Saturday, August 18, 2012

Simple Parenting Links

There have been a couple of posts I have just LOVED this week.

This post by Amy at Frugal Mama inspired a new level of simple organisation and responsibility for my kids, both for the mornings and at bedtime. We've always had job charts, but they have been ones with tick boxes and I always forget to wipe the whiteboard marker off (by that time it has dried and I have to use cleaner to get it off...) so we stop using them. I love Amy's idea of SIMPLE lists that empower your kids to take control of their mornings, any my kids have been loving them too!

and this post by Dr. Laura Markham has completely changed the way I respond to my tired and cranky kids after school.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Food Waste Friday!


Avoiding food waste and keeping to a grocery budget are two things I'm really keen on and menu planning is my number one way to make sure they happen, from planning snacks and lunches to all our dinners for the week. 

So, how did I get on this week?

As predicted I did go over budget on my groceries  (NZ $50 over), but things are looking a bit more normal this week and I am confident I will do the groceries in under NZ$200.

On the food waste front, not quite as good as last week!

A little bit of hummus left in the tub, one bun which got pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about, and a small bag of mandarins (I have to confess the bag of mandarins in the photo is not the bag that got disposed of. They got put in the bin earlier in the week, but I forgot to take a photo!). There were a few lunchbox items that didn’t get eaten, but I’ve decided not to worry about the whims of my children’s appetites in regards to Food Waste Friday.

So all in all not too bad. However, it could have been worse!

Thursday lunchtime I still had a couple of handfuls of baby spinach left that I didn’t want to eat raw and I didn’t want to throw away, so I pureed them into the baked potato I was having for lunch! With a sprinkle of cheese on top, they were surprisingly yummy (and not too alarmingly green!). Food waste problem solved :)

The Fridge

Not much to use up this week! The soup on the top shelf is for lunch today, the tofu on the second shelf is for dinner tonight, the peaches on the second shelf have just been opened and all the milk, cheese, eggs and condiments are in date. The fruit and vege in the bins are still good so they will be used up as snacks and meals in the plan below.

Menu Plan
When planning my menu I have to take a few things into consideration. I am catering for:
One person who is gluten-free
One is wheat-free (and 
One vegetarian 
One who will eat anything (particularly if it is covered in tomato sauce!)

So what are we eating this week?

Tonight it's Chicken and veges (nice and simple as I teach after school), with tofu for the vegetarian.
Saturday is homemade Pizza and chips.
Sunday is a stirfry (using up the left-over chicken) 
Monday is Steak, baked kumara (sweet potato), carrots, broccoli, with tofu for the vegetarian.
Tuesday is a vegetable Frittata (eggs, feta, pumpkin, potato, spinach)
Wednesday is tuna and vegies stirred through mashed potato (a simple but effective way to get my slow, picky eaters to eat up quick. Wednesday dinner is always a bit late as my daughter has art class until 5.30pm). Once again, tofu for the vegetarian.
Thursday is soup night! Pumpkin, potato and celery with lemon juice and mixed spice is the favourite at the moment.

Lunches: The kids will be having sandwiches all week.  Grown-ups will be eating leftovers and sandwiches depending on the day and what is leftover.  

Snacks are: date and walnut loaf, mini-muffins, corn-thins, sandwiches, chickpea chips, frooze-balls, assorted fruit from the fridge or fruit-bowl.

So there is my food week! 
How did you get on?

Thanks again to The Frugal Girl and SimplyBeingMum for the foodwaste and menu-planning inspiration.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Food Waste Friday

FoodWasteFriday I have been playing along at home with The Frugal Girl's Food Waste Friday and Simply Being Mum's  No Waste Tastes Great for quite some time and now I have a blog I intend to join in each week and continue to reduce our food waste! Nothing like public accountability as a motivator! 

Avoiding food waste and keeping to a grocery budget are two things I'm really keen on and menu planning is my number one way to make sure they happen, from planning snacks and lunches to all our dinners for the week. 

