Sunday, June 9, 2019

Be prepared for Life #3....5 minute tasks....

Working outside the home and keeping home humming along can be a real challenge.
Today I want to offer some tips on sharing the load. And it's not about having an army of human helpers.
It's more about spreading the workload equitably, and having the discipline to manage time more effectively so that you get the most out of your day. It's about using 5 minute windows to make the day run more smoothly.
But first!
1. Feeling your best is the number one priority if you're going to embark on this crazy roller coaster of working and managing the home.
2. Note I said 'managing'. Managing also means 'delegating'. So learn to delegate!
Let me elaborate...
Feeling your best
One of the things I have found most difficult about re-entering the workforce in my late 50s, is the fatigue. I truly love what I am doing, but I have to accept that even though I am fit and healthy, I am no Spring chicken. So I have to manage my energies and accept the natural rhythm of my body clock.
I don't know about you, but energy-wise, so long as I keep to a strict schedule of 9pm to bed and 6am to rise, I am at my best first thing in the morning. Note I did not say 'awake'. I'm sort of on auto-pilot for the first few hours. But even on auto-pilot, while you're getting ready for work, you can still accomplish a great deal.
Some sensible tips: Don't drink coffee after 2pm, if socialising stick to an occasional glass of wine on weekends only, make sure to have 6 glasses of water a day, once home in the evenings only drink water or herbal tea, don't drink anything after 8:30 because most of us don't sleep well with a full! Walk at LEAST 2,000 steps a day...we can all manage this. Try to stick to the appropriate calorie intake for your age and desired weight. For me, that's 1200 calories, and try to get those from fresh, unprocessed food. That's it. Not hard at all.
The morning routine is crucial around here. By evening, all three in our family have been out all day and we are tired. If we get most things done in the morning prior to leaving the house (we're out the door by 7:15am), then the evening is a breeze.
Once showered and dressed, here are five things family members could do:
1. Put on a load of washing.
2. Steam some rice for the evening meal and refrigerate it. In a large microwave safe bowl or jug, place 2 cups of long grain rice and 5 1/2 cups of water with a pinch of salt. Microwave on High for 6 minutes. Allow to sit in the microwave until just before you leave, then fluff with a fork and refrigerate.
3. Make Chia Seed Puddings for the following days breakfasts. Mix 1/2 cup white chia seeds with 2 cups liquid (milk, plant based milk, probiotic milk) and some sweetener or flavouring if you want (sugar, honey, maple syrup, stevia, agave nectar), and add a few frozen or fresh berries. Yummy.
4. Boil some eggs. See my post here for the perfect not-too-hard, hard boiled eggs.
5. Cut some bananas up and freeze for smoothies or Nice-Cream (fake ice cream). To make Nice-Cream, whizz a few chunks of frozen banana in your blender. We use a Nutri-Ninja. Add flavourings or toppings just as you would for real ice cream sundaes. Just like a 'real' soft serve, but healthy!
Here are 5 things another family member could do:
1. Feed pets.
2. Hang out the washing.
3. Throw some salad leaves into a bowl with some halved cherry tomatoes, and make a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette in a recycled jar. Refrigerate covered. To make vinaigrette, put equal amounts olive oil and lemon juice in a recycled jar, add a teaspoon of prepared mustard, a pinch of sugar and salt, and shake well. Add a sprinkle to salad leaves and toss well to coat. You don't need much!
4. Clean the bathroom basin after brushing teeth. We keep a scrubbing pad under the vanity for just this purpose. A tiny pearl of toothpaste makes a fine abrasive if one is necessary!
5. Water the pot plants.
5 more things:
1. Slice, dice, marinate or mix the protein portion of the evening meal. That might mean marinating chicken or salmon fillets, mixing the mince for meatballs, cutting some steak into slivers and salting it lightly to tenderise, or microwaving some red lentil mash for stuffing capsicums or making Dhal. All five minutes at the most. Red lentil mash is made by mixing 300mls of stock (any flavour) with 3/4 cup red lentils. Microwave for 6 mins or until 'mushy'.
2. Fold the clean and dry washing. My clever husband built us a drying cabinet so we can hang as much as possible on hangers to go straight into our wardrobes. Works like a charm. Line hanging will work too though, obviously!
3. Check and replace toilet rolls, handtowels, teatowels, dishcloths.
4. Load or unload the dishwasher OR wash dishes and stack to air dry in dish drainer.

