Monday, December 31, 2012

Organizing Revolution Week 1: Office

Organizing Homelife

Week 1 of the Organizing Revolution is here, and the first project was to work on the office. I don't have an office per se, but I have carved out a family command centre just off my kitchen that functions as one. I used to have it in my kitchen, but it was never the perfect location and it took up valuable bench space. To the side of the kitchen, however, is a small wall that is the exact width of Irini's old change table, so I re purposed that and it is now the basis of my command center.

 The change table turned out to be the perfect solution; not only is the perfect size, it has 4 good sized drawers for storage, and a raised border around three sides, which keeps everything on top nicely contained, unlike a regular desk.  In this mini-office, I have everything I need for the day-to-day running of the family.

Starting on the wall, I have a calendar to keep track of everything at a glance. I use as my regular diary now, but I like having a paper backup, and a wall calender means everyone can see what is going on. What I like best about this calender is that the top section is a regular monthly calender, but the bottom is a weekly tear-off calender with spaces for each of us in the family. I keep the calender in a wooden calender frame, and in the "pocket" at the bottom, I keep my calender stickers, birthday invites, blank post-it notes, and a notepad.

Next to the calender is a magnetic pin-up board, which holds a tear-off roll of note paper, my weekly meal planner, keys, various photos and my Thermomix quick guide. it also has my fifteen minute flylady timer, and the phone number for HealthDirect, the health dept's hotline for medical info.

On the desk surface, I have my Household Binder, recipe binders, and two magazine holders that hold recipe books I am currently using, voucher books and other bits and pieces. Next to that, I have 4 file folders in a clear perspex organiser. I have one each for the kids, me and current to-do's. In front of the file folders is a ceramic tray that holds two open boxes for pens, pencils, scissors and rulers, etc, and a lidded long box with spare rolls of sticky tape, elastic bands and paper clips. There is also a stapler, sticky tape dispenser, two aromatherapy sprays and a letter opener. I've also squeezed in a tube of hand cream, hand sanitiser and cuticle oil. Lastly, I have an accordion file for various bits  of paperwork like prescriptions, vouchers and coupons, and a box of loose note papers.

In the top drawer, I have all of the other stationery and paperwork that I use, but not on a daily basis. I've used various shallow containers cribbed from other parts of the house to keep the drawer organised. The first compartment holds envelopes, stamps, address labels, loose change and the kids lunch order bags, as well as a tube of foot cream. The brown box at the back has my personalised stationery and address stamps, while the little trays in front hold a mini tube of WD-40 and various glues. Two metal muffin cups hold lipgloss and spare keys, and the space at the back holds my vitamins. The final container on the right holds odds and ends including my asthma sprays, a tub of Tiger Balm, and spare tissues and wipes for my handbag.

The final 3 drawers are also organised so that everything had a place. The 2nd drawer holds all of my vacuum attachments and bags, as well as clean mop pads, and various tools. The 3rd drawer holds all of the kids' workbooks as well as hard copy telephone books, and the final drawer holds miscellaneous cleaning supplies.

This new space is already functioning much better than its predecessor; its neater and everything on the top has a daily purpose, with things used less often stored away but easily accessible. Most importantly, because everything has a defined spot, it is easy to keep tidy,

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Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Organizing Revolution

Hi Everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas season with your families!  After a serious illness and a death in the (extended but close) family, life has been pretty chaotic and topsy turvy for the last two months, and a lot of things have fallen by the wayside for a while, including this blog, my focus on my my health/wellbeing, and our home. With the new year just around the corner, I thought it was a perfect time to refocus on all of these aspects of my life, and I look forward to sharing my journey with you all!

First of the rank, I am focusing on our home and am going to take part in Clean Mama's  New Year's Organizing Revolution. Each week Clean Mama and 6 other organizing mavens will be hosting a linky sharing ideas for each room of the house, as we spend a month getting our houses (and our lives!) organized. Best of all, there are some ah-mazing prizes on offer to really kick our butts into gear! So join me (and them), as we get the new year organized!

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Book review: Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals

I received this fantastic book from my brother and sister-in-law for my recent birthday and it has been a real winner! I also have Jamie's previous book, 30 Minute Meals, but don't really use it, whereas I have used Jamie's 15 Minute Meals three times in the past week alone, with a lot more meals bookmarked ready to go.

Just like his previous book, this one has come under a lot of criticism about how likely it is you can have a meal on the table in 15 minutes. In reality, I don't think you can, if you are talking about the length of time from when you step foot into the kitchen, to when you place dinner on the table. However, on careful reading, this is not what he is promising - he is promising 15 minutes from when you start cooking, with all ingredients and equipment ready to go. Unfortunately, not many mums I know have a sous chef doing prep work for them, so 15 minutes from whoa to go - not going to be happening anytime soon!