I already know I am going to go over budget this week. With the wee lad starting school I have been experimenting with his lunches to see what gets eaten and what doesn't and now I have a plan I am pretty confident we will be back under budget next week.

I probably won't do this every week, but seeing as how I have been snooping around SimplyBeingMum's fridge for quite some time, I thought it was only fair to let you all have a look at mine.  After being on my to-do list for quite a while, I have finally cleaned my fridge. Not just a quick wipe down with a cloth, a proper 'pull all the drawers and shelves out and wash them in the sink' kind of clean! I intend to give it a good wipe down every week from now on so I don't have to get to this point again!

So here it is: my sparkling clean fridge! 

Top shelf: flax seeds, soup for lunch, water

Middle shelf: extra margerine for baking, container of tinned peaches, bread
Bottom shelf: eggs
Door: mayonaise, Jam, margerine, cheese (you can't see it in the picture), tomato sauce, soy sauce, and milks (all in-date)
Fruit and veg drawers: celery, carrots, tomatoes, apples, lemons, mandarines: all still good!

The one thing that didn't get used up this week:

It doesn't look too bad in the picture, but it's much slimier in real life. Eugh! 

My daughter loves lettuce in her sandwiches but she was the only one who ate it this week. Next week I will be planning more uses for lettuce so I don't have to post more pictures of wilting leaves! Oh the shame!

So what will we be eating this week?

When planning my menu I have to take a few things into consideration. I am catering for:

One person who is gluten-free
One is wheat-free (and many-other-things-free) 
One vegetarian 
One who will eat anything (particularly if it is covered in tomato sauce!)

Every week I set myself a $200 (NZ) budget.  I would love to get under that, and have tried many times, but it has just resulted in there not being enough food in the house. However,  since I started menu-planning we are saving over $100 (NZ) on groceries per week!

Tonight it's Chicken and veges (nice and simple as I teach after school), with eggs for the vegetarian.
Saturday is a stir-fry with the leftover celery, carrots and some frozen corn from the freezer.
Sunday is a bit of a messy night as my husband has a concert on that we are all going to and my daughter is at a birthday party until about 7pm! He will eat pizza with his band kids at the venue, Zoe will eat at the party, and Alex and I will have chicken sandwiches and chips. Guaranteed to be eaten quickly!
Monday is a stirfry.
Tuesday is Steak, baked kumara (sweet potato), carrots and beans with tofu for the veg.
Wednesday is tuna and vegies stirred through mashed potato (a simple but effective way to get my slow, picky eaters to eat up quick. Once again, tofu for the vegetarian. Wednesday dinner is always a bit late as my daughter has art class until 5.30pm)
Thursday is soup night!

Lunches: Monday, Wednesday, Friday are sandwich days for the kids, Tuesday and Thursday are pizza. Grown-ups will be eating leftovers and sandwiches if there are no leftovers. 

Snacks are: date and walnut loaf, mini-muffins, corn-thins, sandwiches, chickpea chips.

So there is my food week! Here's to no foodwaste next week!

Thanks again to The Frugal Girl and SimplyBeingMum for the foodwaste and menu-planning inspiration.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An ode to my i-pod

I'm sure all of us have possessions we love and wouldn't part with no-matter how committed we are to living simply and living with less stuff. Given that I base what stays in my house on the William Morris quote "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” I would like to base today's post on something I love!

So without further ado, my 'ode to my i-pod'!

I love my i-pod. I've only had it a few months, thanks to a generous gift from my mother-in-law, but I can't imagine living without one now. For me, it is not the fact that 'I have an i-pod' that I can't live without, but the experiences I have now I have one.

I am a musician, a music teacher and a music fan and for the past 7 years, most of my music listening and making has been heavily influenced by either my jobs working with small children or my own children's tastes. This wasn't so bad when my son was obsessed with Gorillaz and the Beatles (aged 3), but even then, the day we listened to this album from 9am until about 4.30pm? There comes a point when even the most ardent fan has had enough of The Beatles!

