Monday, July 30, 2012

The Domestic Goddess has left the kitchen.

I have an admission to make.
I am not a Domestic Goddess.
Sometimes I have no idea what I am doing in the kitchen.
This week I needed to flatten some chicken breasts to make Chicken Kiev.
I don't own a meat mallet so I went into the garage and used my ingenuity...

It didn't work!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blue Lightning.

I love the childlike imagination and naivety of Gareth. At age 9 he has some really funny conversations with his Dad. A recent one went like this...

Gareth: Hey Dad, me and my friends have set up a band!
Byron: That's great Gar. What are you called?
Gareth: Blue Lightning.
Byron: Brilliant. Who's in it?
Gareth: Me, Tom, Owen and Darcy.
Byron: What instruments are you all playing?
Gareth: Well I'm the trumpeter, Tom is Saxophone, Darcy's probably singing and Owen... Well I'm not sure
what Owen's doing. I think I just forgot for now...?
Byron: What about a manager?
Gareth: Why do we need one?
Byron: Well you know, to book you gigs, do your promotions, handle your fans, stuff like that.
Gareth: Oh...
Byron: I'll be your manager Gar. I'll do all that for you.
Gareth: Oh Thanks Dad!
Byron: ...for a fee.
Gareth: WHAT?
Byron: You know, I'll take a percentage of profits. Lets say 20%
Gareth: Er...Um.... I'm not sure Dad. How about 5%?
Byron: Nah Gar, Let's compromise, Let's meet in the middle, let's call it a straight 25%
Gareth: Ok, Thanks Dad. You're the best!
Byron: *chuckle*

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I love being inspired by other women's blogs. I read so many brilliant ideas and love how women all around the world are proud to share their ideas and encourage others to have a go too.

My most recent follower is Mum of All Trades and when I followed the link back to read her blog I saw a fantastic step by step guide to making black and white silhouettes of her children. I grabbed my phone and dragged the kids kicking and screaming to the nearest window (Joke!) They are obliging kids so when I showed them the blog post and asked if they wanted to try making ones of themselves they were happy to pose for it. 

I used my phone to edit the contrasts but then I found it easier to transfer the images to my home computer and used the free website Picmonkey (A similar site to the now closed down Picnik) I was really excited with the results. Especially when I showed Sian and Rhiannon and they had trouble picking which silhouette was theirs!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gina's Cafe

Has anyone else noticed how much the cost of normal life is creeping up? Last year I dropped from working 3 days a week to 2 days and it really has improved the harmony within our home. I bring in less money but there is more time to run the house, make sure that every kid goes out the door with a clean uniform on and all notes and homework signed and tucked into school bags. Dinners are more planned, I don't have quite so many of those days where I look into the fridge 15 minutes before tea-time and have no idea what to serve up. 

Recently I have found the bills are creeping up and the money coming in isn't quite matching. We are in a lucky situation. There is always the choice that I could increase my working hours. Nursing is a profession where there are always shifts to be had if you put up your hand. I know I could work that regular third day again but I also know what knock on effect that would have. I've decided to try to be even more creative with making our existing money go further. 

I've started planning the weeks shopping on a Sunday night. I go to Aldi on a Monday morning which is a minimalistic experience. I am still adjusting to the cashier scanning my items at lightning speed and throwing them straight in the trolley again, no bags and no time to pack your own re-usable ones until you are standing in the car park. I'm not complaining as it is saving us about $80 a week. 

As crazy as it might sound I have also started Christmas shopping for the 35 overseas gifts that we give each year. If I can get them bought, wrapped and posted within the next 4 weeks then they can be shipped Seamail instead of Airmail in December which is twice the price. It also means that come December we will only have to find the money for presents for our Australian family and friends and for the extra food and treats that the fun of Christmas brings. 

Today Gareth played his Saturday morning rugby match. On our way home we were passing a shopping centre. We quickly checked if there was anything we needed to stop for. There was nothing overly urgent so we drove on home. I know if we had stopped at the shops there was a fair chance we would be tempted to stop in a cafe and order some drinks. It can be fun to sit in a cafe and have nice drinks served to you and have time to sit and relax. Fun until you get the $20 something dollar bill at the end! 

