Monday, 31 August 2015

Grocery Problems and Solutions

I used to love grocery shopping.

Perusing the aisles for new products; selecting healthy choices for my little family. I even used to decide what to cook for the next few days based on which items were on special.

Then I had more children and, honestly, some days even popping out for a basketful of things can become an ordeal. A throw-yourself-on-the-floor-screaming kind of ordeal. NB: Never shop with a tired or hungry child. Never.

Even finding time to do online shopping can be a problem now that the kids are home full-time.

My solution? Is to shop as little as possible.

I plan out my meals for a week to ten days, shop the necessary ingredients and I'm set.

However! Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for a vegetable stir-fry on the night I've planned. Or perhaps something unexpected comes up which means we throw together a quick beans-on-toast and leave the fancy-salad dish 'til later in the week.

Of course, then the problem is that by the time I get around to pulling those vegetables and/or salad ingredients out of the fridge they're a little worse for wear. And I really hate wasting food.

So when the kind folks at Howard's Storage World asked if I'd be interested in test-driving some Oxo Greensaver Produce Keepers I jumped at the chance.

Initially I thought that these would be similar to the open/closed vent storage containers from a well known brand that I already had and use with some success for my celery and lettuce, but these clever little containers have a couple of big differences.
Firstly, they have a basket inside that keeps your produce from touching the outside of the container. This is to stop moisture from touching your veg and making them rot.

Secondly, they have a replaceable activated carbon filter (all natural - made from coconut husks) that absorbs the ethylene gas given off by fruits and vegetables which causes them to over-ripen. 

Then you have an open/closed vent system depending on what you're storing. There's a key in the lid of each container to show you which "breather" your particular produce is. Video here.

You can even get a filter that sits inside your fridge's produce drawer...

So last week I picked up a few items that always end up liquefying in my fridge:
* green beans -because I rarely find good ones here in Darwin and if I do they have to be used the same day,
* zucchini - because I always find excuses not to make zoodles and eat triple-cream brie instead!
*strawberries - because unless I let the kids eat three punnets all in one day they last three days max.

Then I put these Produce Keepers to the test.


We used half the beans on day five and they were as fresh as the day of purchase. The other half are still in their container in the fridge and looking just as good one week after I bought them.

One of the zucchinis had a bit of mould on it. I think that was because I had it touching the lid and some moisture had built up on the lid - next time I'll try not to overfill the container. (I had high hopes for daily running and zucchini noodles this week - Ha! Now where'd I put that cheese knife?)

The strawberries were perfect and the last of them got eaten yesterday - six days after I bought them!

These containers will definitely be changing the amount of food we throw out and saving us money in the process. Win win.

So, tell me, what usually dies a horrible death in the back of your fridge?  

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Magical Days - Archaeology Day

It's been a crazy couple of weeks in our house!

With the new adjustment to our Homeschool routine - and my realisation that I have, in fact, taken on a full-time job in becoming my childrens' teacher as well as continuing to be a full-time stay-at-home mum - there hasn't been a lot of time for blogging. Or sleep.

In fact, I haven't even had a chance to share August's Magical Days Calendar (sorry!). 

This month, we have chosen to celebrate Archaeology Day which falls on Monday, the 17th of August.

Archaeology is the the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains. (Not to be confused with Palaeontology which is the study of prehistoric animals, such as dinosaurs.)

Here are some of the best and easiest ideas that we'll be using on Monday...

* The Archaeological Institute of America has some fantastic lesson plans and ideas for exploring archaeology.  Watch this introductory video for inspiration.

* This layer cake looks like a fantastic way of introducing the idea of strata and how civilisations build on top of one another.

* The AIA also has great instructions on setting up a dig. They have one in a transparent box to introduce the concept of strata, a Shoe-box dig which demonstrates how proper digs are performed 'blind', and a bigger-scale, school-yard dig which is just amazing! I love that all of these are set up with a back story and incredible details. This is the link to instructions on setting up all of the digs.

* I love this simple 'ancient' pot from Tikkido. Might be fun to make one of these and bury it in the sand pit. (Though, keep in mind that sand is very loose and any sand pit 'dig' will be over quite quickly and will not be able to demonstrate strata.)

* This lesson on Pompeii is awesome! What an amazing Lego city!

* Why not spend the day talking about ancient cultures. Here's some ideas from our unit on Egypt. 

* Read a book about archaeology. We love the adventure novel The Phoenix Code by Helen Moss, which is fantastic for nine year olds up.

* Or forget about the kids and just cuddle up while they're in bed and watch your favourite Indiana Jones film! (We've decided they're a bit too scary for our boys.)

Of course, it's never too late to join in the Magical Days fun. Here's what the rest of August has in store for us...

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Harry Potter's Birthday Dinner

We celebrated Harry Potter's birthday last night! 

As we've finished reading - and were about to watch - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, my goal was to recreate the banquet in the great hall that is given to welcome the students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.
We had the house banners and suits of armour typical of Hogwarts... And, of course, we needed the goblet of fire...Then I set about making the ceiling resemble that of the great hall.

I was lucky enough to find these 'realistic wax' LED tea lights at my local hardware store. I unscrewed the battery compartment and used it to secure some fishing line, which I then sticky taped up the side and tied together on top to form a big loop.
The easiest way to make them 'float' was looping them over the blades of our (incredibly dodgy-looking, old) ceiling fan. I also wrapped a few around the down-light fittings and secured a few more with some Command picture hangers - the Velcro kind that lock together. 

Then, to make the enchanted ceiling, I added some glow-in-the-dark stars and a few gold stars from a Christmas garland that I found in the craft box. 
The table was set with golden plates and goblets and then it was time to wait for the guests.
The two big boys had spent the day fishing with their father and Grandfather, so I was really, really excited to see their faces when they walked in!

I had the candles all 'lit' and met them at the door dressed as Professor McGonagall who instructed them to bathe and change into their robes before reassembling in the Great Hall for dinner.
Not a great photo, but I sure got the reaction I was hoping for...
My photos really aren't doing it justice and make the fan look glaringly obvious, but it looked pretty magical last night.

The boys insisted we have a sorting ceremony...

And I did a bit of Transfiguration ; )
Then we sat down for dinner. I had planned to make a Bouillabaisse and "an odd sort of pale blancmange" as described in the book, but - as I thought the kids might be bringing home fish - decided to make something Bulgarian instead.
According to my research, this Mycaka is similar to Moussaka and we served it with a traditional Shopska Salad. 
For dessert I whipped up some Creme Brulee and a few meringues with the leftover egg whites.

Professor McGonagall took her role of guarding the goblet from under-age students very seriously... 
Then (after getting Rohan to sleep by pretending they were asleep!) the big boys cuddled up with us to watch the fourth movie. Which is my least favourite of the HP films- I really hate it when they change the book too much and leave favourite bits out.

Did you do anything special for Harry's birthday?