With my i-pod came the opportunity to listen to music again, just for fun! And to listen to the music I wanted to listen to. Snuggling in bed with a child who is a reluctant sleeper? No worries! On goes the i-pod and the latest Radcliffe and Maconie podcast! Going for a walk? A great chance to listen to some tunes (and sing along whilst walking down the street. I don't usually get funny looks...)

Things I have particularly enjoyed whilst listening to my i-pod this week:

  1. Discovering the utter brilliance of the tambourine part in Pulp's 'A Little Soul'
  2. Putting my i-pod on shuffle when I've gone for a walk and forcing myself not to skip tracks. Had I skipped tracks I wouldn't have found out that Bjork's 'Pagan Poetry' is a brilliant song for walking to. Who knew! It certainly made the walk a bit more magical!
  3. That there is no better song for hanging out the laundry than Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up' (and it has to be plugged into the stereo, because it needs to be LOUD, and I would like my eardrums to continue to work at their best...)
  4. That Radio Sport now has an FM frequency and I can listen to the League in bed. Just a pity the Warriors didn't win!
Well, there it is. The 'ode to my i-pod'! In fact, I have some laundry to hang out so I might just go and plug it in now!

Do you have a particular 'thing' you just couldn't live without? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Minor declutter and holiday fun!

It has been school holidays over here for the last two weeks and, although I initially planned for decluttering madness, it didn't quite pan out like that! So what have I been up to?

Let's start with business: I did some decluttering in our sleep-out at the back of the garage. We have a storage cupboard which is often where things that we don't know what to do with, or that we can't quite get rid of, go to hide. It is much tidier now and quite a few things got put in the recycling bin. I was only out there for about 15 minutes, but in that time I got such a lift and felt motivated to tackle a few other small projects.

One of the other small projects I did was to set up a home-management/planning space at the end of my kitchen bench.

 I used to have one, but decided in a fit of decluttering at the beginning of the year that it looked messy and it had to go.  The area was, in fact very messy, but that had more to do with my schedule spiraling out of control and me dumping school notices, receipts and lists on top of it, than the fact that the planning station itself was messy. Now that my schedule is slower and I have these l-o-n-g days to fill (youngest started school this morning) I thought I needed something to help me structure my days again and to help me plan in advance. 

I love using Simple Mom's daily docket for planning. It is so straightforward and  means you can combine a to-do list and a schedule on the same document. I also use a version I personalised of her cleaning checklist. I don't have so much success with this, but that is because of my lack of discipline when it comes to cleaning, not because of the list!

In the folder I keep the recipes I'm going to use during the week, my grocery list, blank versions of my grocery list and menu plan, take-out menus etc. I love having them all in one accessible place. 

I also have completely re-organised my kitchen, but that is for another post. What I will say though is that we are LOVING the new arrangement! 

Now for the fun! (though, to be honest,  I was already having plenty of fun with the decluttering...)

Despite Homer Simpson's enduring statement that "Good things don't end with 'eum'", my son actually asked to go to the museum! 

They have a human sized penguin that he was desperate to see again. And a fantastic 'house' you can go into in the volcano section that shows you what would happen if there was a volcanic eruption in Auckland, with fake news reports and simulated earthquakes! I enjoyed all this (obviously!), but my favourite part?

The view from the front steps. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day!

That is North Head in the foreground and Rangitoto Island in the background. Two of Aucklands 49 dormant volcanoes.

We also went to the Winter Gardens,

And the Fernery (which I think is my favourite place of all. I LOVE the damp, mossy smell!)

which are all in the Auckland Domain (of which the Museum is part of too).

How has your decluttering been going this week? 
Have you been anywhere exciting/interesting?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Birthday Fun!

We like to do things simply round here and birthday's are no different!