5. Ready cups for herbal teas when we all walk in the door. We each then only need to boil the kettle.
Labour saving devices

It's a funny thing. Many of the appliances we traditionally imagine to labour saving, haven't been for us with me not at home.
Husband refuses to use the slow cooker as he hates cleaning it. It's an old one, that requires soaking overnight and a scrub whilst on it's side in the morning. I can totally see how that's a bit painful!
Ironing? No thanks. We wash on the Gentle cycle, and hang everything that would traditionally need ironing, straight on to hangers. I literally have one shirt that I iron. The rest? No way!
Bread-maker, sandwich press, pie maker all just add to clutter and stress and we don't eat that way any more anyway, as we are gluten free. All gone. Is it time for you to reassess your actual needs and declutter your kitchen, based on your own families changing needs?
Our most used appliances are the kettle and toaster, the bench mixer and the Nutri-Ninja. Everything else? Gone.
That too, might take just five minutes, free space in your kitchen, and lift a weight from your shoulders.
Keep snacks simple - more 5 minute tasks
Here are five really easy snacks for lunch boxes, that can be used as a base and varied for interest:
1. Dried fruit and nut mix. We make our own meaning we can have exactly what we like in it. What we 'like' can be different from one week to the next.
2. Fresh fruit. Seasonal. Whatever is least expensive or growing in the garden that week. We eat anything.
3. Veges and home made hommus. 'Hommus' to us, can be a dip of anything with herbs and oil for flavour whizzed up in the Nutri-Ninja. We use roasted sweet potato, eggplant or pumpkin, cooked green peas, drained tinned chick peas, lentils and kidney beans. Add oil to carry flavour, season well, add herbs and spices to your liking. We make new combinations all the time so we don't get bored.
4. Cheese and crackers. Again, this could be herbed home made ricotta, brie, camembert, crumbly vintage, spicy jalapeno, wasabi infused, peppercorn, green pickle....don't just go for the cheddar!
5. Hot chocolate mix. To make this sift equal parts cocoa, icing sugar and powdered milk together. Easy peasy. Add ground cinnamon, ground chilli, or vanilla essence for extra flavour.
We accomplish all of these little tasks in five minutes or less. They make our life run so much more smoothly. Admittedly we have a three adult household, but even teens can make a dip, change the dishcloths, put on a load of washing. Younger children can scrub the vanity (when I was 5 this was my task too!), sift the cocoa and sugar for hot chocolate mix, help pack snacks on a Sunday afternoon.
Spread the load. Delegate. Use 5 minutes here and there, to make your own life easier.
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Friday, June 7, 2019

Be prepared for life....#2...simplify meals!

What a challenge it's been to train the troops from afar while I'm in corporate land, and they're trying to keep hearth and home together. 
They're doing pretty well, but I'd be lying if I said things hadn't changed around here.
The Diva, now that she's at a prestige performing arts academy with all that entails, refuses to let anything that isn't alternately Paleo/Meditteranean/a Superfood, pass her lips.
Husband refuses point blank to use the slow cooker because he hates to clean it. He prefers to buy ready slow cooked meals. Well. You can just imagine how that sits with me. Can you see my dramatic roll of eyes?
Still, as many before me have said, it's better than takeaway, and who am I to tell the newly crowned Kitchen Regents how to prepare the evening offering.

I'm learning, that it's all about simplifying. Friends warned me about this, and I make no apology in saying that simplifying is the name of the game.
I baked a cake a weekend or two ago. Nobody but me ate it. Diva being all healthy and Husband following suit and all.
Now the baking goes to work with me. I'm very popular as a consequence.

