled luxurious linens...
....utterly exquisite Swarovski crystal studded teasets...

...chandeliers, gorgeous painted detail on the shopfronts and Turkish Delight by the tonne...

...jewels worthy of a Princess....
...and of course, the spices...heavenly, exotic, other worldly in their pungency...
...Note the little hand painted glasses and saucers and the coffee/spice mills in the foreground. Divine.
This lady astounded us with the load she carried on her head, and clearly even baby's walker is carried similarly!
These Turkish wedding gowns were to die for. Game of Thrones wedding anyone?
We wandered for some hours, purchasing delicate metallic purses to gift to The Divas friends, designer goods at bargain prices, leather goods, exquisite postcards, Turkish Delight in three flavours for the cruise ship staff, and a few other little treats. Travelling with one bag sure makes shopping a task of 'what can I abandon to fit this in my bag'!
The verdict? Istanbul is a must see, and not just once, but several times. We loved it. The people (men, almost exclusively men) were lovely, and many very taken with The Diva and her alabaster skin, blue eyes and red hair. One young man, from whom a watch was purchased, tried in vain to make conversation with her, but alas the language difficulties were too great.
They were overwhelmingly helpful, eager to please, and fascinated with we Aussies.
Put Istanbul on your bucket list. You won't regret it.
As we sailed out of Istanbul at sunset, viewing the skyline as the sun tinted the mosques purple and gold, how could we not have a pang of regret that we didn't savour more of her exotic wares.
Go. You'll love it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Insourcing tally for the week #12....

Preparing for our trip meant that insourcing fell by the wayside for a while...well not the actual insourcing which is second nature around here, but the writing about it.
So just a reminder on what this thing I call 'insourcing' actually is.
In a nutshell, it's where I value what I do in the home. I actually assign a dollar value to my tasks, equivalent to what I would pay somebody else to do them....what's called 'outsourcing'. So if that's the value to someone else of that task, why shouldn't I assign the same value to my own efforts?
It's not an actual financial transaction as such, although NOT spending the money on outsourcing these tasks is certainly a huge saving, and one that allows us greater financial freedom in many other areas of our life.
It's just a way of demonstrating, that your contribution to the home does NOT have to be purely financial, and that leaving the home to be paid for a 'real job' is not the only answer, if you're willing to put in a bit of effort and treat 'home' as your 'workplace'.
It certainly gives you, and those around you, a new perspective on your worth!
So without further ado, here is last weeks list....
Laundered, dried, folded and ironed 12 loads of washing, including school uniforms, pillowcases, and serviettes. We love real linen serviettes and set the dinner table prettily every night, so those can mount up! Value if outsourced? Let's say $20 per load of stuff washed, folded and/or ironed, and that's really conservative! So let's call that $240 worth. I actually hate ironing, but Faux Fuschia, whose entertaining and colourful blog here is well worth a read, says 'yes' (in her own words) to ironing, decluttering, and baking. In fact, she claims that ironing lowers her blood pressure, or rather viewing piles of ironed thing-a-me-jigs does. Tackled with a few cerebral bits of TV viewing (she favours Real Housewives of Melbourne...I'd probably say Downton Abbey), it's less of a trial. Worth a try, I say!
My oven is not working so no baking for us but I did manage to make griddle scones using this recipe here, which were very nice, and crepes and pikelets which were enjoyed with Nutella, or fresh fruit, or jam, and pronounced a success. Savings on bought snacks, around $50.
I cleaned the house saving $100 on a cleaner.
The menu for the week was upmarket tasty, including Roast Chicken with garlic mash, Lamb cutlets with polenta and roasted tomatoes, Eye Fillet of beef with wasabi kale coleslaw, Singapore noodles, Fresh and Healthy nothing-out-of-a-tin Spaghetti Bolognaise, Ratatouille tartlets, and Pad Siew. The ingredients for those meals totalled about $60. For the three of us to eat equivalent meals out, would have been in the realm of $600. Now don't laugh. I know people who actually do this. More power to them. But we don't, so I don't think it's unreasonable to attach a significant value to this. Saving $540.
I made two pairs of pillowcases and trimmed them with some saucy black lace. Very ooh-la-la. A good pair of pillowcases is up around the $40 mark, so let's call that a $70 saving after material costs are subtracted.
I washed my car at the DIY carwash. Price to have them do it $48. Price for me to do it $5. Saving $43.
That's an astounding total of $1043!
Now you might say, but that's ridiculous, nobody would pay that money for those things. I can assure you that YES THEY DO. Week in, week out. And like I say, more power to them. But in the context of my posts here, and the contribution of the stay at home parent, this is a realistic way of valuing your tasks in the home.
Downgrade some of the meals to equivalent takeaway if you want, and apply 'mates rates' to things like cleaning and gardening and ironing if it brings it into line with your expectations. I bet you'd still end up with a value of up to $700, or $700 that you'd have to spend to outsource those tasks if you worked outside the home.
So come on, what did you insource this week? What was your value in the home as a stay at home partner and parent?
Tell me everything....