We do our parties at home. Usually they are small, with the birthday person choosing a few friends to come over for some fun and games and cake. This year it was Alex's fifth birthday, which is a big deal over here as you start school as soon as you turn five, so this was reflected in a larger-than-normal guest-list (12 children in total!).

We like to decorate simply. A few streamers and balloons and some decorations that match our theme. This year was a superhero theme so we decorated accordingly. 

One of the best home decorating jobs we've ever done was painting one wall of our kitchen with blackboard paint. Normally the kids draw on it and we write messages etc, but at party time it gets a special message and drawings to match our theme. My hubby is the artist responsible!

My very creative Hubby also spent the morning of the party decorating the deck where the party would take place:

We also played some simple games: Pass the parcel (played the 'old-school' way with only one present at the end!), Pin the Bat-wing on Batman (played by pinning a cardboard Bat-wing onto the Batman drawn on the blackboard wall), a Kryptonite hunt (finding green blocks hidden  in the garden), and the favourite game of the day: Super-Villan Bowling! We bluetacked printouts of super-villans onto bowling pins, set them up on the deck and let the kids go for it! Here are the super-villans being used as decorations before the game.

The thing I was most worried about was the cake! I have never tried icing with fondant before, but Alex had his heart set on a Superman cake so I decided I would give it a go and here are the results! I had to make two cakes as we had two parties, one for the kids in the afternoon and a quieter affair with the family in the evening.

This was the kids cake:

A few cracks and I didn't trim it very neatly, but no-one noticed. They were too busy eating it!

And this was the adults cake:

This one was much smaller as we had fewer people to feed. 

We only did very simple 'party bags'. I'm not really into the concept. When I was a kid, playing some games and having some cake was enough. I didn't need a plastic bag full of cheap plastic toys to make me feel like I'd had a good time. I did little parcels consisting of two chocolate frogs and two balloons wrapped in cling-film (I forgot to buy cellophane...) and tied up with curling ribbon. And it was enough. No one complained that they didn't 'get' much and a good time was had by all. 

How do you do birthdays? 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Slowly making progress

After my week of letting it go and accepting the clutter, I had plans for this week to be a decluttering frenzy! But life happened again :) I came down with a cold on Sunday (first weekend of the school holidays...typical!!) and snuggling up in bed has been much more appealing than re-homing transitory stuff, but despite my sniffles I have managed to get a couple of things done!

Last Thursday evening this was my kitchen:

This was my kitchen this afternoon. Don't you feel calmer looking at this one? I sure do! The kitchen really is the hub of our house and the clutter (or lack of it) makes a big difference to how we all feel.

I would like my fridge door to be a little less 'busy', but it's the most direct place to keep birthday invitations and we are having a bit of a birthday boom at the moment. 

I also did a little work on our telephone table and craft box and have re-homed rather a lot of pencils...not sure where they all came from! I don't have a before shot for this one, but it used to have the phone and pencil jar on the top shelf, the sellotape dispenser, paper cube, calculator and an eraser on the middle shelf and a couple of extra books on the bottom shelf. 

So despite not getting nearly as much done as I would like this week I have still made some small steps in the right direction. 

And I know it's only Wednesday, but my 're-minimalism-ing' my house is going to have to take second place to the Superhero party on Saturday to celebrate my youngest turning 5 and the cake I need to create!

Jo at Simply Being Mum wrote a great 'Not Buying It' post about birthday cakes. I have (almost) always baked my own birthday cakes. This is the last one I made for my daughter's 7th Birthday back in April.

 It was a simple cake with royal icing out of a packet from the supermarket, and it was pink and did the job. The one this weekend is going to be my first 'fancy' cake with fondant (roll your own) icing! I have actually been having nightmares about this cake so please send good cake-icing energy my way! I promise to post pictures (even if it looks terrible) because if I can do it, anyone can! *once again, no affiliate links in this post*

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Just because you're an aspiring minimalist...

doesn't mean that your house will always be tidy with nice clear surfaces. Sometimes life happens!

