Thursday, November 6, 2014

Planning for Christmas - Kid's Wish List

With Halloween over, I know have some time to plan for Christmas. Being a Christian, this a very important social holiday to enjoy and celebrate. I plan to decorate my house, particularly outside as big as I did for Halloween. But all the decorating aside, the other part that a lot of parents stress about is the presenting 'organising'. What should Santa be bringing this year? Here is a letter I found on Pinterest. This is a good way to start your planning and it also teaches a child there is a purpose behind the gift. Everyone does it differently, but the last 5 years or so, I have been trying to limit the amount of presents on Christmas morning. Both my husband and I are from large families, and we do draws and Grandparents also purchase for our kids. So they aren't short of receiving presents. I also like my kids to remember charity and service at Christmas time too, and not so much what they WANT.

So here is the letter, which I have borrowed from here and you should be able to get a better downloadable copy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Celebrating Halloween 2014 on a budget Part 1

Halloween this year was a lot of fun. Since we moved to a larger home and a home that faces out to a common road, I felt the need to decorate the outside of the house. My previous post was a taste of the the things I used as my inspiration this year. So here are the pictures of what I ended up making and displaying. The best fun I think was the packing tape ghosts. Lots of fun, and great effect, though in the end I didn't end up displaying them quite the way I had hope I would. I bring that down to my husband being absent on an overseas business trip for most of October!

The way it worked out for me this year, was a Halloween Party the week before Halloween for family and friends. Then we celebrate on the 31st and welcome trick or treaters. Then this year, we had a trunk o treat the day after halloween. So it was really stretched out for our family and we have more lollies than we know what to do with!!

For the family and friends party this is what I did.


This was my arty farty wall!! The Monster Melodies is a vinyl record cover I scored at a Vinnies for $1. The book pages come from Stephen King's Pet Cemetery and I stuck and painted them down with PVA glue onto canvases. Then the wicked picture is a free printable I printed up and put in a $2.50 frame from BigW.  All these items can be packed away for next year.
I already have the cake stand, which is always handy. I recommend if you don't have a cake stand but like to do parties or entertain, get one. They are invaluable. The styrofoam skulls were $4 each. They are great and the cheapest ones I could find. The table cloth was some black lace material I picked up a couple years back on the discount table from Spotlight. Can't remember how much but I am sure it was less than $10. We have an 8 seater table. All these items can be reused for next year.

This decoration is one of my favourites. A packet of black garbage bags from BigW cost me $1.90. I cut the sides apart, taped it to the window frame and cut vertical strips, the worse the better!! Has a great affect.

A friend of mine had a halloween party last year and had the syringes filled with Grenadine. I had a super hard time finding Grenadine this time, so settled with some sour cherry syrup (Italian) from my local fruit market. The colour matched the amazing taste! Kids squirted the syrup into their lemonade. I found syringes on Ebay and purchased 50 for around $30 including postage. I have washed them up and will reuse them next year or for other fun events! This idea went down really well, everyone loved the novelty and it was amazing to see them displayed on the table.

Finally, you maybe wondering what did I wear that day? Well, if you aren't on my personal FB page, here it is. I decided to invest in some body/face paint. Having 4 kids, it will come in handy no doubt!The only thing I purchased for the outfit was the hat and some stockings - which were not one size fits most for adults! I think the label got mixed up and should have been for kids, because they didn't get past my knees! I am 5ft 9, so I know I am a little but taller than the average, but still! Unfortunately i don't have a picture of the stockings, I should have for comedy purposes, but I didn't think of it at the time! I just cut the stockings off so they looks like individual socks! Waste not want not right!  I had my own black top and skirt for the outfit and now I have a hat to use again. What do you think?
Well, that is it for Part 1. Stay tuned for the outside decorations and what I decided to do for my Halloween night costume.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tis the Season to be Spooky - 4 ideas for decorations to get you started

I know halloween is more of a North American tradition, but its starting to pick up pace here in Australia. Personally, I love Halloween. It could be that I like to party and need a good excuse to dress up in costume, or it could be that its a time of year that I can hand out loads of lollies to my nieces, nephews, and friend's kids without a glare from their parents, making me feel guilty!