I told the kids I would make Hot Chocolates when we got home. I found some cute white cups at the back of the cupboard that had been a Mothers day gift from a previous year. There were marsh mallows in a jar in the pantry and I got out a dusty heart stencil that had been long forgotten in a drawer. We had a packet of nice bikkies that our neighbour had dropped in to the kids this week (No idea what for, he had rung the doorbell, handed them to Gareth and then walked away?!) With a little imagination we had all that we could have had out and about within our own kitchen, and for a fraction of the cost. 

For as long as we can manage it financially I am determined to make sure that we live within our means and enjoy all the wonderful things we already have within our home. It's great to know that I can do an extra shift here or there to save towards something like a holiday but for now I want to try to see if we can manage on my current hours.

Do you have any similar stories, tips or ideas to share?

Friday, July 20, 2012


30 minutes
Nowhere to go
But escape into another world
Until you look at your watch
And it's back to work reality...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Back to routine and order

This week sees the return to school for all the kids as they start the second semester of the school year. For as much as I love the first day of holidays and the freedom that it brings I love the return to school and the return to order and routine. 

This is what I see each morning as I stand by the front door waiting to start the school run. Gareth sitting tying his shoe laces, slow, patient, unrushed no matter what time the clock says!

Luckily we have been on time so far this week so I have been able to stand, relaxed as he slowly but surely ties those laces and even had time to catch it on my phone!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coconut Oil.

Recently I went to the Newcastle Farmers Markets for the first time. It was great and really deserves a post of its own. The thing I bought that I was most excited about was a tub of Coconut oil. It has been in the news a lot recently for its many health benefits, particularly with brain function and eczema. Both these conditions interest me and so I brought home a tub. 

I decided to use it directly on my skin to help my eczema which seems to have crept back in patches over recent months. When I got home and rubbed it all over before bedtime I felt like a walking coconut! Perhaps I was a little generous in my application but I was worried the kids were going to start eating me as we cuddled up on the sofa to watch tv together! 

As for me eating the oil direct, it just didn't appeal. Until this morning that is. This morning I read Fiona's blog post about what she was eating for morning tea and I decided to try it too. 
A slice of bread toasted, spread with coconut oil, with pieces of chopped banana and sprinkled with cinnamon. It tasted lovely, smelt very tropical and actually tasted quite sweet although there was no added sugar. 

Dare I say I'm a convert? 

I have only one problem now Fiona? Where to keep my tub of oil? In the bathroom cupboard or in the kitchen pantry?!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Menu Planner

I am strong
I am disciplined
I am a list maker
I am a menu planner
I will write out detailed shopping lists
I will not deviate from them
I will control my finances well
I will not be tempted by random and spontaneous purchases
I will not...
I will not...
"Alphabet Soup Pasta?"
It looks so cute...
It's only $2.49...
I have no idea what recipe to use it for...
I'll just buy one...
My blog friends will surely have lots of clever suggestions...
They will leave inspiration in my comments box...
You will, won't you....?!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day trip to Manly

Byron has been hankering after a day in Sydney for a while now. On Sundays in New South Wales families can have unlimited travel anywhere buses, trains, ferries all for just $2.50 a person. The last few Sundays have been busy with other things already happening so this weekend there were no excuses, we were Sydney bound!

We left on a breakfast train and arrived in Sydney's Central station just after 10am. The ferry trip to Manly takes almost an hour so it was late morning as we stepped off into the busy city teeming with tourists and locals all set about enjoying this wonderfully sunny winters day. 

We called in to Ben and Jerry's ice-cream shop and then sat on the wall of the beach eating delish cones of Coconut Seven Layer and Chocolate Peanut Buttery Swirl.