Carrot and Walnut cake got the thumbs up although I was berated for not making a bigger!
 Life Changing bread and herbed home made ricotta won some hearts, but warranted suspicious looks from many.'s a lesson...the biggest hit, was the thing that required the least amount of effort. This baked Camembert was practically zero effort and had the colleagues queuing, QUEUEING, I tell you, out the door.
Recipe in a couple of sentences #1
Baked Camembert: Buy a camembert or brie, criss cross slash the thing, bake at 180C till heated through, top with honey, pistachios and sliced dried figs. Who knew right? This was a big one. Aldi here sell half wheels for $10. Join two together for maximum impact. Most awesome bring-a-plate offering, like, EVER.
Tip right there! Simplify!
I'll save the labour intensive stuff a very occasional treat, thanks. 
That said, these gluten free potato scallops (potato cakes, fritters, whatever you like to call 'em) are cheap, easy, and delish. And simple. Did I mention SIMPLE?
Recipe in a few sentences #2
 Potato Scallops: Slice a couple of potatoes thinly. You don't even need to peel them. Just scrub the dirt from the peel. Mix flour, seasoning and soda water together to form a thick batter. I just eyeball the amount based upon the number of potato slices I have. If you run out, you can make more easily. I just use a Gluten Free flour blend. The fizzy water makes the batter lighter. You could also use beer or cider. Heat a big pot of oil till smoking. Dip potato slices in batter, and drop carefully into the oil. Cook until lightly golden and drain well. Eat immediately or freeze, whereupon they can be reheated in the oven or refried in oil. Yum. Strangely The Diva lowered herself to consuming six of these. I suppose they're a new Superfood??? *cough*...

Superfood right here though. Coconut yoghurt parfaits. A perennial favourite. A Zero effort one. frozen berries. Have you SEEN the price of berries just now? I guess the poor farmers have to make up for that nonsense with the needle-in-the-strawberry scandal last year, but I'll poke a needle-in-my-eye before mashing them into a parfait. I'll buy them, but I'll savour them alone like the luxury they are at the moment. Meanwhile these are fine using frozen berries at $1 per 100gms over twice or thrice the price for fresh. Make it easy on yourself and assemble these ahead. May as well make 8, as 4, right?
Recipe in a few sentences #3
Speaking of zero effort, Chia Pudding. Do you know of it? We love tapioca, and Chia is similar. Mix the seeds with any liquid, and sweetener if desired. Layer much like the yoghurt parfaits. Eat. Good. Easy.
Chia Seed Pudding: Mix chia seeds at a ratio of 1 part Chia seeds to 4 parts liquid eg. 1/4 cup seeds to 1 cup liquid. Any liquid is fine. We love plant based milks the best. Add sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, stevia) and flavour essence if you want. We prefer Vanilla extract, but raspberry, peppermint (with chocolate soy milk and cacao nibs), and orange or lemon got the thumbs up recently too. Mix together, pour into jars or glasses or any other container. Done. We put frozen berries at the base of these too.
Other tricks...
Keep celebration cakes simple.
Behold my beehive cake further below here, made for a recent birthday. Cake. Mock Cream. Tulle and ribbon bees. Done. I baked a round cake and a cake in a pudding basin. I trimmed the bottom cake to the size of the pudding basin cake and sandwiched with chia seed jam. The Diva will eat this as its sugar free and its unbelievably quick and easy to make. It's basically the same as the Chia puddings.
Recipe in a few sentences #4
Berry Chia Seed Jam: Defrost some frozen fruit in the microwave in a small bowl. Frozen raspberries or mixed berries are our favourite. Mash them up with a fork. Leave a few chunks if you like but we like ours fairly smooth. You'll note that you now have a fair amount of liquid too. This is where the Chia seeds work their magic. Add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, stir and allow to cool. Done. See? No mystery. Chia pudds and Chia jam are really the same thing in different proportions Adjust the amount of berries and seeds to suit you! Add sweetener if you wish, but it's not necessary.