Friday, July 17, 2015

Motherly advice and tips....Grocery shopping...

Oh hi sweetie, I'm glad you stopped in!

I've been up since early, stoking the fire, getting washing done, and sewing lace trim on some pillowcases. Wasn't it nippy this morning!

What else did I do? Let's see...a healthy lunch was packed for Miss Diva, (alas not a hot one!), and as soon as I'd dropped her, I took my car to the carwash, and spent $5 washing it myself. The wild winds here took care of drying her off....yes, funny that I call the car a 'her'....giggle.

Next stop Coles, because you might remember my haul using Flybuys points. So, I shopped there today, as they're offering 10,000 Flybuy points for a certain spend over 4 weeks. The first time it was offered, the spend was only $140, now it's $190, so they're onto me, trying to get me to creep my spending up!

Well because we'd been away, I had no trouble spending the $190 this time, and I'll have to see if Mr A or you and I can combine our shopping for the next three weeks, as I certainly won't hit that high again! I managed some treats in that, including some eye fillet which I'll cook for dinner tonight with mushrooms pan fried in a little butter (yummy...want to stay for dinner Hon?), and some hot smoked salmon, and individual Greek Yoghurts on special. That's enough to make us feel special this week, and for a spend of just $20 for those three. That's the thing about frugal shopping. It's worthwhile factoring in some for treats as you just go a bit silly on takeaway or something you find that? I've always believed if factoring a bit of fun food into the budget. It's a good strategy, don't you think?

Do you know that yoghurt actually lasts for weeks if not months beyond it's 'use by' date? I had a friend that worked for Danone (Pauls Milk here), and she said that they'd regularly sell off entire pallets of yoghurt close to use by date, and she'd buy it up, refrigerate it, and use it for up to 6 weeks past that date. Of course, you'd do the common sense 'taste-smell-view' before consuming, but I've found the same. I buy The Musician Husband his favourite Mango yoghurt in the half dozens when it's on special which it was this week....SCORE, right? Hahaha! I need a life! Anyway, I keep the spares in our little garage fridge and they'll be as good in six weeks or even longer, as they are today. Needless to say, if the container expands, explodes on opening, or smells wrong or 'off', then you wouldn't eat it. You know that, of course?

Those lovely little seedless mandarins, big leafy bunches of celery, the sweet potato and Granny Smith apples were all inexpensive too, so I'm in heaven, because that's soups, crumbles, and lunchbox snacks done and dusted. And I snaffled some other specials like chicken breast, lamb mince and a lamb leg roast for bargain prices, so we're eating well this week!

I have my special things that I won't budge on though. Do you? The non negotiables for us, are always gluten free bread, good orange juice, and nice multi purpose cheeses. We like Colby for eating and Parmesan for meal toppings the best, but will lower ourselves to Tasty instead of both of those, if there's a budget squeeze on here!

So that's another thing....and I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but I know you and I always have some new friends quietly eavesdropping, so yes I'm talking to those friends really save money on the grocery budget, you need to be flexible. I bought broccoli for just $1.90kg two days ago. Today it was $6.98kg. Wow. What happened to the broccoli world in the last 48 hours, eh? So no broccoli for us. Instead I saw these little cutie-patootie drumhead cabbages for $2, so it's braised cabbage with the roast, and yummy coleslaw...I'll even make it with that wasabi mayo you love so much. Snow peas we love as you know, but they're just too expensive just now, and ditto to peaches that I admired but wasn't buying at $13kg! Especially after just eating that totally IN season peach in Toulon just a fortnight ago. Humongous thing that I had to hold with two hands it was, and still warm from the sun. Now THATS a peach...hahahaha!  You do get that eating seasonal always yields the most sensible results for wallet and waistline, don't you :)

There's a good guide here....

I love Winter strawberries the best don't you? Even though they really are available all year round nowadays. The strawberry season as far as I'm concerned, is June till October, so before they were available all year round, that is of course when Nanna and Grandpa used to harvest. They had that strawberry farm, remember, and we loved sneaking out to the rows of strawberry runners when they weren't looking, to sneak a few straight from earth to waiting mouth. Those and mulberries from the enormous mulberry tree that grew against the house, were our fast cheeseburgers back in the sixties in Australia!