Even a minimalist with the best of intentions will sometimes encounter something like this in their house:

This pile of laundry was taken off the clothes line on Tuesday. It finally got put away on Saturday! 

This was the state of my kitchen bench and surrounding area on Thursday evening. It got worse! And there are other parts of the house that I didn't even photograph!

This week has been my youngest son's last week at kindy and I stayed for two full sessions with him to help celebrate his birthday, so many jobs that would normally get done during the morning while he is away didn't get done. It has also been the last week of term, my husband has been away on a school trip for 3 days and I had an eye infection! So this week, I have focused on living instead of cleaning surfaces of vagrant 'stuff'. I have left dishes that I would normally put away straight away sitting on the kitchen bench. I have left laundry piling up in corners and magazines on the kitchen table. 

Yes, the clutter has bugged me from time to time, but this week I have let it go. Sometimes you just need to be kind to yourself and prioritize. This week my kids needed me more than I needed a tidy house.

Next week is a different story! We have two weeks of school holidays and (when we're not helping my in-law's shift house or celebrating a significant birthday superhero style) we will be focusing on decluttering and re-homing the little piles that have accumulated during the last week. 

Then I plan to get started on some of my decluttering goals while I have some helpers at home!

How has your clutter been this week?
Do you need to be kind to yourself and let it go
or are you fired up to see some clear surfaces?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Introduction and the story so far...

My name is Clare and I am aspiring to live a calmer, simpler, less cluttered life!

It hasn't always been this way. When I first moved in with my boyfriend (now husband of nearly 10 years) most of our disagreements were about the newspapers scattered all over the kitchen table and my piles of things that I needed to put away (also know as things that I claimed to still be using) that were prominently displayed on the floor of our study. 

Luckily for both of us, about a year later I read a wonderful book called 'Take time for your life' by Cheryl Richardson, and in it she wrote about the connection between your environment and the clarity of your thinking and productivity. Messy, cluttered room = messy cluttered thoughts! I suddenly understood why my piles of stuff were so annoying to my boyfriend and why I desperately needed to change my habits. 

In a short space of time I went from piles of stuff and scattered newspapers to a cancelled newspaper subscription and nice clear surfaces. At work too I went from a desk that looked like it housed some kind of elaborate paper sculpture to a desk that was cleared every evening before I went home.

These new habits made a noticeable difference to my quality of life, but did nothing to stem the gentle flow of 'stuff' that was gradually accumulating in our house. We had far too many clothes, unnecessary furniture, a ridiculous amount of extra-large platters (wedding gifts...) and so many CD's they had their own wardrobe! 

Two children later, and all the 'must-haves' that go with them, we no longer comfortable fitted in our old 3 bedroom house. Admittedly, the fact that we could stand in our lounge and wave at both sets of neighbours through their lounge windows was a factor too! My husband and I dreamed of radically downsizing our furniture before we decided to move to our current house, but sentimentality got in the way. 

It was another two years of rearranging the furniture to try and make it fit before I heard the term minimalism and discovered Francine Jay's book 'The Joy of Less'. I ordered it from the library and was inspired to immediately start decluttering my house.

Her blog led me to who led me to; all constant sources of inspiration and encouragement along my decluttering journey.

Since then, carloads of clothes, books, toys and kitchenware have been donated to places like church op-shops, the Salvation Army, and the school car-boot sale, but we are nowhere near finished!

*disclaimer: Our choice to live with less stuff is certainly not a judgement on other people's lifestyle choices. We all have different interests and different ideas, and this is the one that works for my family (at the moment!) A calmer, less cluttered space makes us feel calmer and think clearer so we regularly question whether items in the house are still 'useful or beautiful' for us or whether it is time to donate them so they can be useful (or beautiful!) to someone else :)

* please note, there are no affiliate links in this post*

What have been your minimalist or simple living inspirations?
What or who helps you to keep committed to living with less?