I iced this with a very old recipe for Vanilla Mock Cream.
Recipe in a few sentences #5
Vanilla Mock Cream: Combine 1 heaped dessertspoon of cornflour in a bit of milk and stir to combine. Add enough to bring up to a cupful, and microwave, stirring every 20 seconds, until smooth and thick. Allow to cool. Cream a tablespoon of butter with 3 tablespoons caster (superfine but NOT icing sugar) sugar in a small bowl, then beat in the cold cornflour mixture. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence if you like. I flavoured mine with honey and lemon this time. Tint with yellow colouring...use a teaspoon to dispense the food colour until you get the delicate shade you want.
I just blobbed that on. The texture is like a super thick custard. I then ran a fork around the cake to get the lines and ridges to make it look like a beehive.
Behold my Moana Te Fiti cake here.  Another one that was far easier than it looks!
Speaking of custard, Baked Custard is a perfect treat Summer or Winter. Who needs all that beating and flour sifting and stuff unless it's a special occasion? We make ours with plant based or lactose free milk. Coconut milk baked custard is divine.
Recipe in a few sentences #6
Baked Custard: 4 eggs, 500mls milk, 2 tablespoons sugar, sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon, bake in a water bath till firm. Put rice in it for baked rice pudding. Add noodles for a German version. Throw fruit in it to be fancy. Serve with cream if your lactose-intolerant family (mine, that is) can stand it.
Other tips and tricks:
 Think in multiples. Why boil two eggs when boiling a dozen takes the same length of time. We do this and eat them cold for breakfast and lunch. We like the yolks just firm but not overcooked. With experimentation, we've found this the best method.
Recipe in a few sentences #7
Perfect hard boiled eggs: Put as many eggs as you can fit in a medium sized pot. We can fit 8 in ours and our eggs are extra large. This bit is important due to the timing. Do two medium pots of 6 or 8, over one large pot, as the timing is different. Also, knock off 30 seconds or so if your eggs are smaller. You'll get to know what texture you like your yolks. Get the tap water the hottest it can be, and barely cover the eggs. Set them on a preheated (if electric) or high gas hotplate. Set your timer for 9 minutes. Cook until timer goes off. Douse in cold water to stop them cooking any further. Store in the refrigerator. We eat these whole, mash them for sandwiches, chop them into salads, or toss them in a b├ęchamel based curry sauce to eat with rice and vegetables, a meal that is surprisingly delicious.
 This morning, while I made and ate my breakfast, I also made 8 boiled eggs, 8 chia seed puddings, a heap of steamed rice, a jar of toasted sesame seeds, and a jar of mixed berry chia seed jam. I had three cooking vessels to wash and that was it. It CAN be done.
Here's that curry sauce recipe....
Recipe in a few sentences #8
Curried b├ęchamel sauce for eggs, chicken or vegetables: Microwave a tablespoon of butter or margarine, with a heaped tablespoon of flour. Separately, heat a cup of milk till steaming. Beat the two together. Microwave till smooth and silky, stirring every thirty seconds. Season to taste and add as much curry powder as you like. We like about a teaspoon and a half. This makes it flavoursome, but not overly spicy. To this we add sliced hard boiled eggs. We eat it with steamed rice and lightly blanched greens like beans, snow peas (mange tout), broccolini and asparagus. You can also use this as a base for any mornay, and cauliflower and broccoli in this sauce, in single serves with cheese ready to melt on top, is a favourite Winter work and University lunch here. Also yum with tinned salmon or tuna packed the same way.
Oh! Steamed rice! An absolute staple. That recipe is here. No rice cooker required. I do it in the microwave now too. Same idea, but cook for 6 minutes, stir, allow to sit.
Recipe in a few sentences #9
Tamago Gohan: The Diva and I like a Japanese breakfast with steamed rice. You heat the cooked rice in the microwave until piping hot, then (don't be squeamish), add a raw egg, a dribble of soy sauce and sesame oil, and a might generous pinch of toasted sesame seeds (I do these ahead of course). The heat of the rice 'cooks' the egg, and the egg in turn, coats the grains of rice. If that's not quite cooked enough for you, throw the bowl and it's contents into the microwave to reheat a little, stir until your egg is cooked enough for your liking. It's quite more-ish I can assure you! Great comfort food and can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I know I'm probably preaching to the converted here, but here's another tip...if you are going to make something labour intensive, multiply the ingredients and make several, not just one. I never make just one Lasagne or Shepherds Pie or Giant Meatball meal. I make three and two go in the freezer for a lazy meal another night.
And before I go, here is one more time saver (read 'life saver') idea.
For a quick, almost no effort meal, you can't go further than oven baked. Top anything with flavoured butter or olive oil or cheese, tuck some veges under or in it, and oven bake. You cannot go wrong.
Here's my Pizza Mushrooms. Yum and healthy!

