31 December 2011

A season ... to be thankful!

On 31 December, we celebrate Thanksgiving.  It's our family tradition which we started in 1995.   Every year we try a different location and this year we had a picnic at the beautiful Kirstenbosch gardens. 

Joy comes from being thankful, and we have so much to be thankful for.  2011 was a difficult year for many of us, but we can still thank God for taking us through, giving us strength and health and providing us with our daily needs.

We were so happy to have all our children together for the first time in many years this holiday season.  The above photo was taken at the airport when Ruth left after our picnic.

20 December 2011

A Time to ... be challenged!

Are you definitely not a 'morning person'?  I used to think so too, but have discovered that there really is great truth in the scripture: 'Joy comes in the morning'.  However, due to many late nights, I struggle to get up early and therefore miss that most important time of the day... time alone with the Lord.  Do you want this as much as I do?  Well, here's the challenge:

You can sign up, like I've done, for the 2012 Hello Mornings Challenge over on the blog 'Inspired to Action'.  The challenge starts on 15 January and will run for 90 days. 

Will you join me?

13 December 2011

A Season to ... make cordials

With Summer around the corner, it's time to have cold drinks on hand for the family and visitors.  Buying juice becomes very expensive when you have a family constantly opening the fridge door to look for something cold to drink.  Cordials are the way to go and here are 2 easy recipes for you:

makes 4 x 750ml bottles

12 lemons
2,5kg white sugar
15g each of tartaric acid, epsom salts, creme of tartar
1.5L or 6 cups of boiling water

Wash and grate lemon skins to remove peel.  Keep the peel in a large bowl with a lid (I use a plastic cake container).  Squeeze the juice of all the lemons and add to bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Replace lid and leave to stand on a counter overnight.

Next day: sterilize 4 x 750ml glass bottles with lids by boiling them for 5 minutes in a pot of water.  Remove and cool.  Strain the lemon cordial with a large sieve or colander and pour into prepared bottles using a funnel to avoid spills.  Wipe clean and label.  To serve, use 1 part cordial to 5 parts cold (preferably sparkling) water.  Add ice and mint. Yum!

Tip:  The last time I made this, I froze the strained lemon peel and now add it to fruit cakes or when making cream cheese icing.  It is candied lemon peel!

makes 4L

Juice of 6 oranges
Grated peel of 4 lemons
3L boiling water
3kg or 12 cups white sugar
45g each of citric acid and tartaric acid
30g epsom salts

Combine peel and juice and add rest of ingredients in a large bowl or bucket with a lid.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Replace lid and leave on counter overnight.

Next day: Sterilize 4 x 1L or 8 x 500ml glass bottles and lids (as above).  Strain cordial and pour into bottles. Seal, wipe and label.  To serve: dilute 1 part cordial with 4 parts water (or to taste).

Enjoy summer!

29 November 2011

A time to ... get organised

December and January are probably the busiest and most stressful times of the year for most of us.  With all the holidays there's just so much to think about and plan for.  I have 2 very helpful resources to help you get  through the months ahead.

I've already told you how wonderful Flylady is, and if you  haven't already visited her site, perhaps this free download The Holiday Control Journal will get you there this time.  It's a booklet where you can write down all your holiday plans, gifts, celebration meals, etc.  If you are trying to stick to a budget for gifts this year, do try using this booklet to help you.

The other great site I want to share with you is called the Cozi Calendar.  This is so much more than an online calendar!  You can choose meals from a list of tried and tested favourites, add it to your calendar, and print out a shopping list (or have it sent to your mobile phone if you're in the US)!  You can schedule your entire family's appointments, colour code them, and Cozi will send them a reminder!  They will send you a copy of your weekly calendar to your email address too!

I'd love to hear your feedback when you've used either of the above tools! 


15 November 2011

A time to be prepared... for an emergency

Do you know what to do if an emergency strikes your home?  There are many different types of emergency, but sometime or other you may have to face one of them.  For example, if your little one swallowed something s/he shouldn't have, do you have the Poison Centre's number handy to ask them what to do? I recommend that every mom does a basic First Aid course!  The Red Cross Society offers courses at a very reasonable fee.

In Cape Town, you only need to Dial 107  from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone to get help with any emergency.  Find out what the Emergency number is in your area, and write it up where everyone can see it.

What if the electricity is cut off?  Do you have a backup?  Do you know where your torch is (with fresh batteries), do you have candles, matches or a lamp you could use?  Do you have a gas cooker?  Is there gas in the bottle?  Did you know that food in your freezer can stay frozen for up to 24 hours as long as the door is kept closed?

What if the water is cut off?  Wouldn't it be a good idea to keep a plastic bottle or 2 of water stored somewhere? Perhaps a 2L bottle in the fridge, and a 5L bottle in the store-cupboard/room?

What would happen if your home was threatened by fire?  Do you have a fire extinguisher?

If you had to evacuate your home for any reason, what would you take with you?  Important documents like birth certificates, ID books, tax papers, policies, etc. should all be in a flip file, clearly labelled and stored so that you can grab it if you have to leave quickly. 