I have been holding Halloween celebrations for almost 7 years now. One year I was lying on my couch (Pinterest was not invented so I would lie on my couch in my spare time) and a light bulb went off! I decided to throw a Halloween party. I only had 2 weeks to prep, but I did it. So I decided to keep doing it and year after year family and friends continue to enjoy themselves so much that I am inspired to continue.  We moved house last year. We are in a bigger home, but smaller backyard. So this year I am thinking I should decorate my house and front yard. Here is some of my Pinspiration for what I am planning this year.
                                                                      Source


Packing tape ghost are all the rage. All you need is a willing model, packing tape and some glad wrap. You can add the lights, leave it el naturale, or paint it white. I will load pictures of my finished versions and you can determine whether I nailed it, or failed it!!



                                           Source

My garage isn't like this, but I do have windows that face out to the road that would look good with these on them. With some black cardboard or even paper for that matter, this is an easy and cost effective decoration.

                                                       Source

I've been looking forward to doing this one for a while now. I'm hoping to hang these on my front porch. There are hooks left from hanging plants so they will work perfectly.

                                          Source

Glow in the dark spray paint is a little hard to come by. I am going to try putting glow sticks in mine and see what happens. I am also going to paint some of the masks scary colours.  This is another decoration that is not too hard to do, you could even get the kids to help out.

So that is my short introduction into my Halloween preparations. Feel fee to follow my Halloween Board on Pinterest if you want to see more great ideas.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saucy Pork Spare Ribs - my secret is out!


Pork ribs are one of those things that have to be done right. I can't emphasis enough how the meat has to be tender and melt in the mouth. There is nothing worse than chewy meat that gets stuck in teeth, well there is, but work with me for a little bit.

About 8 years ago, I was sitting in a hotel in Edmonton Canada watching the Food Network because it was -25C outside. I had an 8 month old baby having his morning nap and I was armed with JalapeƱo Cheese Tostios, root beer - the real stuff, and double stuffed fudge dipped Oreos. I could watch as much TV as I wanted to watch and anything I wanted to watch. Flashback to one week earlier I was at home in balmy Sydney, Australia switching between Dora the Annoying Explora and the Koala Brothers to appease my other two kids. So I was in a little bit of heaven, even though I had never experienced any kind of weather that began with minus! This day was significant in my life because it was this exact day that I learned the art of making the best spare ribs known to mankind. I enjoyed ribs before, but really once the FoodNetwork opened my eyes to the truth, I realised I was just tolerating ribs!!

The secret to the best ribs, I am willing to share with you now. There is no need to overload on junk food while you read, nor is it necessary to watch snow fall nor is it necessary for it to be -25C outside, though hahaha, if it is!!  The secret is simple. Slow cook (on low) those babies in a bath of flavoured water for 4-6hours!  That is it. Then you carefully drown them in delicious sweet sauce (my own secret recipe) and bake them until the sauce caramelises and burns a little. Its the best way to enjoy pork ribs. As you eat them, you know it was meant to be and you have just been tolerating spare ribs in the past.

Ingredients
 4 racks of pork spare ribs
6-10 black pepper corns
4 bay leaves
4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons powdered chicken stock
2 onions quartered
4-6 cloves of garlic - whole
generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes.

My Secret Sauce
400ml Heinz Ketchup
200ml BBQ sauce (Aussie style)
3/4 - 1  cup brown sugar
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayene pepper (optional)
2 tbs white wine vinegar -

**please note when I make the sauce, I don't usually measure my ingredients so use this as a guide and taste before you use it. Ketchup needs to be the main character. You could use tomato puree if you wish, but then you would have to increase the amounts of the spices and other ingredients. You want to achieve a sweet, mildly savoury and spicy sauce. You have to have the brown sugar so the sauce caramelises and burns a little, but you can use honey if that floats your boat. **

What do I do?
Place the ribs in your slow cooker. My slow cooker is quite large, so if yours is smaller you might want to cut up your ribs to fit. Place all ingredients in then mix the chicken stock powder with the warm water and pour over ribs. Ribs need to be submerged so add more if needs be. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. I have cooked on high before, but low really is better.

Turn oven on to 200C, make the sauce by add all ingredients and whisking it until combined and smooth. You could also whizz it up in your HMP or food processor.  Line a baking tray with foil. The ribs will be tender and break easily, so using tongs carefully place ribs on the lined baking tray. Spoon sauce to cover the ribs. Spray with some oil and place in oven for about 20mins.


