Stories Out Front

I came across Emma’s beautiful Stories Out Front Instagram account. It was a passion project she started while we were living in isolation. She decided to capture families out the front of their houses during these historical times we are living through. I sent her a message and said that I loved what she was doing, and she said she’d let me know if she ever came down our way. She did, and here are some of the beautiful photos she took.

Monday Night Dinner

I wrote about Monday Night Dinner in our meal plan earlier this week and thought it deserved some explanation.

Monday night dinner is a Wollangarra thing.

When you run Monday to Friday programs for up to 32 weeks of the year, it’s easier if you eat the same things for dinner each of those nights. It’s easier for food ordering, it’s easier for anyone to be able to cook, it’s easy for when you have tired staff and you don’t have to use your imagination to come up with something exciting for dinner.

So ever since I first went to Wollangarra in 2001, I knew that on the first night of the program we’d be eating ‘Monday Night Dinner.’

The funny thing about this is that as a young person, you mostly eat Monday night dinner on a Sunday. The stage 1 program, the most commonly run program starts on a Monday, then if you choose to return as a student, any subsequent programs start on a Sunday. So the staff eat it nearly every Monday, except when there’s a Stage 2 program on.

Monday night dinner is a hearty, easy, tomato based/Mexicanny sauce, packed full of veggies and served on rice with corn chips and cheese.

You’d think after eating it every Monday throughout 2004, when I worked at Wollangarra as a staff member and for two and a half years recently, I’d be over it. But I’m not, I really enjoy it.

Here I also add a spoonful of yoghurt and jalapeños.

I love it, it’s healthy, hearty and oh so simple and delicious. Simply delicious.

Let me know if you have a similar dish in your repertoire.

Opening My Eyes

You know when you can’t find the words?

Well I can’t. I’m struggling to find the words to write about this year. The fact that one blow is followed by another.

As of March 2020 18.9 millions hectares had been burnt, communities decimated and businesses and homes lost. Australian’s banded together to raise funds, and support communities in need.

Then so quickly this focus was shifted when the world experienced a global pandemic. With more than 383,000 deaths world wide, and varying degrees of social isolation happening across our globe, we have essentially been on house arrest.

People we stock piling toilet paper and you couldn’t buy flour or pasta. Where did the generosity of the nation go?

This week the death of George Floyd, and African American man, has brought white supremacy to the forefront of white peoples minds all around the world. This man was murdered by a white police officer, who pushed his knee into his neck for nine minutes, because he used a counterfeit $20 at a market.

I say ‘brought to the forefront of white peoples minds’ as from my understanding, this is something BIPOC don’t have the benefit of not thinking about.

After everything this year has thrown at us, at me, the one thing I am really thankful for is that my awareness has been raised of my white privilege. So in this time that I have, I am learning. I am trying to keep my personal education sustainable, something I was speaking with a friend about earlier, because this is something that needs to last.

My white fragility has keep my from speaking about anything to do with any race other than my own. My fear of saying or doing the wrong thing has kept me silent. So now I’m reading, watching and listening to anything that can educate me on the plight that is experienced daily by BIPOC.

I’m learning about the 425 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people who died in policed custody since the RCIADIC was handed down in 1991.

I’m learning about the Aboriginal Flag being the only flag in the world that is copyright, and the exclusive rights are currently held by a company with non-indigenous owners. Meaning that Ingenious Australians are unable to use their own flag in their art work.

I’m learning about amazing artists, singers and authors that my eyes hadn’t been opened to before.

Gorgeous artwork from Matakupaat Arts

I’m learning about my inherent white supremacy, and getting out of my comfort zone because others don’t have the opportunity of getting in theirs.

I’m learning.

Meal Planning

Our meal planning habits have changed a lot over the years. But we’ve settled on something that is working for us now.

Every second Friday, grocery day, we sit down and come up with between 12-14 meals we would like to eat for dinner that fortnight. We look at what we have in the freezer, as we still buy our meat in bulk and we just use what we have, we have a look at the veggies we have and what we have in the pantry. And write a list, then write our grocery list, shopping for anything extra we may need.

