Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Motherly Advice....stop giving away your Power...

YOU. Yes. you. You have enormous power.
You knew that, right?
It's not a bank balance, or the number of cards or paper notes or coins in your wallet.
It's the power within you, to create the life you desire, money or not.
Hard work and industry are a formidable power.
We all have the potential to work hard and be industrious.
Do you know the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah?
Samson was a Nazirite. He took a vow of abstinence from cutting his hair, amongst other things. Whilst he had long tresses, he had enormous physical strength. But once he revealed to Delilah that his long hair was the source of his fearless vigour, leading her to cut his hair whilst he slept, and betraying him to his enemies, he was powerless. Poor Samson.
We too, have our 'hair of Samson'.
It's our ability to create the life we desire, sometimes with money, alas. It's a modern necessity.
But we have huge, huge, HUGE potential to do much with our own hands. That's our 'hair'. Our power.
So WHY do we insist on 'cutting our hair' a la Samson and Delilah, by giving that power away?
We do, you know.
Every single time we interact with someone other than ourselves to get something done, we are giving away our power.
Buy takeaway? Yep, a bit of your power gone.
Nail salon, hairdresser, gym membership? Power relinquished.
Ready made meals from supermarket? Bye-bye power.
Have car 'detailed' at expensive Carwash? See ya.
Pay someone to bake celebration cakes...yep...power gone walkabout.
Buy gifts at the last minute? Ta-ta power.
Expecting The Government, The School, The do everything that's needed for a comfortable life, a healthy, educated child, a parent at peace in their latter years. Big mega power...just given away with narry a thought.
Pretty soon, you've sacrificed so many Powers, that like Samson without his hair, you are captured, blinded and enslaved, and you don't even realise it.
You do realise that this belies the modern day myth of the Superwoman, don't you?
Supposedly she can Have It All.
Supposedly she can work outside of the home, in the home, raise well balanced humans and lavish attention upon pets, and keep her relationships with partner, friends and family alive and kicking.
But this has meant, that in the process, she has given so. many. powers. away.
The power to create, to nurture self, to be at peace.
Those are mighty, mighty powers to be giving away, good people.
Those are the powers that lead to a gentle and contented life.
I want to tell you something really, really important.
Here it is....
The Real Superwoman, KEEPS as many powers as she can.
She doesn't give them away willy-nilly. She doesn't leave herself and her family exposed by letting her hair be shorn (also known as becoming a slave to money).
She understands that Life is a journey of learning, self discovery, and ultimately, peace and contentment.
When people talk about paying off the mortgage, they're not really talking about a financial transaction.
They're talking about having Peace and Contentment in their frazzled existence.
They're talking about finding TIME to do what they really want to do.
They don't realise that they could be doing that now, or at least very soon, if they only looked at life differently.
They don't realise that they're giving away the one thing they can never get back.
I heard this week on the radio, that 50 years ago, it cost four times your annual income, to buy a house. Now they said, it costs ten times your annual income. That may well be so.
But hang on....
The house my Mother purchased in 1974 for $12,000, was a two bedroom high set, with a tiny combined bathroom and toilet, an eat in kitchen, a long living room, and a small sleepout, which was another small entry room, most often turned into another bedroom back then. There was no 'laundry', the washing machine sat on a concrete slab under the house. No dryer. We hung our washing on the rotary clothes hoist. No lock up garage, we didn't have a car. We used public transport.
My Mother and seven children lived in that house. Happily. We were happy. Really happy. We had a big back yard with fruit trees and a macadamia nut tree, tomatoes, herbs, flowers to cut and give as gifts. Our clothes were clean, we were disciplined well and in a timely fashion, we were expected to contribute and work together.
Here's what it did NOT have:
Four bedrooms, a study, a gourmet kitchen, a media/TV room, a double lock up garage (presumably housing two newish, probably European cars), 2-3 bathrooms, a swimming pool, a professionally landscaped garden with water features and statues, a paved driveway, a dog kennel and a double storey play castle with cubby house and sandpit.
THAT is why houses cost ten times the annual salary.
THAT is why we have Mortgage Stress.
Nobody wants to start (or finish) small any more.
It's a whole new insanity.
Giving away your power for a house, for a car, to fit in, to be admired, to be slimmer, healthier, a better person.
It has to stop.
Make your own breakfast parfaits, with home made yoghurt, home baked toasted muesli, and home grown strawberries.