Hey do you know what else I do when I write out the grocery list? Not only do I have an overall budget total, I have a budget for each item. So the budget today for the broccoli was $2. I could have chosen to buy 300gms of broccoli today for my $2 spend, or I could choose something else. What would you do? Right... I chose the cabbage as I thought it'd yield not only cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls (yes, I must give you that recipe!), but also coleslaw and cabbage and sesame stir fry, instead of that stir fried broccoli with sesame seeds that I'd planned. By comparison, $2 worth of broccoli wouldn't have gone far, right?

Of course, you know me, the fridge was given a cleanout when I got home, and everything packed neatly away. If we see the apples, we eat the apples. If the celery is already cut up, and the Tzatziki made, then a snack is easy-peasy. If the crisper is cleaned of any fruit or veg past it's best, then stewed fruit for crumble is put on the stove immediately and ready by the time I've unpacked the  groceries. It works well and we waste nothing.

Speaking of crumble, that apple and banana one's ready. Would you like some with your cuppa? Oh and you want that recipe too? I'll write it out and have it for you tomorrow, okay?

.....Mimi xxx

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Motherly Advice.....The Contribution of the Stay-at-Home-Mother

Oh's you!
Come in, come in.
I'm so glad you're here! I just baked a slice and the kettle's on for a cuppa. Here have a seat. No you take the comfy one. That's it.
Now. Let's see. You say you're not sure you can keep dealing with life the way it is? That you think having a career is the only way to feel like you're making a contribution, right? That being at home with children is really a bit of a thankless task? I hear you. I think I've been in the same boat.
But can I tell you something?
Many years down the track, I look at my wonderful grown sons and their wives and children, at my disabled son proudly living an independent life, and at my daughter, nearly an adult herself, and I know that I have done the right thing. Oh I worked, I had a career, I thought that was the be all and end all too. But Mr A's disability soon cured me of that notion. I think I needed the wakeup call, frankly. Overnight, just about, I had to rearrange my priorities and my life. In fact I wouldn't have met The Musician Husband if my son hadn't been born with a disability. Our lives would have taken a completely different path and I still would have been with Mr Haughty who only ever thought about what made him look good. And that certainly didn't mean a disabled son.
So, many years on, I know, that I am where I was meant to be.
The problem is though, that it does take about twenty years for you to see the fruits of your labour as a Mum and Wife. So much goes on in the meantime, that it's any wonder we question ourselves. We think every mistake we make is the end of the world and that tough times last forever.
Well mistakes help us learn and grow, and no, tough times do not last forever. Not if you work hard at carving out a comfortable life for you and your little family.
Now let's take the idea of treating what we do in the home like a 'real job', getting up early to start work, and working consistently throughout the day, only taking breaks as would be dictated by an external workplace.

That one idea, can allow you to feed the family for less, enjoy a clean and welcoming home, put some groceries aside for lean times, make gifts, support the school with fundraising or volunteering, thus minimising costs for other families, make clothing where appropriate, make cards to gift or share, knit for warmth in the Winter, build and plant shade shelter for the Summer, expand your garden with propagated plants, establish a herb garden to increase your eating pleasure for no cost, experiment with less expensive cuts of meat and make the most of inexpensive produce in season.

So let's make a pact, that tomorrow is Day One of Managing the Home as a Real Job. Let's get up early together, welcoming the sunrise with enthusiasm, and see how much we can achieve together. Let's make a list tonight, a realistic list of what needs doing, and see how many things we can tick off together. Let's meet again tomorrow evening and see how far we've both come. I bet you'll be proud.

And so you should be proud of all you achieve in the home. It's such a valuable skill to able to manage your household budget effectively and still have the capacity to carve out a comfortable, elegant life. We can do it together.

Oh look at that time. I must fly. But feel free to drop in whenever you need to. I'm always here.
....Mimi xxx
I hope you don't mind but these people were eavesdropping on our little chat :)
Show and Tell Friday
Frugal Friday
The Art of Homemaking Mondays
Artful Homemaking

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Grand Tour....London, Europe and the rest #1....

Detail of Medusa, the ruins at Ephesus

Well the next several posts will be holiday memories, so if you're not interested in Theatre, Archaeological ruins or other peoples vacations, now is the time to go and Google a Jamie Oliver recipe. I won't be offended.

I'll also have to jump about a bit with the photos just for today, as The Diva has absconded with the camera, and I only have the photos taken on The Musician Husbands phone to work with. Blast.