Then we write the meals onto our freezer, where we have a chalk board decal, and as we have them we rub the item off.

This fortnight’s meals:

I’d love to hear what you do. Do you meal plan? Do you plan for all three meals of the day?

In My Kitchen June 2020

It’s been a long time since I wrote an In My Kitchen post and I’m glad to be back on the horse.

I’ve filmed a video, so feel free to check that out. It was seriously raining when I was filming so that’s what you can hear in the background. Gosh I love that sound.

My brand new lame – Jay made me this beautiful lame for holding a razor blade for slashing bread. Up until this point I had just been holding the bare blade in my fingers, and risked cutting my fingers every time I baked a loaf of bread. Who says bread baking isn’t extreme!?! I’m loving this though and feeling much safer.

Cheese knife – Jay made us a cheese knife. He’s been making them in his forge and uses all reclaimed materials. He’s been making a few and selling them and we hadn’t had one yet, so we finally got this beautiful knife. Check out his Instagram for more beautiful knives.

Thermomix – I had always scoffed at Thermomix’s. ‘I like cooking’ I said, ‘I like the process.’ We’ll now I scoff at myself. I love the Thermomix, we use it multiple times a day.

We bought ours second hand off Facebook Marketplace, it’s a TM5 and came with two bowls and I love it.

Jay baking up a storm – throughout ISO Jay, like a lot of people, started baking. He baked profiteroles, carrot cake, he followed the Arnott’s recipes for Monte Carlo’s and Scotch Finger’s. It was such a treat to have things baked for me to enjoy.

New shelves – When we originally built we put one layer of shelves across the top of the splash back. They were mostly used as decorative. And once we moved back home we decided to put a second layer of shelves in to hold the decorative bits and bobs so that the first shelves can hold more useful things like glasses.

Jay made the brackets from steel in his forge and the timber is from a friends scrap stash, we stained it to be the colour we wanted. And I love them.

Life Changing Food by Jo Whitton – We use this cookbook a lot. Each meal plan we do there is at least one recipe from this cookbook. Most of the recipes have a thermomix method, which we love but they all have a conventional method. The butter chicken is delicious!

Jo also has a great instagram account where she shares what she’s cooking most days, often with links to her delicious recipes.

Chilli’s from our local produce swap – I popped down to our local food swap to grab some of these delicious chilli’s. I’m going to save the seeds from a couple of them to plant for next year.

Thanks so much for checking out what’s in my kitchen, head over to Sherry’s Pickings to see what’s happening in a few other kitchens.

A Cuppa With Clare

With the isolation restrictions easing and Elliot being back at school, I was inspired by Celia to do a little blog post every day in June. So here goes. Some may be longer, some just short little snippets but I’d love to get back into the habit of blogging.

Hearing: I’m currently listening to Shameless podcasts latest episode. I love their tag line of “a podcast for smart people who love dumb stuff”. With each episode I feel like my eyes are opened to so many smart things around the world.

My current favourite Spotify playlist is Divine Fem, and it’s on repeat, and I love it.

Drinking: decaf coffee every morning, a lot more water than usual for me (something I am really working on) and home-made kombucha.

Eating/cooking: a lot of bread. I’ve been baking a lot of sourdough bread. This delicious carrot cake that Jay made for afternoon tea yesterday. A lot of tray bakes, slow cooked food and soups.

Wanting: to eat something. It’s a late breakfast time. And I’m thinking freshly baked sourdough with eggs, and homemade sauerkraut.

Looking: at Pinterest for design inspo. Modern boho is my focus.

Deciding: on what to do next. I’ve never been one for a 5 year plan and it shows. Now that we’re home from Wollangarra and Elliot has settled into school, I need to find my next personal adventure.

Enjoying: redecorating our house on a very low budget. When we built our house all those years ago, we were so nervous to do anything to the very white walls. It’s been a few years now, and we’ve had a few experiences, and now we’re not afraid to paint walls because we know we can paint over it, we’re not afraid of nailing into the walls because we know we can patch it.

So we’re painting fun things, putting up new shelves and decorating with things we’re finding on Facebook market place.

