Monday, March 26, 2012

Getting to know you

Easter is approaching and while I am not religious (despite a Sunday-School-attending, scripture-exam-sitting Methodist upbringing), I do consider myself a cultural Christian and celebrate the significant events accordingly. Agatha is too small for the kind of crazy chocolate Easter egg fest that I remember from childhood but I didn’t want Easter Sunday to pass without an acknowledgement of new life and a funny little gift for my funny little girl.

I came across a super cute Belle & Boo tin in a shop called Card & Caboodle in Brisbane and knew it would be perfect if it contained a wind-up yellow chick (also from card & caboodle although the one pictured is from Etsy) and a rather small chocolate egg wrapped in foil from Darrell Lea. The addition of some yellow shredded paper made a nest and it looks very sweet if I do say so myself.

(I would have taken a picture of the finished item except that it’s in the nursery along with Agatha as I type and my one rule is NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY.)

We’ll also have a special lunch and possibly decorate some hard boiled eggs in the afternoon. Very low key but just right for our family.

How do you celebrate Easter Sunday?

In other news, my dear and lovely friend Siobhan, who has a really moving and intelligent blog about her journey to motherhood over at the smallest ford tagged me in a cool online meme called “stuff about me” designed to help us all to get to know each better. The rules are:

1. Post the rules
2. Answer the 11 questions that the tagger posted for you
3. Tag at least one person and link them in your post
4. Create 11 questions to ask the person/people you’ve tagged
5. Let the person/people know you have tagged them

These are the (great) questions Siobhan asked me:

1. Tell us about one of the happiest days you've had in the last two years.
It’s a clichéd response I fear but it has to be 28th Feb 2011 - the day I gave birth to Agatha. It was a day filled with excitement, pain, determination, love and utter joy. You think you know happiness and then you meet your children.

2. What are three activities that make you lose time and/or marvel at what a lucky life you lead?
I can get lost in research if I’m really passionate about the topic – it can be researching an academic paper I want to write or finding the perfect gift for a friend, if it grabs me fully, I’m gone. Watching Andy and Agatha together makes me marvel at what a lucky life I lead, we might not be the richest or coolest or most suave people in the world but the love levels in our home are right up there. Hanging out with my closest friends would be my third thing – I often wish our get togethers didn’t have to end, how sweet it is to have friends like that.

3. What was your favourite type of sweet while you were growing up?
I was and still am a fan of “jelly” sweets, the sort of thing Haribo does so well. I also harboured a deep love for crème eggs which I have not yet outgrown.

4. What was the most surprising thing you learned when you became a mother?
What a pleasure it is. I had convinced myself that motherhood would be a grind and that my days would be filled with tears (baby’s and mine!) and it isn’t like that at all. We have our off days of course but the joy far outweighs the bad stuff. Also that no matter how badass you think you are, if a baby/toddler hands you a plastic phone; you take that call.

5. As a woman who has studied extensively and held impressive positions in the corporate world, did you find the transition to motherhood as hard/easy as you expected?
Ah you flatter me dear pal! I surprised myself by enjoying it. The complete change of pace and focus was just what I needed. I am only now, one year on, beginning to want to study and/or work again.

6. What quality in other people do you find the most attractive?
A generosity of spirit. Kindness, fairness, decency, politeness, graciousness are all seen as a bit old hat I suspect, but I love a person with a good heart.

7. If you could have one luxury item turn up on your doorstep tomorrow morning what would it be?
Ooh that’s a great question and one I’m struggling with. Maybe a deed to a platinum mine? ;-) Or a Kate Spade handbag.

8. Tell us why you love cats so much.
They are furry, funny, and independent and know how to have a good time.

9. Where would you like to go for your next holiday?
I’m going to cheat and give two answers. At home: Margaret River. Away: Hawaii.

10. If you could magically speak another language, which would it be?
Spanish, then when Agatha is old enough we can take our dream trip through South America and I can be useful and maybe show off to Andy just a little bit.

11. What is something you have never tried but you'd love to experience?
I’d love to kite-surf and to go on safari. But probably not at the same time.

I now tag my good friend Becks from mama tribe. She lives in Sydney so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like but reading her engaging blog helps me stay connected and I often find myself nodding along with many of her posts and I think you will too.

My questions for Becks are:

1. If you could be another nationality, which one would you choose?
2. Name the craft you’d most like to master.
3. If you put your iPhone/iPod on shuffle, what is the first song that pops up?
4. What is one piece of advice you would give to a new mother?
5. You’re putting together a six-person mother’s group made up of famous women – who are they?
6. What did you want to be when you were a child?
7. Describe your dream home.
8. Name three things you are grateful for.
9. What is your favourite and least favourite food?
10. If I could give you another two hours in each day, what would you do with them?
11. What word best sums up your mood today?

Looking forward to reading your answers Becks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The little things

The last couple of weeks have been tough and as a result I'm in a funk. I'm really struggling to stay chipper and find myself bemoaning the fact that I have nothing to look forward to. Time to pull my socks up and find happiness in the small things.

Two of my good friends did just that this week. In Hobart, Natalie found a blackberry patch on a stroll through her neighbourhood and turned her serendipitous haul into a delicious blackberry and lime cream pie. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Dowling).

Meanwhile in Sydney, Becks has instigated an op-shop Thursday and found a Nigella Lawson juicer for $1! You can read about it on her blog mama tribe

While I can't create such happy surprises, I can leave myself more open to them by getting out and about a bit more on foot, you see so much more that way as Natalie discovered. And, inspired by Becks, I'm going to visit my local op-shops more often in the hopes of unearthing my own bargain treasure. I can also try new activities and give myself both a chance to find a new passion and something to look forward to.

