Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Perth Glory

Sometimes, the best thing about living in Darwin is getting the hell out of Darwin.

Don't get me wrong, we have some spectacular scenery and the Dry Season is perfection but too much Wet Season humidity can drive a person insane.  And, of course, there's nothing like traveling to make you miss home.

We've just got back from a holiday in Perth.  And it was glorious in it's perfection.

We got to spend some quality time with family... our last trip with the six of us before number one son heads interstate to university, but also with my Mum & Dad and with aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family on both sides.

We had some awesome trips to the beach - BBQs, sandcastle construction, sunsets and swimming (you can swim at Perth beaches!!)

We attended a gorgeous wedding - also on the beach.  It was a bit windy...

The beautiful bride is my second cousin and Hamish's Godmother.  She's very special to us and we were so glad to be able to attend her big day.  Congratulations Cassie & Carl xx

There was some relaxing by the sea with fish & chips...

And the whole trip ended with a very chilled afternoon on the foreshore and some Australia Day fireworks over the city...
We even had a few days when it was cold enough for a cardigan in the mornings - Bliss!

We got home just in time to start school yesterday.  First day in a uniform for Pre-transition for Hamish and Year 3 for Liam.  They're growing up too fast... 
How have you spent your school holidays?  Are your children back at school yet?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Happy Birthday, little Blog!

A year ago today I launched Stay at Home Territory and wrote my first blog post.
I wrote about my journey into motherhood and my desire to live life inspired by these words... 
"No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it.  The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.” ~Barbara Brown Taylor
And I gave myself that permission to happy where I am.

So, have I succeeded?  Have I found enlightenment and deep satisfaction from living in the moment?

Of course not.  It's a lifelong quest - just ask Siddhārtha Gautama.

I am still a planner - so my mind spends a lot of time in the future preparing birthday parties, shopping lists, activities for the kids and for every disaster that might possibly occur.  I'm still a Pinterest addict - so I spend way too much time wishing my house was more stylish or my wardrobe fancier.

I have, however, make a conscious effort to engage one-on-one with my kids more every day.  To make eye contact, listen with my whole head and interact with my whole heart as often as possible.

I posted this pic on Facebook and Instagram earlier in the month as my "word to live by" for the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day Challenge... 

I copied the artwork from Fresh Words Market and I'm planning to use it on my inspiration board to remind me of my continuing quest to Be Present.

Such a challenge in this busy world in which we are constantly navigating new ways of communicating and interacting and yet, perhaps, even more important that we switch off the smart phone for a bit and live in the moment.

I'll give you an updated report in another year, shall I?

And, by the way, thank you, one and all, for your continued support and encouragement on my blogging journey.  If you haven't already, why not post a quick comment below to introduce yourself.  It really is so lovely to have you here.

And don't forget to enter our Amazing First Giveaway!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Cool Down - with our first ever giveaway!

It's been really, really, ridonculously hot all around Australia this last week!
If you're anything like me you've not left the air conditioning and are running out of ideas to cool down your kids who insist on playing outside!  Fear not, sweet Stay at Home Territory readers!  I have a super cool giveaway for you...
A Zoku Quick Pop Maker!
These things are amazing...
"The patented Zoku Quick Pop™ Maker freezes ice pops in as little as seven minutes right on your countertop without electricity."

You can make striped pops, fruit pops, yogurt pops or even flavoured core pops... Yum!

You just store the base unit in your freezer and whip it out to enjoy Quick Pops at a moment’s notice!  The unit can make up to 9 pops before refreezing the unit again.

"The kit includes six durable, reusable plastic pop sticks that have unique ridged designs that allow pops to adhere securely, with special drip guards for tidy eating. A specially designed Super Tool helps to quickly release the frozen treats from their molds."
So how do you enter?  You can:
* Leave a comment below (one comment per reader please)
* Like Stay at Home Territory on Facebook 
* Follow Stay at Home Territory on Instagram 
* Or share the competition image on Instagram as many times as you like.
Or, why not do all of the above for even more chances to win!
Unfortunately, due to the size/weight/postage of the prize, this competition is only open to Australian residents.  But, hey, I'm thinking it might be a bit too cold for one of these in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment anyway!

Includes 1 Quick Pop Maker, 6 sticks, 6 drip guards and 1 Super Tool. 
Dimensions: 20cm x 11cm x 11.5cm
Colour of unit may vary.