Impress people with your beautiful handcrafted gifts. This is a microwave brownie, wrapped in foil squares made for Easter Eggs. You can also do this with home made fudge.

Make your own fabulous burgers. I use a tiny meat pattie, sometimes bacon, and lots and lots of vegetables on mine. Utterly delicious and quite famous in our social circle. You too can be 'famous' for your burgers. But not while you're giving that power away to McDonalds, Burger King, Grill'd, or any one of a million other burger specialty stores. Since when was a burger a 'specialty' item?

Fill your refrigerator and pantry with home made goodies. I give away a tiny bit of power by purchasing gluten free buns (I just cannot master these but I keep trying) and cheese slices, as well as prepacked fruit tubs for my daughter to take to University. That gives her the power to make and take her own lunch for a small sacrifice, over relinquishing more power to buy it.

Make your own simple salads, like my coleslaw. Just shredded cabbage, carrot and cheese. No mayo necessary.

Plan ahead and make your own gifts. These water bottles cost me about $13 including the chocolates with which they are filled. They look like a $40 gift.

Likewise these dolls. Five dolls from a panel purchased for $5 at Spotlight our local haberdashery.

We make our own Iced Tea Syrup. Others make their own Ginger Beer. Find a way to enjoy your favourite tipple by home brewing.

Create your own family heirlooms, and display them so they can be appreciated. These silver serving spoons were my Grandmothers. She didn't leave me Handbags and Shoes. She left me memories and well loved kitchenware. She gave me her TIME to skill me for a better life for myself.
Now I do that for my own granddaughters.

Bake your own treats. Fill your families tummy with preservative free, and free up some power in the process.

Grow something. That indeed is a power that leads to Peace and Contentment.

Teach your children and your grandchildren some life skills. My granddaughter spent an hour cutting up leeks with a plastic knife a little while back. She had a ball.

Master the replication of things you love to eat so that your life feels abundant. We love Ricotta cheese. We used to buy it until we realised how easy it is to make. Now we made some whenever we like for mere cents.

This bed cost us $50. My daughter loves it. Don't give away your power to buy furniture to impress other people.

The Wrap is a new food insanity. Who gives away $10-$15 for someone to wrap a couple of things...not even $1 worth of ingredients, into what is essentially a dry crepe???
Make your own filled wrap.
It's much yummier.

Find new skills to enable you to gift generously. Sewing, painting, mosaic, knitting, crochet, card making, papier mache', cooking, baking, cake decorating, and so on and so forth. They can all be a giftable skill. Learn just one new skill every year. In twenty years, you'll practically be self sufficient in the gift creation area. One of my favourites is my French inspired trimmed pillow cases. If you can sew a straight line, you can make these too.

Cake decorating....a power given away if ever there was one. I made this cake for my daughters 18th birthday. She wanted a VW campervan. I didn't know how to do that. But I worked it out. It wasn't perfect, but to her, it was perfection. Does that make sense? I have lots of cake decorating posts. Just enter the words cake decorating into the search box to your left!

Hotcakes anyone?

Café style treats? You don't have to buy those either. Why is everyone paying $10 for a cuppa and a slice of something. What the absolute heck???
Stop. Giving. Away. Your. Power.
We CAN be Superwomen, or Supermen.
Just not in the way we've been brainwashed to believe.
Start being mindful about where you relinquish your powers.
You Are Powerful.
You'd better believe it.
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Monday, May 28, 2018

Insourcing....Budget busting home made coconut yoghurt...

Coconut yoghurt. It's yum but expensive. Well...not any more. Because I'm about to share an economical way of making your own coconut yoghurt.
I know.
You're excited, right?
Me too.
Coconut yoghurt usually comes in a 500gm tub, and here, costs about $6, meaning at $1.20 per 100gms, it's the MOST expensive yoghurt by far.
Normal dairy yoghurt costs somewhere between .35c for the no-name brands and up to .65c per 100gms for the premium brands. My home made stuff costs about .20c per 100gms. No joke. Recipe for home made dairy yoghurt here.
So coconut milk yoghurt is like gold in a family home where there are food sensitivities.
Sadly, the fam don't acknowledge the likenesses between the price of gold and the price of coconut yoghurt, preferring to splash it around like the normal stuff. This could easily put our families Yoghurt Bill at about $60 a week if they had their way. Second mortgage for yoghurt, anyone?
Recently, I'd taken to portioning it out into clip top jars like little café` breakfast parfaits.