Next we walked along the waterfront and past the sea water swimming pool carved into the rocky shore line. It honestly looked inviting despite the fact that summer is a distant memory! 
At the end of the coastal path is Shelly Beach. A gorgeous little beach covered in crushed shells. The kids started finding the most beautiful pieces of shells and sea-smoothed glass and balancing them on my jeans leg. Soon I couldn't move for fear of disturbing their precious collection! Sian made Byron and myself use one hand each to scoop up a handful of shells and then place our hands side by side to create a "heart" Easier said then done! We were a bit uncoordinated and kept laughing and dropping the shells and blaming one another for not making the right shape with our hands but eventually she managed to take a great photo which I'm sure we will treasure for many years to come (if we can just forget about the chaos and accusations while taking it!)
In no time at all we were jumping back on the ferry to catch the 4pm train home. It is amazing how only a few hours in another city can be so accessible without breaking the bank and yet can refresh you and leave you renewed ready to start another week with a spring in your step. 

We really do live in an amazing country.

Retro Humour!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Retro "Come Hither" Apron.

My friend Jo recently made a fun retro apron. The description on the back clearly states...  "Come hither while I bake us some cookies" 

As soon as I read that I knew I needed to make one too! I bought some red swirly fabric and some plain red lining and set to work. I decided to make the pockets, waistband and apron ties from the lining fabric for some contrast. 

The night I was sewing the bodice and skirt together I got a little distracted by a glass of wine that Byron had poured me and left within arms reach of the sewing machine. In my haste to complete the apron I rushed and sewed the skirt on back to front! Lots of unpicking and cursing later I took more care sewing it on correctly. 

I was delighted with the end result. I put it straight on over my big fluffy fleece dressing gown and ran in to show Byron. The "Come Hither" effect was not quite there but it was too cold to abandon the fleecy warmth of my dressing gown and I really wasn't in the mood to bake cookies at 10pm. I contented myself with sitting cozily on the sofa looking like a polar bear trapped in the body of a retro housewife with a big glass of red wine in hand! 

Not quite the same image as was on the front of the pattern but real life is not a photo-shoot is it?!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

15 Mums, 41 kids and a bloke called David.

Today was such a fun day. It started with a text from a friend suggesting Fish and Chips at a local park. I knew it was my last work-free day of the kids school holidays and I was aware that there were some friends the kids hadn't managed to meet up with yet so I asked Julie if I could pass the invite out to some other friends too. Her text response "Yeah the more the merrier!!!" was the start of something big...

I sent an email out to mums of kids that were connected through school and sports and encouraged them to spread the word. The replies came in quickly over the next few hours with lots of people excited to catch up. The weather forecast was for rain showers and I hoped it was wrong. I woke last night to heavy heavy rain on the window and lay tossing and turning wondering what we could do as a Plan B if the wet weather continued.

I shouldn't have worried. As the morning progressed the grey thinned out, the rain was gone and the smallest glimmer of sunshine pushed through the clouds. Text messages beeped constantly on my phone checking we were still meeting and then at 1pm we pulled up in the car-park, hot chips and calamari rings in take away boxes and picnic-rug and chairs in the boot.

Over the next hour the group grew and grew as more and more mums arrived and set up their chairs and passed around food and the kids whizzed back and forth in a blur only stopping for a drink here, a cup-cake there. Mostly we were Mums but we had one Dad sitting back and soaking up the sunshine too. At one point Monica decided to count how many of us had come. We lost count a few times but the end result as the blog title suggests was approximately 15 Mums, 41 kids and of course David!

Getting a group photo was Monica's idea and it took a lot of co-ordinating to get our kids to gather in one place. I ran around trying to round them up with promises of a big multi-pack of chips to be shared out afterwards but that only seemed to encourage kids we didn't know offering to join in the photo too! Eventually they gathered around the big tree. Some were climbing high in the branches but all of them were there somewhere as the mums yelled "Cheese!" 

I sent out the photo to all the mums when I got home and the responses have made my day. Particularly one friend who emailed me to say her boy had told her that it had been the best fun he had had all holidays. In this day and age with so many things to entertain kids, iPods, tv, trips to the movies, bowling, ice-skating and the many other electronic or pay-per-activity things to do, how amazing is it that a day in the park is the highlight?!! 

