Blank Space

Today I have pirates running around my garden.

This is wonderful, seeing as the smallest pirate puked all over herself last night. It’s also brilliant because vomit leads to cancelled swimming lesson which leads to blank space in the schedule.

Blank space in a schedule can be filled. Filled with chores, with errands, with small tasks that seem to build up. Or it can be left blank.

Today I chose to do nothing in our blank space. The kids asked for a DVD, which held their attention for about half an hour. But while I was doing the dishes, the noises changed. Footsteps rushed off to the bedroom, and then came back wearing costumes. So now, there’s treasure, bad guys and ‘aaarrr me hearties’.

Blank space in the schedule can be great thing for kids and adults. We can choose to fill it, or leave it blank and let the whims take us where they will.

Letting my kids choose, and choosing not to drive to the supermarket, go to the park or mow the lawn has given us a little freedom in our day. If we’d gone to town, or even if I’d planned a craft activity or story time, I wouldn’t have happy little pirates running around in the garden. Opening the space to allow creative and imaginative play for the kids, and some time to sit in the sun with a book for me, has been good all around. No cranky, no complaints, and a little relaxation. Blank space is good for the brain, for the body, and for my ability to cope with life in general.

Eat the pantry

I’m trying to save money. With birthdays coming up, saving for Christmas, saving for a home and hopefully taking my kids on a short holiday, I’m trying so darn hard to save what I can.

I’ve been eating the pantry and shopping the freezer. Sometimes, until you look, you have no idea what little gems can be found. Some unmarked freezer bags with savoury mince, tuna pasta sauce, and cans of five bean mix hiding in the back of the cupboard.

I managed five meals from one cook with the dubious art of ‘use what you’ve got’. One slow cooked beef mince stew gave me the base to make five different meals for my family. Some extra cooking required on the day, but with the base complete, it only amounted to boiling pasta or spuds, or making a dough and throwing it in the oven.

And all from stuff I had on hand. No visit to the supermarket, no rushing out for take away (which we don’t have here, anyway) and no stress about what to cook, with five meals done (I put two in the freezer for another time).

A little thought, and a lot of hope, made my day. I’ve saved money, used up some of the odds and ends, fed the kids healthy meals (sneaky veg included) and I’ve realised that I’m getting better at this frugal stuff. Yay for me, yay for my savings plans.

Tuna Pasta Cheat

Some days food is a lot like hard work. And if you haven’t planned ahead, the work seems to multiply exponentially.

I had a cleaning day on my own, and the kids all had lunch at their respective school/kinder/daycare so the only person I had to feed was myself.

I looked in the cupboard for that elusive item to jump out and say ‘eat me!’, and for the first time ever, something did.

Tomato chutney.

Weird, I know, but pairing it with pasta, tuna and passata I got a really good tuna pasta.

And it was easy. I cooked my pasta, drained it and threw two tablespoons of chutney in the saucepan, half a cup of passata and some tuna. Gave it a quick mix to warm it through, dumped it on the pasta, grated some cheese and woo hoo! Lunch.

Simple, cheap and filling. Also pretty darn tasty.

Water, water everywhere

It rained yesterday. Really rained. All day rain. It’s something we haven’t seen here in a while. For mid autumn, we’ve been fairly rain free, and I’m grateful it’s finally back on the weather agenda.

Most of my home is run on tank water, and if it doesn’t rain, we have no water. So behold my joy when we go almost two inches in twenty four hours.

Sometimes my crunch is only semi-crunchy, other times it gets extreme. When the options for water include carting it in at great expense or hooking a hose to the mains to fill the tank, extreme crunch is the option I’d rather take.

So here are my extremes:

  • catch water in clean buckets to use in the home or garden
  • use the water to bucket flush the toilet, feed the animals, half fill the bath or sink
  • use the water to rinse/soak laundry
  • use the water to wash the floors or car
  • use the water for cleaning around the house or bathing pets

Okay, some of it isn’t extreme and is merely sensible, but any water you don’t have to pay for is a bonus. For me, tank water is a great option, even if you only use it in the laundry, it’s a cost saving, and grey water can be reused in the garden.

So yes, after the rain yesterday, I now have buckets full of water roaming around my garden. Yes it looks weird, but I have dog water now that I don’t have to pay for, or empty the tank for. Yay me.

Losing Your Way, Finding Your Path

It’s easy to lose your way. Get side tracked, get busy, family drama, no time, no energy. All of these things can get in the way of that goal you’ve been working toward.

For me, it was a combination of all of the above. A new job that required so much of my time and effort, studying for a degree that I’ve wanted for years, a sick relative, another whose stress levels were affecting me and my family, lack of sleep and the demands of being a sole parent to three amazing kids.

For months I was lost in the mire. I was working, earning enough to allow for the occasional splurge for the kids, and then I let it all slide. I no longer had to budget every cent, I no longer had to be sure to turn the appliances off at a specified time so my electric bill wouldn’t run over my budget, I no longer had to deny myself the occasional pack of Tim Tams. And there it was, I loosened the reins in one area of my life, and all the other things slipped a little too.

It took me months to notice how far off track I’d gotten, and only a day of brooding to figure out that my slip was not a failure, but a normal part of life. We slip, we fall, we drift off the path we had chosen for ourselves, but we can get back up, turn ourselves back in the right direction and begin again.