With this in mind I have booked a floristry course. I've always fancied a bit of bloom wrangling and thanks to a "Jump on It" deal I'm now booked in for a two hour lesson plus flower market tour, all for the non-princely sum of $49. It's on 21st April - can't wait! I promise to blog the results, even if my take-home posy is poxy.

Speaking of bargains, the $21 challenge is over and I'm calling it a qualified success. We did go over our teeny budget; Andy "forgot" about the challenge and bought hot cross buns and I bought some porridge for Agatha's breakfast. Total food spend for the week = $25.53. Not bad at all for a first attempt I reckon.

I'd love to hear some of your ideas for pulling yourself out of the doldrums so please do share in the comments section.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tooting the frugal bugle

Today's post is brought to you by the numbers 2 and 1 and by the letter O. The numbers combine to make 21, the number of dollars I am going to use to feed my family this week. The O is for "O my, we have FIVE packets of pasta in the pantry". Nice use of alliteration aside, I was quite shocked to see the amount of food we had in the pantry, fridge and freezer, despite my husband recently declaring that there was nothing, WHATSOEVER to eat in our house.

You can find out more about the $21 challenge here (photo courtesy of It would be great to have some company this week so please feel free to post your progress in the comments section if you fancy taking part.

The first step is to take an inventory of what you have in your pantry, fridge, freezer and garden. I won't bore you will the full list but my journey to the centre of the pantry turned up pasta, two tins of tomatoes, wraps, rice, cous cous, tuna, biscuits and Cheerios. The fridge and freezer provided fruit and veg, chorizo, milk, eggs, pastry, a lonely sausage and 1.5 chicken breasts. I don't have a bountiful garden - something I have work on ASAP.

The next step is to meal plan. Rather than deciding what you fancy and then shopping for it, on the $21 Challenge you work back - look at what you have and then plan a week's worth of meals. (NB the $21 really is just for food so you can exclude toiletries and cleaning products and the like. We are also excluding milk as we class that as an essential and don’t want to skimp or use powdered or long life brands, though many people do and happily so).

I wanted to get ahead a bit so yesterday (day one of the challenge) I made a batch of Napolitana sauce using one of my tins of toms, an onion, garlic, mixed herbs and olive oil. I was out of tomato paste so substituted tomato sauce which worked just as well.

Next I made a zucchini slice (recipe below) for us all to have for lunches.

Finally I "invented" a Cheerio bar using Cheerios (no surprises there), margarine, brown sugar, pine nuts, sultanas, dried pineapple and maple syrup. I thought we could have these as snacks/with lunch rather than buying muesli bars. It was only a partial success as the mixture didn’t hold together very well so we’ll have bags of Cheerio mix rather than bars! The trial and error is all part of the fun so I’m not disheartened.

The final step after stocktake and meal plan is to shop for those (hopefully) few extra things you’ll need this week. I went to the supermarket (two supermarkets actually, to get the best deal) and I bought: two tins of tomatoes, a tin of tuna, bacon bits, cheese, three capsicums, three potatoes and two tins of baked beans. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noted that I already had tuna and tinned tomatoes in my pantry. The tuna we have in stock is flavoured stuff (which Andy will eat) and I wanted a plain one in spring water for Agatha and the extra tins of toms are because my menu this week calls for lots of tomatoes and the (organic) tinned were cheaper than the (non-organic and organic) fresh. The total cost for my extra bits was $19.50. Whatever shall I do with my remaining $1.50 - caviar, truffles, handmade Belgian chocolates??

My menu looks like this, with Sunday being day one of the challenge:

Lunch = zucchini slice and vege pakoras (which I found in our fridge)
Dinner = chorizo and pasta with Napolitana sauce (Agatha had the same but without chorizo)

Lunch = Cheese sandwiches all round
Dinner = Falafels, roast vegetables and cous cous with sweet chilli sauce in a wrap (Agatha will have the same sans the sweet chilli sauce)

Lunch = zucchini slice all round
Dinner = Sausage casserole (with a variety of veg) and baked beans with rice for all

Lunch = Tuna wrap for Andy, tuna for Agatha and soup for me
Dinner = Moroccan chicken tagine (with veg) and cous cous for everyone

Lunch = Baked potatoes with baked beans for Andy and Agatha, baked potato with cheese & onion for me
Dinner = Quorn mince spag bol for all

Lunch = Curried egg sandwiches for Andy, French toast for Agatha and I
Dinner = Fish and chips for Andy, fish and vegetables for Agatha, hash browns, chips and baked beans for me (this is “bottom of the freezer” night!)

Lunch – we’re going to a BBQ
Dinner – Creamy bacon pasta for all

Sunday we’re back to normal and while we might spend more than $21 in the week that follows, I will certainly be meal planning and pantry surfing before I hit the shops.

I would love to hear other tips for frugal eating and living if you have them!

Zucchini slice - recipe and photo courtesy of

Ingredients (serves 15)

• 5 eggs
• 150g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
• 375g zucchini, grated
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 200g rindless bacon, chopped (I used bacon bits)
• 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
• 60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 30 x 20cm lamington pan.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl until combined. Add the flour and beat until smooth, then add zucchini, onion, bacon, cheese and oil and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in oven for 30 minutes or until cooked through.

(I also added grated carrot this time, just to mix things up a bit and increase our vegetable intake).

Thanks for reading! x