In Kelly's words "Today proves the best things in life are free - fresh air, friends and fun"

Monday, July 09, 2012

Distance is what you make of it.

It's great seeing my kids interact with their cousins. Living two hours away from them seems like a long way if you compare it with friends with families living around the corner but knowing we used to live on the other side of the world makes us appreciate that two hours is not far at all! This weekend we caught up with them and had fun using a free sandwich cutter that came with some cheese slices. It turned an ordinary sandwich into a mummy cow and a baby one with only the smallest sliver of crust left behind.

Watching my 2 year old nephew "walking" the mummy cow across his plate with cheeks stuffed full of the cows head made me laugh as I took this photo. It was only now as I transferred the photos onto my computer that my eyes took in the detail of Sian smiling with Cian in the background. I love with photography how sometimes you catch more than you expect!

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Twitter thinks I'm a lunatic...

Twitter sent me a random email with three suggestions of people/groups
I should follow based on who they think I am.

Check out suggestion number one: Lunatics Society!

Thanks Twitter.

I think...

Friday, July 06, 2012

Deja Vu...

I make Byron a Snapfish desk calendar each Christmas with some favourite photos from the previous year. It is a nice way for him to have a little bit of family in an otherwise work environment. This week marked the beginning of a new month so on Monday when he arrived in work he flipped the page over to find this...
By complete coincidence I went out that morning with the kids to celebrate the first day of the school holidays. I had made them scrub and clean every nook and cranny of the house in the morning on the promise of a reward. It is a good way of all chipping in to get the boring chores out of the way at the beginning of each week so we can then enjoy the rest of it pretty much chore free. Today's reward was a trip to a local cake shop. Without knowing what he was looking at on his calendar this is what I emailed Byron from my phone! 
His reply... Deja Vu!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Pizza twist.

What do you do with left over pizza dough...? 

Make Sweet pizzas of course! Yum!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Find my Friends

There is an App you can use on your phone that can either be seen as really useful or as step towards becoming a stalker. It is called "Find my friends" and allows you to share your position with friends phones for a limited period of time (ie while at a large sporting event or concert) or permanently. The permanent option is really good if you have no secrets and don't mind your other half knowing where you are at the click of a button. Before you decide to give it a try you should know it is not infallible. 

Read on...

Sometimes I do a different job for my hospital. Instead of being based on the Rehab ward providing patient care I drive around seven hospitals in a 50km radius of my work assessing patients who are suitable to come to us for Rehab. Byron can see when the car is moving and often checks in with me to see how my day is going.

One day I pulled in to a McDonald's for my lunch break. I needed a quick caffeine hit and was tempted by a chilled coffee with a mountain of cream and hot fudge sauce. I hid in a booth to drink my indulgent treat and took a long sip with eyes closed and felt the sweet goodness swirl over my taste buds.

* Phone beep*

The moment was broken. It was a message from Byron. "Everything OK?"  Smartarse. I was sure he had checked where I was and knew not just that I was in mackers but probably knew what I had ordered and who had served me. This stalking checking in was wearing a bit thin. I let the message sit unanswered for a few minutes. There was another similar one. I rang him. He sounded a bit worried. He didn't know I was in McDonalds. He didn't know what I was drinking or who had served me. 

According to Find my Friends I had spent the last half hour in Charlestown Police Station!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Hero Worship.

Today the Under 10's rugby team were invited to attend the warm up with the clubs senior team. They were allowed into the Holy Sanctuary of the changing rooms to watch the men prepare for the upcoming match against University of Newcastle. 

The mums were promised that there would be a clamp down on excessive swearing in front of the young ears but to be honest I think things like that are half the excitement for boys of Gareth's age. As long as the language doesn't follow them home or to school then I am ok with it.  

The 3rd grade men had just finished their game and made a tunnel to cheer the 1st graders onto the pitch and the junior boys got to run on with them. Gareth was chuffed. We got to watch the match from the sidelines. It was an exciting and dynamic game with The Roo's winning a very impressive 86 points to 12.

I'm sure their lucky junior mascots helped!