Three things got me back on track.

  • Realising how much I was spending on disposable products. Baby wipes, paper towel, dish sponges, tampons, the list is enormous.
  • Realising that my trees were fruiting again, here is something free, natural and delicious for my family, and it just happens to grow in my backyard. With a little thought and effort, I could try this gardening thing again.
  • Realising that I missed the sense of achievement I felt when I was giving my family the best I could, even when it was on such a tight budget

So here I am, back at the starting line, picking myself up, finding my way back to where I want to be. And knowing that I may have drifted off the path, but that’s ok, I have GPS, I’ll always be able to find it again.

Winter Preparation

Winter is here, so I’ve thinking about heating. Staying warm. Managing not to freeze in a house whose draughts I haven’t worked out yet. And yes, I should have done this in May, but things can get crazy busy around here.

I have two major issues that need looking, and a small list of others that need to get done because we’ve been inundated with rain and wind.

And this isn’t just a matter of staying warm, it’s a frugal necessity. Electricity prices have increased so much that running the electrics for our household is enough to make me cringe. So in order to lower our heating bill, I need to fix some things.

A large hole in my bedroom wall. It was patched at some point, but the patch has fallen off and is currently sitting on my mantle piece. It not only lets in cold air, but the cat keeps watching the hole as if he’s expecting a mouse. Not cool.

There is also a big louvre window next to the back door. It doesn’t shut all the way and in order to keep any warmth in the house we have to keep the kitchen door closed at all times. Not possible with three kids going in and out.

And these are only the big things. When it comes down to really hunting out the issues, I’ve found at least three other ways that my house is losing heat that I will have to pay for. So while wearing layers and using extra blankets is fine, I want to make sure that the money I will be spending on heating doesn’t just float out the window or under the door.

So start the list. Check under and around doors, windows, cupboards housing plumbing and ceilings for draughts. Check for water leaks next time it rains, is it leaking in through the window? Do you need to replace the seals? Are the gutters running well? If you’ve noticed any mould in bathrooms or under sinks, clean it now, no one needs to get sick.

It sounds a little petty, but all these little things can cost you money, and it does add up. And when paying for winter utilities, every dollar saved is important.

Food, partially crunchy

I can bake. It’s something I’ve always had an affinity for. I love doing it, and I love seeing people enjoy the results. But I’m still learning how to cook.

I’m not awesome at meals, but I’ve found a few that are simple, tasty and my family are big fans. It makes me feel better about my cooking, but I know I still have a long way to go.

One of the dishes that everyone is always happy about is Sweet Potato Soup. It’s simple, filling and really good with a crusty roll.

Ingredients:

Sweet potato – sliced (any number is fine 2-8 depending on how big your pot is and how many people you’re feeding)

one brown onion – sliced

water enough to cover your veggies

powdered chicken stock – estimate based on your amount of water and packet directions (if you have homemade stock or broth, use half water/half stock)

Method:

Bring to boil and allow to simmer without a lid until reduced to approx 3/4 volume

Allow to cool slightly and then blend to a puree ( use stick blender or freestanding – you may need to do batches in the freestanding blender)

 

And that’s it. Not difficult, and you can use the same recipe for pumpkin soup, or pumpkin, carrot and potato. You can switch out the stock for veggie if you want a vegetarian option. It freezes well, and it eats well.

Enjoy!

Natural Crunchy – Bi-Carb

In some ways crunchy works well for me. And in others, it just doesn’t. So I mix and match what works for my family.

My biggest crunch is also pretty old school, but thankfully becoming more common. It really comes down to bi-carb. Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is a staple in my house. I buy it in bulk because I use it so often.

  • I use it to wash my hair
  • I use it to clean the bath
  • I use it for baking
  • I use it in homemade laundry detergent
  • I’ve even used it my homemade deodorant experiments (more on that later)

 

You can use bicarb in many different ways around the home, and it’s a cleaner, greener and more frugal alternative to a lot of commercial products. Yes, it actually requires a little elbow grease, but a little cleaning cardio isn’t a bad thing.

My biggest change has been using bi-carb to wash my hair. I tried going ‘no poo’ but it didn’t work for me. Then I tried bi-carb in place of shampoo and I haven’t looked back. I save on shampoo and I don’t need to use conditioner at all, so I save there too. My dandruff situation has improved and I haven’t had to use my straighteners at all.

The oddest thing I noticed was with hair fall. Usually I’d condition my hair and lose a lot in the shower. Now it’s a matter of losing hair when I brush it.

 

The process I use is as follows:

  • Wet hair thoroughly in the shower
  • Use 2-3 tablespoons of bi-carb and make a paste with some water
  • Spread it through hair and massage it into scalp and hair
  • Leave it in hair until it turns from gritty to slimy
  • Rinse thoroughly

 

And that’s it. You can follow it with an apple cider vinegar rinse, but I find it isn’t necessary for my hair. For me, this works well, but other people may find that it differs. I wash my hair once a week, and it feels fantastic, and I can style it the same ways I did when I was using shampoo.

 

So. Bi-carb soda works for me in many different ways. What other uses have you found for bi-carb?