So.... we headed off from Brisbane on a Saturday, arriving in London after a stopover in Hong Kong, which stretched our journey out to about 32 hours from our door at home, to our hotel in London. It's always a long stint, but we manage it fairly well these days, so we weren't too jet lagged on our arrival and of course the adrenalin rush of being somewhere different always keeps you going for a while.

The Diva caught up with a friend on the first day, and the remaining three days were devoted to a spot of shopping, both of the window variety in Old Bond Street, and the real variety in Oxford Street. Oh to have the money to drop $25,000 on a little dress in Dolce & Gabbana, but alas not in this life! We were stunned to see Jason Statham exiting Chanel, but I guess Monday morning is a good time for Celebs to be out shopping for that little something for their sweethearts. He looked pretty much just like this....

.... I stared, wondering if my eyes were deceiving me, he looked back and nodded as if to say 'yes I know I'm amazing, and yes it really is me, Jason Statham', and then he was gone into his waiting limo. Oh to be quick enough (gauche enough?) to have asked for a pic or an autograph....for The Diva of course ;-)

The Book of Mormon and Matilda were our choices for theatre this time, although if I'd realised that Bradley Cooper....

...was going to be appearing in The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal, we may have reconsidered Matilda, which we found uninspiring on the whole. I mean it was okay, and the villain suitably villainous and all, but comparatively speaking, I'd have taken Bradley over Matilda any day of the week.
We also took in some obligatory sight seeing, visiting the National Gallery (a favourite), and were only disappointed that the Impressionists Rooms were closed due to industrial action. A very British luncheon of Green Pea and Watercress Soup, Egg Sandwiches and Victoria Sponge were enjoyed in the lavish dining room at the National Gallery, a welcome respite from the busy crowds outside and a great spot for people viewing. You can bet I'll be recreating that lunch for you very soon!
We braved the Tube (a first!) and took the Thames Clipper from our hotel into London for shopping and sightseeing, got ripped off by a London Black Cab driver (another first and highly unusual!), and admired many iconic buildings while shuttling back and forth, including The Shard, a new building to rival the one much-featured-in-movies, The Gherkin. Needless to say, public transport is not our forte` as we drive ourselves everywhere at home. It's always a bit humbling, I must say!
221B Baker Street got a look-in as the home of Sherlock Holmes (we are fans of the recent series starring Benedict Cumberbatch), and was well worthwhile, if a bit gruesome in it's recreation of his crime solving escapades. A photo with the British Bobby outside was a bit of a highlight I must admit. I'll share that one when the camera returns home!
So if you'll allow me to jump ahead a bit, as my photo today features some of the ruins in Turkey, I promise I'll return to a chronological recount of events when I have the appropriate pics.
One of the archaeological sites we visited was Ephesus near Kusadasi in Turkey. Yes I'm an Arts, Architecture, Archaeology freak when!
These were truly spectacular and perhaps the best we saw, although we missed seeing the Colosseum in Rome, and the Acropolis in Athens, visiting the new Acropolis Museum instead, and preferring a tour to Tuscany in the Italian countryside, to braving the peak holiday season crowds in the 39C heat. We remain convinced that this was a wise decision upon hearing some of the horror stories from other travellers. The behaviour of the crowds in entering the Vatican City and the Colosseum in Rome, and the Acropolis in Athens, was apparently truly disgraceful, with people being elbowed, pushed and shoved, and even injured in the process. You have to wonder, honestly.

This site is also known as Agora, and our tour guide assured us that it was the birthplace of Christianity. The area also boasts the house of the Virgin Mary, but as this was on a separate tour, we didn't visit it, but it seemed an absolute must for many.

It's a huge and very impressive site, and includes the ruins of the Terrace Houses where the wealthy lived, and the façade of the library, both of which were simply amazing.
Library Façade, the ruins at Ephesus
Only 3% of Ephesus has been excavated, with more money and more archaeologists required to excavate any further. Even that 3% though is truly incredible, and well preserved in many areas, and we all found it absolutely riveting. Funnily enough, this was not a place we had intended visiting, and only ended up here as it was a stop on the cruise itinerary, so that was a lesson!

This particular photo at the top, is a detail of Medusa on the ruins of a building façade and when you consider that this dates as far back as 300BC, it bends the brain a bit to imagine how it's survived!

I always get a hint of how insignificant we are in the scheme of things when visiting these sites, and it's a humbling experience. All the little things that we worry about seem crazy, and our time in this life so short, when measured in the thousands of years of history we are now capable of viewing. What impact we can possibly hope to have in our lifetime, compared to such enduring monuments, is mind boggling to say the least.

More tomorrow...if you've read this far, then I thankyou...