Savouring: morning snuggles with Elliot. Now that he’s back at school (thank the teachers!), I savour the early morning cuddles.

Watching: Masterchef Back to Win. Seriously loving it! I have always been a Masterchef fan and I was honestly a little concerned when we heard the judges were changing. Well I was WRONG! The new judges have brought a breath of fresh air to the show. It’s almost a completely different show. Melissa Leong has brought a wonderful gentleness to the show as well as wonderful diversity to the judging panel.

Reading: Oh my gosh, I have been reading a lot this year. I’m currently reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: A Hunger Games Novel and I’m so enjoying it. The Hunger Games books are ones I return to regularly, when I need something easy to read, something familiar and to know the end, it’s comfortable. So last week I reread the trilogy and now I’m enjoying my early mornings nestled up with this book.

I have also just started reading the Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla F Saad. I downloaded the PDF when it was originally available after she ran the very first free instagram journey. With everything that’s bene happening this week around the world and daily not in the public eye, it’s time for me to become an anti racist and do the work.

Wearing: a lot of drop crotch tracksuit pants and warm snuggly jumpers.

Buying: most recently, a bike rack for our car. At the start of iso, I got an electric bike and now it’s my most favourite thing. And during this time Elliot learnt how to ride his bike. So now that we’re allowed to travel, I’m excited to take our bikes away with us.

Planning: a weekend away in a few weeks to visit friends and take our bikes with us.

Craving: a wood fire, mugs of hot chocolate, blankets, ugg boots and movies.

Loving: reading. I’ve got my head in a book a lot at the moment. Mostly trashy love stories (you can see my 2020 reads in Instagram) and the occasional high brow book.

Playing: with Lego, a lot.

Feeling: proud, excited, tired, cold, inspired, sad, disbelief.

Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow.

A Night in Melbourne

We were offered our friends apartment in Melbourne, they weren’t using it and I said no. It felt too self indulgent to just take a weekend away but when I put two and two together and found that it was the weekend of our wedding anniversary, the timing was too perfect. So I accepted the lovely offer and started researching restaurants.

Each year for our wedding anniversary we like to celebrate in style and enjoy a multi-course dinner. For our first anniversary we went to Loam, our second we ate at Brae, for our third we went to Oakdene Estate, we celebrated at Little Green Corner for our forth, our fifth anniversary we enjoyed a meal at IGNI, we actually didn’t spend a night out for our sixth and our seventh we enjoyed dinner at The Long Paddock.

We don’t spend time in Melbourne, I never really have. I grew up in Geelong and am quite happy to never spend time in the city. So having one night, child free in the big city. So we asked our city going friends where they would recommend and took their lead.

We went to two different places for pre dinner cocktails, The Arbory and LoopRoof. This has inspired us to make more cocktails, and make pretty garnishes. Perfect for these times I think.

Then we headed to dinner. We chose to enjoy the tasting menu at Lesa. We had such a lovely time. Each course came with a matched wine. And as the evening went on the photos got blurrier and blurrier. I don’t have much recollection of what each course was, but I do know each was mouth wateringly delicious.

Delicious, simple and hearty meals to cook while socially isolating

What a crazy time it is in the world right now. Where the right thing to do is stay at home, socially distance from each other, but we’re still allowed to see each other, stay 1.5m apart, go to the supermarket and go for a walk.

Apart from the craziness of the world, people getting really sick and dying, lots of people loosing their jobs and therefore income and not being able to hug my friends and family (unless they live with me), this is kind of my jam. I’m an introverted, homebody, who always has a full pantry and loves to cook things from scratch, I’d recently placed a seed order that should get us through the year, I keep 25kg bags of flour in the cupboard and I do online grocery shopping and get it delivered because grocery shopping hurts.

So I wanted to share some delicious, hearty, cheap meals that you could cook, hopefully with things from your pantry during this uncertain time.

The first thing is a fairly simple bread. It’s yeasted, and I made it at Wollangarra a lot. You can turn it into a loaf with a tin, or split it into about 16 and make flat breads. It’s wonderful, and fairly simple.

Of course, you can always learn how to make sourdough bread with a starter from me and instructions in my ebook.