Note the delicate portion sizes. Bought yoghurt tubs are a similar size. Don't fall into the trap of filling the jar up because you can. That won't be a money saving at all!
That stemmed the haemorrhaging of coconut yoghurt for a moment.
But still.
I'd had this idea for ages that I could modify the home made dairy yoghurt recipe for a coconut milk one. I just kept putting it off.
No more!
Last night, I had a moment. Sadly, it wasn't a moment where I could locate my Easi-yo thermos flasks as 'someone-not-me' had moved them for reasons best known to themselves. But I improvised. I improvise a lot. Don't you?
Now the basis of this yoghurt is the same as my home made dairy yoghurt. So I used the Easiyo Greek Yoghurt starter as I always have it on hand. If you are completely lactose intolerant, use an equivalent amount of store bought coconut yoghurt as your starter. I've read that you can also use the contents of 3-4 Acidophilus capsules as starter, but I haven't tried that. 
So here's the recipe:
You'll need:
1 x 400ml tin Coconut Milk
2 tablespoons of Easiyo Unsweetened Greek Yoghurt Powder OR 2 tablespoons of supermarket bought coconut yoghurt to use as starter
1 1/2 teaspoons of gelatine dissolved in a few teaspoons of warm tap water
(see notes below for a vegan version)
2 tablespoons of sugar, or sugar or other sweetener to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence (optional)
You'll also need an airtight jar or container for your yoghurt, and an Esky (chilly bin/cooler box) and some blankets. Naturally if you have an Easiyo system, you'd use that.
Then just:
Warm the coconut milk in the microwave until it's barely body temperature. You don't want it hot, or it will kill the bacteria that ferment the yoghurt. You just want a nice warm environment for them to thrive.
Whisk together the warmed coconut milk and the dissolved gelatine until well combined. Adding a bit of the coconut liquid to the gelatine and combining well first, helps it amalgamate.

Add the vanilla paste or essence, the sugar, and the yoghurt starter, be it Easiyo, store bought yoghurt or Acidophilus powder...

Pour this into your airtight container.
Place the container in your Esky (chilly bin/cooler box), and add a hot water bottle and some blankets to keep it all nice and cozy. Place in a warm, draught-free spot for about 12 hours.
If like me, you have an Easiyo thermos, proceed as you would for normal yoghurt.
I like to make my yoghurt ahead of time before we run out, so I tend to do this at night, chill it the next morning, and eat it the day after.
You can avoid this by getting your yoghurt ready in the morning, allowing it ferment during the day, and chilling it overnight for breakfast on the following morning.
All things going well, you should be rewarded with something that looks like this....
Mine lower left, store bought upper right...
...very little difference, right?
Mine on the left, store bought on the right, above...

Mine upper, store bought, lower.
The flavour is practically identical, especially if you use Vanilla Bean Paste and not Vanilla Essence.
The texture of mine was more creamy and liquid, whilst the store bought (Cocobella Vanilla) was more pudding-like.
I decided to add a little more gelatine to mine to firm it up slightly. I whisked a teaspoon of gelatine into a couple of teaspoons of warm tap water till dissolved, tipped my coconut yoghurt into a bowl, and whisked it through again. I ended up with a couple of lumps of undissolved gelatine in the yoghurt but I just fished them out with a teaspoon.
Back into a tub it went, and into the refrigerator while I composed this post and hung out a load of washing.

So now my coconut yoghurt looks like this in the container seen above, and below, mine on the left, store bought on the right.
Now MINE is a bit too pudding-like, so perhaps 1 1/2 teaspoons of gelatine would be about right. Alternatively, I'm thinking I can make a sort of coconut milk 'custard' thickening with arrowroot first, then adding the culture to that and fermenting for 12 hours. That will be the next experiment, so stay tuned.
Another option of course, is to just accept that your home made coconut yoghurt has a more liquid consistency, and turn it into Coconut Yoghurt Chia Puddings as seen at the top of my post. Ferment your yoghurt, then add 6 tablespoons of Chia seeds, stir well, and decant into containers. Perfection. This too is another great vegan alternative.
Personally, I rather like the thicker texture with the extra gelatine, and the flavour is insanely good.
For $2.50 per 500gms instead of $6, or .50c per 100gms as opposed to $1.20, I think we can call this one a win.
What do you think?
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Friday, May 25, 2018

Motherly Advice...The conundrum of being a Stay at Home Mum...