And this my loves, is Baked Ginger Snapper with Miso butter.
Recipe in a few sentences #10

Mix an individual sachet or two of Miso paste with softened butter. Spread over fillets of fish. Sit on a bed of seasonal vegetables, top with red onion and bake for 20 minutes. Scrumptious.
See? We can work outside the home, and still be Earth Mothers.
We just have to get clever.
Stay tuned for Part Three!
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Being Prepared for Life...Part One...

You might be slightly confused, thinking that this is a post about stocking your pantry and wondering what's with the glossy pic of Grace Kelly.
It's not.
My lovely friends Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting, and Patsy at A Working Pantry as well as my other blogging companions, seen right of your screen are taking care of business there.
It's about a different sort of Preparedness.
Be prepared for Life
Let me explain...and perhaps those of you with children who are grown, or nearly grown, will identify.
Back in November 2017, with my youngest childs imminent graduation from high school looming, I sat down and had a good hard look at self. I'll admit that I found this both illuminating and humiliating in equal measure.
I realised that as much as I love blogging and homemaking, there were some aspects of being out in the big wide world that I missed greatly. Human contact being the big one. 
I wanted to talk to people. To bond with women whose faces I could see and learn to love. As much as I adore you all and can honestly say that I've formed lifelong friendships online, I craved conversation that did not have a time delay. Do you get what I mean? I'd unwittingly created an imbalance in my life, by devoting so much time to my online friends, that I had neglected those in my real life. Some of this was unintentional and could not be avoided, but here I was.
I also realised that I now had an opportunity to revisit an earlier self, because my days of being a full time Mum at least, were over. I realised that the Universe was giving me a BIG FAT OPPORTUNITY, and that rather than sitting around wallowing in the fact that my children no longer need me 24/7, that I would DO something.
 I wasn't PREPARED.
I'd done my best. But as many of us do, I spent the majority of my available funds on my children. A noble cause that did me no real harm, and shaped them into the wonderful humans they are.
I had thrifted, dressed for my station in life (School Mama), and cut my own hair. Or didn't cut my own hair and got creative with up-styles. Does this sound like you too?
But I wasn't ME any more. Not really.
Before my son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, I was a career girl. Someone who wore heels and dressed for success. I had a degree in Human Resource Management. I was climbing the corporate ladder. I attended soiree's of all kinds and took enormous delight in dressing up as often as possible. I'm sorry if that offends anyone, as I have had messages that suggest this is the case. I apologise if it makes me sound less comfortable. Change is uncomfortable. For me, as well as you.
I pondered where was that 'me'? Where had she gone in the scheme of my life? And was I prepared to bid her farewell without one last soiree?
Not likely, friends.
The Learning
I took the bull by the horns and splurged on a style course. One that actually made sense to me. I knew that I had to get with the programme if I was going to make the changes I wanted to see. I paid my course off over time, and absorbed the knowledge like a sponge, but I still had a ways to go. I had to inject ME into that knowledge. I was done with slavishly following what somebody else told me.
That bit took time. And experimentation.
Remember 27 years had passed since I was expected to present as anything but a 'mum'. But at 57 years old, I decided to be Ready For Something.
I didn't know what I was readying for, but I felt it in my you do sometimes. Something good was coming. I thought it was 'retirement'. How wrong was I!
Have you ever had that feeling? That slight shift in the Universe that whispered in your ear 'get ready...something big is coming...'
I'd learned the basic trickeries of looking well put together, and more slender than my frame belied, but I suddenly realised that it was time to take particular note of how to put an outfit together, beyond what someone elses tastes dictated.
Wear what you love
Do you love the fit and flare type dresses as seen above? I've always loved them. So princess-ish and feminine. But I never understood how to make them work for me.
I saw other petite curvy people wearing them, but for the life of me, could not translate that to my own wardrobe.
Here's where I translated some of that French Chic trickery to my own life. You can too.
I hear friends 'of a certain age' complain often that 'I couldn't wear that', or 'that won't suit me', or 'gosh I wish I could dress like in the *insert era*'.
Well, you can, and a lot of it is just knowing how to make those styles work for you.
And don't you dare tell me that you can't because you'll feel silly. Life is theatre! Dress for the best story you'll ever hear or see....your own!
The Silhouette
Think about the silhouettes you are attracted to. Are they the bouffant fifties prom style dresses? Or the sleek lines of the 40s? Maybe it's the relaxed feel of the 60s, or the shoulder pads of the 80s that appeals to you. Go with it! Just make sure you adapt it to suit your colouring and your own silhouette. I'll keep saying is too short to fit in with other peoples expectations.