Here’s simple delicious, simple chocolate biscuits. I think you could mix these up pretty easily in a thermomix, if you have one.

How about lasagne? Here’s The Best Ever Lasagne, I was told. If you don’t have any lasagne sheets in your pantry, you could use thinly sliced sweet potato, pumpkin or egg plant instead.

Baked beans can be an any time of the day meal. These ask for white beans, but I think you could try any dried bean BUT I’ve never tried, so you could give it a go and let me know.

If you have a couple of cans of chick peas you could make some falafel.

Trying to get ALL the veggies into your food, so you don’t get scurvy (too soon?), try this veggie packed bolognase.

I love this simple biryani and it uses things we would have in our pantry or freezer most of the time.

Jay’s dahl is such a winner, with wonderful simple ingredients and so much flavour, it’s a hearty warming meal for these uncertain times.

With all the flour that people stocked up on at the beginning of this crazy-ness you could make your very own pizza bases, top with your favourite toppings, Elliot loves ham cheese and pineapple, I prefer something with a few more vegetables.

I did see a funny photo posted by Hamish Blake on Instagram about how Risoni was the only thing left in the pasta aisle, if that’s the case, you’re in luck. This chicken and risoni soup is yummy!

If you’re needing something you can pull out for a quick lunch, then these sausage rolls are perfect, or these ones.

And of course, my grandmas apple slice is a great one to pull out now. I’ve made it with apples, rhubarb and pear. I’d love to know if you try something else.

Hopefully there’s some ideas to fill your days and bellies. I’d love to know what you’re cooking right now. And how you’re filling your days.

Zero Waste On A Zero Budget

My 5 tips on how to reduce what you put into landfill without breaking the bank.

Buy things in bigger bags.

This may seem expensive up front but it’ll definitely help your budget long term. If you can add a little into your budget once a month, or once a quarter to buy a bigger bag of something, then you’ll be set up. Not only will this save you money in the long run, it also creates less packing (I heard up to 15% somewhere, but don’t quote me on it) and eliminates the need for all those small packets to be made.

Use what you have.

It’s so nice to have beautiful natural coloured, natural fabric grocery bags. But you know what’s better, using something that you already had. I’m 100% sure you’ve got calico bags around your home, ‘green’ bags from a trip to the supermarket, t-shirts that can be cut up or glass jars in your draw that can be used for all manner of things.

Op Shop or use Facebook Marketplace

I’m loving decorating our home with my ‘secondhand only’ philosophy. Before moving back Jay and I decided that we wouldn’t bring anything into our home this time around, unless we loved it. So that’s what we’re doing. I’d been on the lookout for a couch and I found the perfect one on Facebook Marketplace. It was so exciting and satisfying and I saved a bunch too.

Don’t put produce in bags that don’t need bags

There’s a bunch of produce items that do not need plastic bags. Just pop them straight into your basket or trolley. If you’re using a bag to contain items, then you can always use the brown paper bags from the mushroom section, or make some produce bags from op shopped lace.

Try to buy products with as little plastic as possible

If you can avoid plastic packing, then do. You can often find things in paper or cardboard as an alternative.

I hope these help you to become a little more eco friendly, while still sticking to your budget.

How to save money when you’re not earning anything.

You know when you come across something at the exact right time you were meant to find it? Well, this happened to me yesterday.

It was Boxing Day and I was lying in bed getting lost in YouTube (do you say in YouTube?) and I came across this video. This video changed the way that I looked at our approximately $200,000 mortgage. I was sick of having it looming over me, sick of paying that fortnightly payment and sick of not feeling as though we owned our home. I decided that if she could pay off her student loans in 2 years, then we could have a bloody good crack at paying off our debt.

A couple of things about our mortgage. We we in the right place at the right time when we bought our block (the week before Elliot was born), and we got it at an incredible price. And we owner built our home, meaning that we could save a lot on building, as I was project managing the build while Jay went to work. So all in all our mortgage isn’t too much, about half of the national average in fact, but it’s still stressful and something we’d like to get rid of.