The conundrum of being a Stay At Home Mum
I've found that being a stay-at-home Mum draws criticism from a few fronts. Just occasionally, not often. I've been called a Kept Woman (not my capitals!), a Stepford Wife (not really a flattering term either), and accused of not living in the real world. Ahem. What about the 20+ years I spent living in the 'real world' as a single parent with three sons, one with a severe disability, working and studying at the same time? That's pretty darned real, folks.
What about those times when I had to negotiate payment plans for our utilities bill because having two teenaged sons, a tweenaged niece and an out of work brother in the house meant our telephone and electricity useage was off the scale, and I was the only income earning person in the household? Or the times when I only had $25 a week for a number of weeks, to feed us all? Even going back thirty years, that wasn't a lot of money to feed six people. Then there was that time when my 15 year old car blew a head gasket, and I couldn't afford to have it fixed, and had to be up at 4am to get to work by 8am, and didn't arrive home till 8pm? I did that for several months before I'd saved enough for the repairs. Character building stuff ;-)
I've had my tough financial times. I learned from them. They did not kill me. As the saying goes, they made me stronger....or at least fearless. I know, even to this day, that tough financial times pass. You get through them. You keep body and soul together, you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you keep on keeping on. You name a platitude. I've lived!
That said, things have changed for me in the last 20 something years. I met a lovely man. He adopted my disabled son. My older boys were teens by then, and didn't need 'adopting', but they think of him fondly, and refer to us as 'The Parents', thus making my husband 'The Dad' by osmosis.
My Man and I agreed from the outset that he would indeed be The Man, and I would keep the home fires burning. We both knew where our strengths lay. He was a whiz at earning the money, and I was a Homemaker raised by two generations of Homemakers.
After two decades of doing it tough on my own, this was a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. It's worked for us. If it's not your cup of tea, that's fine too. I've done the whole Career Girl thing, and frankly, it wasn't what it was cracked up to be either. I loved it at the time, but I had to. I was on my own. There was only me to earn the money to keep a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. It was hard splitting myself in half to be Money Earner, and Mum, when there was no Dad.
If you however, find it enormously rewarding and fulfilling, then I respect that too. I liked being a Career Girl for a while. I learned enormously from the experience of those years. I learned too, from working in the Events, Health Care, Media, Retail, and Food Service industries. Many of those lessons, are things that I have successfully carried over into my home life. No experience or education, is ever wasted :)
Finding your passion
I thought I was doing well as a Career Girl, but funnily enough, through being the best Homemaker that I can be, I've really found my passion. Blogging, running menu planning and grocery shopping workshops, and writing for a money saving website, have been just some of the great pleasures born of being a Career Homemaker. Sometimes it's worth trusting that there's a world out there beyond 'paid work'.
I love the challenge of baking a cake to rival a bought one, of creating candles to gift that smell as glorious as the ones with a $65 price tag, of having my family sit down to a restaurant worthy meal. These things bring me joy. I've always loved cooking and crafts of all kinds, and finding a way to craft a beautiful gift without the sensational price tag, has always been a special pleasure.

The Best of Both Worlds
The lessons of two different lifestyles, one the Working Mum, the other the Stay At Home version, have led to a surprising revelation.

I can generate greater financial value by treating Homemaking as a career choice, than by working in an outside paid role.


And not because I didn't have a successful career life. I did. In fact, there are many lessons I learned in my corporate life, that have translated well to my home life. Skills like time management, controlling budgets and rosters, menu planning and costing, and even dealing with the difficult people, are all skills I learned as a Career girl, that have been invaluable in my home life. These skills have enhanced my homemaking potential beyond what I ever believed possible.

What skills do you have, or have you had, in your Corporate existence, that serve you well in your home life?