But if you factor in an extra 5-10 minutes of prep, then 20-25 minutes for a home cooked, (almost all) from scratch meal, is pretty damn great. And so far, most of the meals have been delicious.

The first meal we tried was the Lamb Kofte, Pitta and Greek Salad.  This whole meal was unbelievably tasty! Getting all the ingredients out and washed took about 5 minutes, and following the recipe as instructed took just under 20 minutes, so for 25 minutes total, I was pretty happy. The cous cous could have done with some seasoning, but everything else was perfect. My only concern is the portion size of the meat. All of the recipes in this book have been created with a nutritionist and it shows - each meal only has 100g of meat allocated per person, which I don't consider enough. For future recipes, I will probably double the amount of meat. However, the vegetable portion was more than generous, and will go a long way to increasing our intake of veggies.

Our second meal of Chicken Dim Sum was not as successful. The coconut bun (made from scratch) served with it were tasty, but there was way too much of them. The cucumber pickle was yummy, and I will definitely make it again. The rest, not so good. The chicken took a lot longer to cook than the recipe stated, and was really bland. Even dressing it up with soy sauce and chilli garlic sauce couldn't rescue it, and because the chicken needed longer to cook the broccolini was overcooked by serving time. This won't be made again.

The next meal - Chicken Tikka, Lentil, Spinach and Naan Salad - was another winner - so much so that I didn't get a picture because everyone was digging in by the time I got back with my camera. It smelt that great, and was seriously tasty. Prep took less than 5 minutes, and I used tinned lentils since a) I had them and b) I have never seen packs of ready-to-eat lentils before! The recipe took 16 minutes to make, so I'm getting closer to the 15 minutes! I used the 400g chicken recommended, and because it was served salad style, it seemed to be enough.

Our last meal from the book, Seared Asian Beef, Best Noodle Salad and Ginger Dressing, was another amazing dinner, and perfect for a hot summer night. I used more meat this time (not quite double), and there wasn't any left! Again, no pic because we ate it too fast...This salad was fragrant, and crispy, and fresh; everything you could want in a salad, really, and it was a great way to get the kids to try some veggies (like radish and snow pea sprouts, which I subbed for the listed cress) that they would normally run a mile from. Another recipe that will definitely be repeated!

So overall, I highly rate this book so far. I like the emphasis on fresh vegetables, and almost all of the meals we have tried so far have been real winners. If you take the 15 minute claim with a (good) pinch of salt, and factor in another 5-15 minutes for prep and extra cooking, then it is a really great, really practical book. I have found the instructions very clear and easy to follow, even more so than in his previous book, which is why I think I like it so much more!

As for further content, he covers almost all of the protein groups, including chicken, beef, lamb, pork and seafood, as well as a vegetarian section, and a breakfast section. For vegetarians, a lot of the meat dishes could easily be adapted by subbing out the meat for another vegetarian protein source like tempeh or tofu, or eggs/cheese if lacto/ovo. If going carb free/primal, you could easily leave out the carb/processed component, as they are almost always a side addition rather than an integral part of the meal. Paleo might be a bit trickier as there is fair bit of dairy in the form of yoghurt and cheese, but again, these could possibly be left out or swapped for something else. So overall, for busy people looking for real, fresh, and fast meals, regardless of what kind of 'diet' you are following, I highly recommend this book.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Teachers' Xmas Gifts: Mini Christmas Puddings

The end of the school year is fast approaching and that means coming up with Christmas gifts for the kids' teachers and teacher's aides. I like to make something handmade for them, but since we usually have close to a dozen teachers, it can't be something elaborate or expensive.

These mini puddings are so simple to make that I even got the kids involved. I have had this recipe since home ec at school and it is a real winner, and super cheap; each present (including the jars and the ornaments) came to less than $2.50 each. If you had recycled jars already, and skipped the ornament, then the puddings only cost 85c per half dozen serve.

Mini Christmas Puddings

2 x 700g Light Fruit Cakes
200g block dark cooking chocolate, melted
4 tbs brandy or rum
200g white chocolate melts, melted
red and green icing or red and green glace cherries
silver cachous
Christmas pattern mini muffin paper cups

  1. In food processor or blender, process fruit cakes into crumbs.
  2. Tip into bowl, add melted dark choc and brandy, and stir well to combine.
  3. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls into balls, and place into mini muffin cups.
  4. Pour melted white choc into a zip loc bag, seal, and snip a tiny bit off one corner. Use to pipe "custard" on top of puddings, and allow to set.
  5. Using red and green icing, pipe three red dots for holly berries, three green lines for holly leaves, and top with a silver cachou.
  6. If using glace cherries, snip little pieces of cherries, and place on top of the puddings while white chocolate is still wet.
  7. Depending on the weather, you may need to store these in the fridge
I packaged six per jar, and then had the kids sign their name and write their teachers' names on the back of each ornament to make it a memento they could keep even after the puddings have been devoured.

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