I made these last night, but I didn't put enough brown sugar in because they didn't burn like I prefer them to. None the less, they were super tender and devourable - if that is a word, which computer is saying no! I married them with my Heart Attack potato bake. Everyone said yum as they licked there lips and fingers!



"Heart Attack" Potato Bake

If you are trying to be healthy look away now! I don't want to be responsible for tempting you into breaking your healthy eating streak! I dare say Michelle Bridges would have a heart attack just reading the ingredients for this potato bake and would no doubt suggest this be sin binned for eternity. Which actually might be convincing some of you even more that you should try this!! Ok, if you have been properly converted to the dark but delicious side of not so healthy eating, then please read on. This is not for the faint hearted and I have to tell you, I actually softened this up from the recipe I was using as inspiration. The other recipe overloads on cheese. I do love cheese, but when you are adding both pure cream and sour cream already to a sauce, the healthy voice in me talked me out of adding the mountains of grated cheese that the other recipe called for.  But if you so wish to add cheese, refer to the link for directions. This potato bake is super tasty and creamy, basically because I used cream! I had family over so for me, I had to make a large amount. Cut it down to suit your needs, but I can testify that it tastes good the next day!

Ingredients
2 kg of potatoes, peeled and cut into discs - thick not thin (personal preference)

500g bacon diced into squares - I used short cut, but if I had middle cut bacon I would trim so fat.

Green onions/ shallots three stalks - diced

200ml pure pouring cream

1/2 cup sour cream

2 cloves garlic minced

table spoon of wholegrain mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 cups of grated cheese.


What to do

Rinse potatoes in cold running water and then boil them on the stove top until tender. Drain and place in a large deep baking dish and spread to fit entire dish. Pre heat oven to 190C

Add some olive oil to hot frying pan and add bacon. Cook until brown and crisp. Add garlic and stir through until fragrant. Add shallots and cook though. Lower heat a little and pour in cream and sour cream. Stir around and add wholegrain mustard. **When I make this again, I will actually add some chicken stock for a little extra flavour. This is optional, but I think it would give a little boost to the mixture.*** Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Pour mixture over potatoes in baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes and spread evenly but thickly and put in oven for 20mins or until cheese is browned.  Enjoy as your calorie counter explodes as you devour this!


I paired this scrumptious side with my enviable Secret Saucy pork spare ribs.

Easy 'n' Healthy Baked Vegetarian Meal - So versatile

I know I rave on about my HMP and how it and any thermal cooking machine for that matter can make life easier for you in the kitchen, I still cook using my oven and stove top. Old habits are hard to break. This meal I am going to share with you is so easy, healthy, and versatile. You can use whatever ingredients take your fancy or what is in season. I make this meal sometimes the night before work and have it cold as a salad. Its always good to break up the week with vegetarian based meals, I don't think we are supposed to eat meat every day of the week. So I add in non-meat and vegetarian meals at least 3 times a week. It helps with variety and also with the budget.

Ingredients - as a guide

2 carrots chopped
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 onion
1 zucchini
4 mini capsicums - or 1-2 regular sized (peppers for the Yanks)
4 tomatoes  - this is a staple add for me. I don't particularly like fresh tomatoes, but splash some oil, sprinkle some seasonings and bake 'em in the oven and I can down them by the kilo!!


What to do
Preheat oven to 190C

Chop all ingredients into small but chunky pieces

Spread evenly on baking tray


Spray with oil

Season with sea salt flakes, pepper, and oregano and toss to coat.

Bake for 15 mins, take out and toss veges around with some red wine vinegar (optional). Spray more oil if you need to. Bake further until cooked through and browning. Another approx 15-20mins.


Allow to cool and then serve with cooked quinoa, rice,  or toss some baby spinach leaves through. Make sure you get all the juices in and you can sprinkle in some more red wine vinegar - or whatever vinegar takes or fancy. Voila, an easy to prepare meal that is extremely versatile, and just as delicious the next day.

I also wanted you show with you one of my latest purchases. This oil sprayer from Decor. I purchased this at Big W for about $12. It's one of those purchases that make me glad that I got it each time I use it. It's nothing like the aerosol cans you purchase.You can refill it and it sprays a generous amount. I found with the spray oil I was purchasing from the supermarket that I was foaming my fry pan at times just so I could get a reasonable amount to get something cooking. Anyway, I highly recommend it.



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