BPA and phthalate free
Check out the Zoku Blog for tasty recipes!
Winner will be selected at random and notified by name via the blog, Facebook page and Instagram.
Prize will be delivered to you by standard post.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Feeding your family without spending a fortune or losing your mind

The New Year is a great time to make resolutions about healthy eating and saving money.  Fortunately, combining the two works well because they go hand-in-hand. Cooking the family's meals yourself not only ensures you know exactly what's gone into it, but it's also a heck of a lot cheaper than eating out.

Budget is a big theme for us this year and not only do I have five fellows to feed on a daily basis, as they've all inherited their father's Maori gene for food consumption (i.e. they eat a lot!) this can get a bit expensive!

Add to that the rising cost of living or, for us, the ridiculous cost of living in the Northern Territory and you've got yourself a challenge. Here's how I cope...

1. Get your food storage organised
If you can easily see what ingredients you've already got, you'll spend less. 
So take a day to get your pantry and fridge into shape.  Make note of those staple items you need to restock.  You can see how I organise my kitchen here.

2. Always have a shopping list underway
The minute you use something all up - or have only a tiny bit left in the jar - put it on the list.  I have list of things I've run out of on my chalkboard (which really needs re-painting)... 

If I'm planning on hitting the shops myself I use this list that I created in Word... 

The items listed are what I buy most weeks and are arranged according to aisles in my regular supermarket.  With this list I simply tick what I need or write in any special items I'm after.  Makes the whole shopping experience a lot faster too.

3. Meal plan
It's an obvious one, but if you know exactly what you're cooking that week then you only buy those items required. A big money saver. 

It's also a big time saver when you know what needs to be done for dinner and a sanity saver- no more "What the heck am I going to make for dinner?"

You can get some great menu planner printables, but I love putting our weekly menu up on the chalkboard...

I also like to go a step further and use this... helps me to organise the meals I'm planning for breakfast (where more than cereal or toast is necessary), lunch for me, lunch boxes and snacks for the kids and, of course, our evening meal.   I don't always plan everything, but it helps me to think about the exact number of meals that DO need planning that week.

It's also got space to write in which recipe book and on what page number I'll find it (another time saver) and if there are any tasks I need to do in advance - defrost meat the day of, make yogurt the day before, source fresh herbs because mine have died been consumed etc.
4. Categorise your options

Those colours on my meal planner are not just to make it pretty. As I'm trying to save money AND ensure we eat a variety of healthy meals I've implemented a category system.

Monday is meatless, Tuesday is fish, Wednesday's beef, Thursday chicken, Friday alternates between lamb and pork, Saturdays are either Pizza-Movie Night or International Food Night and we finish up the week with a pasta dish on Sunday.
It may sound pretty regimented, but don't think these are set in stone. If I'm craving Thai Green Chicken Curry on a Monday then I'm certainly going to whip one up, but it helps me to have those dietary and budgetary guidelines in place.

Make sure the catergories you choose are specific to your needs.  For example, I usually get my groceries delivered on a Tuesday, so we have the fish to ensure it is fresh.  (I know we should eat fish twice a week, but that can get expensive. I try to alternate fresh fresh with canned too.)  

During rugby season my plans needs to change a bit.  Thursday & Friday nights need to be meals that can be prepared in advance or left on to simmer while we're out.  I've even perfected the art of setting the rice cooker on a timer switch so we come home late to a ready-to-serve meal.

5. Seek inspiration

Inspiration really helps with keeping your meal plans varied, interesting and appetizing. While we have some family favorites, there are only so many times I'm willing to eat Spaghetti Bolognese. 

I'm also a firm believer that the more variety children are introduced to the better they eat. (Did you know that it takes up to ten times to introduce a new food to a small child before it becomes familiar enough with it that they'll willingly eat it?)
I'm a big fan of Donna Hay Magazine. The weeknight meals or "Ten in Twenty" section (ten different meals you can make in twenty minutes) are often winners with my family.

At the beginning of last year I bought Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Minute Meals.  Usually with a new cookbook, I'd pick and choose the ones that look the best and maybe only make a handful of the recipes.  This time, I've been working my way through each chapter front to back, only skipping those I can't make gluten free. I've been blown away by recipes I thought looked only okay and have turned out to be sensational.

Needless to say I was very excited to receive Save with Jamie for Christmas!

Once you've planned out your week, use the recipes of your chosen meals to add to the shopping list you've already started.  Don't forget to check the pantry for those staples you may already have. This way you're only buying what you really need. No wastage.
6. Shop online where possible
This is my favourite tip. 