Research taught me that a little cardigan (brooch optional), added a flattering something to a 50s style fit and flare dress. You also get, free of charge, that all important centre column of colour that is so slimming and youthful. It also taught me that a solid colour next to the face is softer than a print, but that a print disguises figure faults like nobodies business. These are all principles that can be adapted for any era, any shape.

At last count, I have accumulated a dozen of these little cardigans in many shades of the rainbow. They are life savers. Throw a cardi and a scarf over anything, and you're dressed. Well not over flannelette pyjamas as I have seen once or twice, know...most things.  And they NEVER go out of style. I've bought many of mine on eBay, some in thrift stores for as little as $3, and a couple at sales. If cared for, these may well see me through the next twenty years. That's bang for your buck.
The Scarf
Scarves...I've loved them all my life. They may not always be 'fashionable', but they are perennially 'stylish'. And that, is one of the most important pieces of information I gleaned from my French Chic style course. The aim is to be 'stylish', NOT fashionable.
Not only that, but as I wrote here, scarves always fit. You never have to ask whether your behind looks big in a scarf!
I started off wearing mine like this. I don't mind a nice cocktail ring repurposed as a scarf ring....

I educated myself a little further, and now I wear them like this. My style mentor says that wearing them with long tails as in the above pic, is slenderising. But my Cardi takes care of that by creating a centre column of colour, so I can get fancy with my scarves. See, another lesson learned.
I learned this knot here.
Although I do get the 'weave' mixed up sometimes, it always looks good.

The Shoe
 As for shoes, well I was determined to master The Heels. I love them. I love how I feel taller, stronger, younger, more glamorous in heels.
Alas, my feet did not like heels.
I developed something or other with -itis- on the end. One of those things that hurts like a banshee. Or is that screams like a banshee and hurts like a something-else-starting-with-b. Whatever. It hurts.
Instead, I have mastered the feminine brogue.
I wear them with fit and flare dresses, tights in Winter, slim pants, boot leg jeans, pencil skirts. I love them.

My feet love them.

These I splurge on, because let's face it, if our feet hurt, we can't do much at all, can we? 

Also....can't do much about the veiny legs. That's age,! Note: veiny legs are not stopping me from wearing dresses OR brogues. You can too. Seriously...who notices these things but us?

The Rest

Hair. Mine was long. I liked it long. Do you like to wear your hair long too? Finally, I had to admit that for all that I loved mine long, I mostly wore it up. Having it down, was just plain annoying. And sort of ageing. See below.
I cut it. I cut it short. It didn't go well at first. I had trouble convincing the tweenie hairdresser that I could carry off an asymmetrical pixie cut. She gave me a bob. I changed hairdressers, and the rest as they say, is history.

So there I was, PREPARED.
And blow me down, as we say here in OZ, what happened next?
I was offered a corporate role....after a 20 year absence from the workforce. Twenty years! Really! Talk about winds of change. It gave being prepared, a whole new meaning. I knew something was around the corner...
So  here I am cardiganed, brogued, scarved and pixie-cut to the max, doing good things out there in the big, wide world. And believe me, they are good things. Good in a helping people sort of way. Just the way I like it. I've made beautiful new friends who like me, are homemakers at heart, but who love 'doing good things' too. They also love 50s dresses, cardigans, brogues and fab hair. What a joyous addition to my life they are. And what a lesson in opening your heart and mind to new experiences at any age.
I got prepared.
And look what happened.
Is there something around the corner for you too? There may well be if you too, are prepared.
Give yourself some priority in the scheme of things. If an opportunity came your way, would you be in a position to say YES?
I would not have been just two short years ago. I am now.
You can be too.
Stay tuned for Part Two...Being prepared when you work! I think I know a thing or two about that now!
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