Practice makes Perfect-ish 
Of course, I value the heirloom skills I learned at my Nannas and Mothers knee, as much as any of my tertiary or corporate skills, now that I have time to utilise them.
I remember the first celebration cake I made without my Mums help. Mum and Nanna were fabulous cake bakers and decorators, and contributed a cake to many a wedding, 21st and Christening. The first few cakes I made without their input, well...let's just say, there was room for improvement *wink*. I didn't let that defeat me though. I kept trying. I read. I bought magazines and borrowed books from the library. I practised. I failed. I tried again. I got better at Cake-ing.
Over time, I improved my skills in many DIY areas. But it took time. Years in some cases. I've tried my hand at embroidery, sewing, knitting, crochet, card making, candle making, scrapbooking, tie-dyeing, watercolour painting, and dozens of other gift creation or life enhancement skills. I got better at some things like cake decorating, embroidery, sewing and candle making, and never really got the hang of others. But this too, showed me where my strengths lay, and gave me the skills and confidence to create beautiful items that people might pay big money for. You can do it too. 
You. Just. Keep. Practising.
In just the last year, I've perfected my Bullion Rose embroidery. These are also known as Grub Roses, and I have Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting to thank for the simple tip of using a Straw Needle for these. Perfection had escaped me for many years for the simple reason that I was using the wrong type of needle!
Obsessed with roses as I am, I only recently found the time to teach myself how to paint Swoosh Roses. I'd admired these for a long, long time, and had no idea how simple they are to replicate until now...
Find the things you love. Learn how to replicate them. You too, may be pleasantly surprised at how simple they are to craft.
My Insourcing Efforts for the Week
This week, my Homemaking, or rather Insourcing efforts, as I prefer to call them these days, led me to stocking my cupboard plentifully, embellishing my home beautifully, and feeding my family abundantly.
I said yes to an offer of home grown oranges and mandarins, as our crops are still small by comparison.
I said yes to baking a historically correct (lol!) Dolly Varden cake. Just because I rather fancied it's pretty pastel colours. A true Dolly Varden cake is nothing to do with dolls. It's fashioned on a character in a Charles Dickens novel, and has to do with the colours and embellishments on the cake, being similar to the frothy dresses worn by that character :)
I said yes to painting some more Swoosh roses. I'd admired these for many years, and in the end, discovered that they were so easy, it's ridiculous!
I added lace to some manilla tags I'd painted with those same roses, and added them to my gift wrapping stash.
My thrift store pretties made my house a home too.
I often shop at a particular thrift store. Last year, I found this table lamp, similar to one I'd been admiring online for $265. I had found two shantung shades weeks before, for just $30 for the pair (brand new and still in the packaging), and knew that if I were patient, the lamp base would find it's way to me. And it did. For just $35. Patience rewarded.
 I still had a lampshade left over so when my friend Annabel, found a similar pretty lamp base, I was able to gift the spare to her.
I made several Furoshiki to use as Grocery shopping bags. Plastic bags are about to be outlawed where I live, so an alternative is important.
I made four large squares from my fabric stash, hemming them on all edges. You then just tie them to form a sort of Hobo style bag, and put a firm base in them and you're off!
I followed the instructions on this video..
Furoshiki Bag
My $2 wicker basket...also thrifted...
...was piled high with green apples too...
I've  always thought that fruit piled into baskets and bowls makes the home feel plentiful :)
I did my own manicure and pedicure with Jamberry heat bonded wraps. No, I don't sell them. I just like them. So economical and long lasting, and no chipping or down time waiting for nail polish to dry!
I got busy in the sewing room too, and snipped a whole roll of white lace trim, left over from costume making a few years ago, into shorter lengths for gift tags. Being a craft junkie sometimes means having just the right bits and pieces ready to go, to entice you to get going on a productive crafting session!

And while I was there, I made accessories for dance costuming, altering and embellishing dozens of other bits and pieces to customise them. No mean feat, let me tell you! This included hand stitching sequins and beads, making hats, making mouse ears and stitching them to headbands, and lots of other little tasks, that all take the sort of time that most parents who work outside the home, do not have. So the task falls to me.
Being a Homemaker generated a retail value this week, of...
5 kgs oranges gifted....value $15
4 kgs mandarins gifted....value $12
Dolly Varden cake...$10 spent...value $55
Fabric turned into Furoshiki bags...value $100
Lace trimmed for use $0 spent....value $10
Home manicure and pedicure...value $60
Costume making....value $950
Total value generated by me this week $1202
Less Total spent $102
My value in the home this week $1100.
And that's conservative, not taking into consideration all that I do each and every day in making meals, acting as counsellor, beauty therapist, shoulder to cry on, and motivator. Of course there's keeping my family well presented and well nourished, cleaning, gardening, washing the dog, gardening, and meal preparation. All of that is worth something too!
I'm worth my weight in gold. Honestly.
What did you do this week that added to your families' enjoyment of life?
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