I LOVE not having to drag one to three small children around a grocery store (is it just me, or do perfect well behaved, normal children become absolute monsters the second they enter a grocery store?  The main reason I love online shopping is that I can control the exact amount I've spent. Over budget? I'll "remove" those extra crackers from my "trolley" this week.  There is also no impulse buying because I'm not walking past the latest copy of Home Beautiful magazine or seeing that new range of gluten free potato chips (also good for the diet!)

Okay, so sometimes they'll be out of stock on an item or two which requires you to do a quick run to the store.  Maybe they send you a punnet of dodgy strawberries (I've found the customer service people are pretty great with rotten or missing items if you call straight away), but more often than not you get everything you've chosen delivered to your kitchen.
It can take a while to set up your online account and find all the items you need, but eventually you end up with a master list of everything you've ever ordered.  It then becomes like an online version of my shopping list above- tick the required item.
   This also means that when you scroll through your list each week you can also see when those items you purchase regularly are on special and can stock up.

So there you have it.  My method for feeding the family and staying sane.  

Have you made a resolution to change your eating/spending habits?  What other tips do you have for planning meals and saving on groceries?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The two rules for an insanely Organised Kitchen

The New Year always makes me keen to get my house in order and put into place systems of organisation.

Last year, I took part in a couple of the iheartorganizing challenges.  I got the Home Office done, and then tackled a major overhaul of my Kitchen.  You can see what I did here.

Doing that reshuffle - and living with it for nearly twelve months - has led me to conclude that there are two rules to an having an insanely organised kitchen.

They are: 

1. Group like items together 

2. Choose appropriate storage

Grouping like items:
When re-oganising my kitchen last year I put all like objects together.  I now have a cupboard for glassware, crockery, appliances, plastic storage containers, baking dishes, tea & coffee making and cooking utensils.

The same rules apply to the pantry and the fridge/freezer.  

My pantry looks very much like it did a year ago, but with different baskets that were a better fit for the space (these are from Woolworths)...  

The items remain organised in the same way.  Cereals and First Aid Box are on the top shelf, baking supplies on the next two.  The fourth shelf down contains everything need to prepare meals- things like pasta, sauces and oils.  I have spreads, snacks and crackers all together on the fifth.  Spare items, refills and things not regularly accessed are packed away on the bottom shelf.  

In last year's post I was getting some more holders for my tin foods.  I now have four groups of these three Can Storage Holders from Howard's Storage World.  (I've used a bit of cut board so they'll stack).  They fit perfectly on the sides of the pantry and fit four 400g tins each...
 The baskets hold Baking & Seasoning, Baby Food, Oils & Vinegars, Meals, Spreads, Snacks, Potatoes and Spares.

In the fridge, I've done the same. When it comes to the jars in the door, all sauces, mustards, jams & pickles have a place.

I've even gone so far as to use plastic containers to separate my fruits.  This makes it so easy to see at a glance what we need more of...

Choose appropriate storage:
Once you've grouped your like items together, you need to decide the best way to store them.  And don't forget labels, where necessary! 

If all of your appliances in the same cupboard, add a box for all those extra attachments that go with them.

I put all of my baking tray, tins and molds in one draw then added my cookie cutters, cake decorating supplies and cupcake wrappers in suitably sized and labelled storage boxes...

The Territory's humidity, insects and my mild OCD mean I like to put all my pantry items into sealed containers. I prefer glass because they allow you to take inventory at a glance.  These Maxwell & Williams Olde English jars were a wedding present...
The top shelf of the fridge was a mess of jars.  I know a few people who've had success with a lazy Susan, but I'm just loving these baskets with handles from Howard's.  They keep everything contained and pull out easily. 
The top shelf now contains curry pastes, baking supplies and medications.  I've also added a larger sized basket for cheeses too.
The freezer has had a similar treatment with the baskets.  I have one for cooking supplies (did you know ginger, bay leaves and Kaffir lime leaves all freeze well?), gluten free breads, fruits and vegetables.
I use the freezer drawers to store individual-sized containers of leftovers that Hubby takes to work for lunch.  (I'm also lucky enough to have a second freezer for bulk meat and extra loaves of bread).
So, there you have it!  The two simple rules to keep your kitchen organised and they are surprisingly easy to maintain.

This year, I've decided to give The Organised Housewife's organising challenge a go.  You can follow along as I attempt to declutter 52 things in 52 weeks here on Facebook.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Safari Second Birthday Party

Happy New Year!

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas and an enjoyable farewell to 2013.  After Christmas I went straight into party-planning frenzy, so I'm looking forward to a bit of a break (On school holidays- not likely!) 