But the idea of paying it off feels totally unachievable, I felt helpless, and we don’t have any kind of regular income coming in. The two things I took from the video mentioned above was 1) spend less, and 2) earn more.

Anyone who knows us knows we live a frugal life. We don’t splurge on new clothes, almost everything we buy is second hand, we are getting back into the swing of budgeting and meal planning our grocery shop, I think our biggest expense (apart from bills and rates) is the $40 that goes into our Naked Wines account monthly (you can get $100 off your first order using my referral link – I do earn a small credit if you place an order).

So, I knew that what I needed to do was earn more. The first step seems obvious, get a job. And while Jay has some casual work locked in on the calendar, I am yet to commit to anything. I’ve had Elliot at kinder the last two months, I’ve been focusing on my physical and mental wellbeing and I hadn’t yet found anything I was ready to commit to after two big years of running an outdoor education centre.

But then in yet more research and internet rabbit hole-ing, I found this video and started researching the $1000 project. I thought the idea of saving little bits here and there was brilliant. But I thought I could aim for more. So I started by printing off this label and stuck it to a jar. This will be one way that I’m going to start saving some money.

I also got stuck back into reading The Barefoot Investor. I have started working through this book a few times but keep getting stuck. This week, I’m pushing through.

I’m also going to be looking for any other way to make some cashola. Some examples below:

  • selling bits and pieces on Facebook Market Place
  • creating more useful e-products to share with you
  • continue to build my beloved doTERRA business and share the oils with you
  • I’ve signed up to do market research
  • I’ve signed up to Airtasker and fiverr to offer my services for various tasks people need help with
  • I’m thinking of having a little stall at the front of our gate to sell our eggs and potted herbs etc.

I’m going to do updates on this post, I think it’s a position that most young Australians are in. I’d love to hear your thoughts on earn and saving and paying off your mortgage.

Christmas 2019

Christmas Eve cocktails and seafood platters. Hilarity in the form of ‘Shout Out’. A delicious gin trifle. Returning home and wondering what the next day will bring. Waking early to the excited call that Santa had come. Unwrapping presents. Seeing our family walk up our drive way. Presents given in reusable brown bags. Kris Kringle gifts swapped followed by a decedent brunch, featuring, English muffins with smoked salmon, bacon, eggs and hollandaise sauce, sourdough pastries from Ket Baker and bircher muesli with mimosas. A solo trip to the beach with time to read my book. Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, ham, lamb, and turkey with delicious stuffing, salads, veggies and little oven warmed bread rolls. Lovely chats with a gorgeous view.

Activity Advent Calendar

I have a pocket advent calendar that my mum made when we were little and wanted to use it for Elliot this year. We’re trying to reduce the waste we produce and increase our kindness activities and try to teach Elliot how being kind can be fun. So I decided that in each pocket I’d put a foil covered lolly/chocolate, so that we could make a ball to put into the recycling and a written activity. So if you’re thinking about doing something similar, and need some ideas, here’s the activities I put into the advent calendar.

  1. Help decorate Granny and Pa’s Christmas tree
  2. Make clay Christmas ornaments
  3. Call Santa – 02 6194 9939 gets you Santa’s voice mail or there’s plenty of ‘call Santa’ apps
  4. Donate some toys to the op shop
  5. Write Christmas letters to the Grandparents
  6. Make paper snow flakes
  7. Get a photo with Santa
  8. Enjoy a BBQ dinner at the park
  9. Show off your best manners all day
  10. Read two Christmas books with Mum
  11. Buy some food and donate to people in need
  12. Go to the jumping balloon/park and pick up some rubbish
  13. Deliver Christmas treats to the local police station
  14. Help Mum make a gingerbread house
  15. Take a picnic to the beach
  16. Go to the movies
  17. Write Christmas cards for your kinder teachers
  18. Give gifts to your kinder teachers
  19. Go to the Christmas Carols
  20. Deliver Christmas treats to the local paramedics
  21. Make bird feeders
  22. Deliver Christmas treats to the neighbours
  23. Enjoy a family movie
  24. Bake cookies for Santa

I’d love to hear any of your ideas below that could be added to this list.