Before I launch into all the details of my sweet, little two year old's enormously fun safari birthday party, I want to take a moment to say "Thank you".  

Thanks for reading my little blog.  Thanks for sharing in my journey.  For those who have taken the time, or have been able, to leave comments a very big Thank you!  I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of creating Stay at Home Territory and I'm excited to identify myself as a blogger as well as a Mum.  I can't believe that last year saw 61 posts and over 12000 page views (and only about 61 of those were my Mum!)

I'm looking forward to continuing to chronicle my adventures here and really hope you'll stick with me.

So- into the Jungle!

As is our tradition, Helium balloon tied to the mailbox greeted our guests... 
We chose a safari theme because Rohan just loves animals, especially Lions.  He has a nursery with safari decor and his first word was "Ra!" (said while reading "Dear Zoo" by Rod Campbell - one of our absolute favourites.)

I made good use of my hole-in-the-wall covering decorative paper tree in the entrance to welcome our guests and get them set up with essential safari items...
Each little guest got a pith helmet and pair of binoculars.

We decorated the playroom with streamers and cardboard leaves to make a jungle...

Due to the age of the birthday boy and range of ages of our guests, I decided against having organised party games and instead set up some Montessori-inspired, African-themed activities.

We had a reading area with cute themed books like Dear Zoo, That's not my... Monkey, Elephant & Lion, The Little Lion Who Lost Her Roar and At The Waterhole (this one is all onomatopoeia and such fun to read).  The globe cushion and cuddly friends made it the perfect place to rest and read...
A map and flag matching activity for my biggest boys.  Maps and flag printables from Montessori Print Shop.
A collection of objects and jewellery I bought in Kenya and Uganda many years ago...
An animal matching activity using the gorgeous animals Rohan got for Christmas.  These gorgeous Montessori three-part-cards are Free!  They're here at Teachers Pay Teachers.
This one proved very popular...
Rohan loves this one...

There was also a Montessori My-place-in-the-world box stacking activity, a sensory bin (with coloured rice, animals, pyramids and an ostrich feather), some travel guides and an atlas and an African animal puzzle.
 The birthday boy had a ball...
I was having trouble finding cute clipart for invitations (plus Christmas was super busy) so I decided to order the invitations.  Luckily, I found this amazing package of totally cute party supplies from Cupcake Express on Etsy.  It came with all of the matching details you can see throughout this post including the invites, the papers (which I used to line the envelopes) and blank labels (which I used for the food as well as the front of the envelopes)...

I used the water-bottle labels on mini Evian bottles...
A batch of "Jungle Juice", sparkling water for the grown-ups, some themed cups and super cute, striped-paper straws completed the drinks station...
I decorated the table with some bunting (from Rohan's safari nursery) and the wall above the table with more jungle vines...

And a number two made up of all the monthly photographs I've been taking since he was born.  I love this SO much I might just leave it there!
I didn't get a chance to take any photos of the savoury food, but I made some Zebra Sandwiches (three layer Vegemite sandwiches) and my sister-in-law made an incredible sandwich in the shape of a snake- just like this one.  We also had some Hungry Hippo Dips...
I even bundled up these super cute napkins and hand-stamped bamboo cutlery with twine and covered this box with an old map- which no-one used!  But who uses cutlery for sandwiches and dip- Duh!

My favourite thing would have to be the dessert table.  The banner is again from the Cupcake Express package.  I used these fake fronds (that I've had since Liam's fourth dinosaur birthday) and co-ordinated the very different vases by wrapping them in a strip of map and twine.
As well as the choc-coated bananas you can see above right (which I forgot to photograph!), we had cupcakes (personalised cupcake toppers were also part of the package)...
Banana lollies and Jungle jellies.  Those stamped bamboo spoons make me insanely joyful and were so easy to make...
 Jelly Snakes and Banana-flavoured Monkey puddings...
 And fruit kebabs...

The kids went straight for the puddings and jelly...

 The choc-bananas were SO good...
(Don't you love that she's wearing a Zebra shirt?  Perfect!)

Rohan got very spoilt with some gorgeous presents. Can you tell he loves animals?

 Then it was time for cake...
(Don't look too closely.  That fondant aged me about ten years.)

Happy Birthday to the sweetest little boy... 
 May all your wishes come true.
Of course, we sent our guests home with a little package of safari-themed goodies...
Malaria Pills!  Gosh, I love Pinterest!!

So, tell me, how was your New Year?  Have you made any resolutions.  Mine- not surprisingly after Christmas and birthdays (my Dad's is the Day after Rohan's) -is to quit sugar again!!