It's a good thing to discuss an Emergency Plan with your spouse and children.  Where would you go if you had to leave, and what is each person's responsibility?

I hope you'll never have to face one, but please do prepare yourself incase you have to.

15 October 2011

A time to plan... Menues!

'What's for dinner Mom?"  You'll hear this question thousands of times during your years as mother!  It can also cause you stress, if you don't know the answer and have to quickly think of something.  Sometimes I just say: "Food!" :-)

Menu Planning is a huge subject and your menu-style will change many times over the years, but let's make a start by answering these questions:

When do I plan to go shopping? Weekly, monthly or bi-weekly?
If you choose Weekly, then you would plan your menu for 1 week, to last you until the next shopping day.  The same applies for monthly, etc.

Can I include vegetarian meals in my plan?
If your husband or children have never eaten a main meal without meat before, start with 1 vegetarian meal a week.  This is the most cost-effective and eco-friendly way to eat, not to mention the health aspects!

Do I want to plan my menu based on a repeating pattern or theme?
Some find it simplest to plan Mondays - pasta, Tuesdays - lentils, Wednesday - sausage, etc.
Some families like to know that they get the same dish once a week.  Personally, I prefer to experiment and try out different recipes all the time.  This can have its negatives too - sometimes Dad will ask for a certain dish again and I can't remember what recipe he's talking about :-)  When I get a new recipe book, I sometimes use it as my theme for menu-planning.  That way I get to try out the new recipes and test them on my family.  Good ones get 3 XXX written next to them, recipes that are so-so get 2 XX and ones that I'll never make again get 1 X.  I've found this system works well over the years as I can now pick up any of my recipes books and quickly find a recipe that I know everyone loves.  If most of the recipes in the book get 2 or 1 X, then I pass the book on to someone else or donate it back to the charity shop! 
Having different themes can make meal-planning fun.  Some themes you could try are Countries (Italian, French, etc.), Celebrity Chefs (Jamie Oliver, etc), Vegetable in Season (Tomatoes, pumpkins, etc) and so on.  Be Creative!

What kind of meat/fish/poultry will we eat, and how often?
From a health point-of-view, most dieticians recommend that you eat meat no more than 3-4 times a week.  We do that over weekends. Fridays - fish, Saturdays - meat, Sundays - chicken.  With the high price of meat products, it makes sense to limit the number of times we eat it.  Sometimes you'll find a certain meat at a special price.  At that time it'd be a good idea to buy extra and then plan your menues around it.  For example, chicken might be cheaper than usual, so you could buy more and freeze it.

What are my husband's favourite meals?
This is important, especially if you're newly wed, to find out and (if possible) learn to cook it the way his mother did!  Yes, it may mean eating humble pie, but you'll gain so much respect from both of them just for trying!  Try to include 1 of his favourite meals in your menu.

Do I know when we'll be eating out?
It's good to have a family calendar, visible to all, where events are recorded, so that when you're planning your menu, you can see when you'll be going out and won't need to cook.  As the children get older, their school and extra-mural activities sometimes interfere with family mealtimes, so it will be essential to have them written up where you can see it.  Or perhaps you can afford to eat out once a week or get take-aways (not recommended).  If so, you need to put that on your menu too.

What will we have for breakfast every day?
I don't plan breakfasts, but make sure that I always have cereal, meusli or oats, fruit, nuts, milk and yoghurt available.  When the children are old enough, they can see to their own breakfasts.  I have a standard shopping list, and just tick off the items I need.  I also have a note pad on the fridge to jot down items that are running low, and the family knows to add items they have used the last of.

What will we have for lunch?
If you and your hubby work away from home during the week, and children are at school, it'll help to save money if you pack lunch instead of buying it every day.  You can have a standard list of items for this too like provitas, rice cakes, ryvita, bread, butter, cheese, cold meat (not polony!), veggies like cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, baby lettuce leaves, fruit, nuts & raisins.  A bottle of water or juice is a must.  Try to buy real juice (100%) and rather dilute it with water to make it stretch.  Of course you'll need lunch boxes, juice bottles (re-use 500ml water bottles) and a lunch bag to pack it all in.  You can mix and match each day's lunch with what you have available.  If you and the children are at home for lunch like we are, then we mostly have left-overs. 
On weekends you might want to switch things around and make lunch your main meal and supper a light one of sandwiches, salads or soup. 

What about Desserts?
How often will you serve desserts to your family?  In winter we look forward to that 'something nice' after supper, but usually we only make dessert on Sundays.  Add this to your menu plan. 

Do I plan to bake something?
If your house is like ours, then you'll want to be prepared for visitors at all times.  We have a baking day - Fridays - when Sarah will bake muffins or cookies for the weekend.  If you don't have time to bake, plan to have a packet or 2 of biscuits or rusks on hand, for those unexpected guests.

Now that you have a better idea of what you'll be eating, let's put it all together shall we?

For the past few months, I have been using this free planner.


You can add your own meals by clicking on the tabs at the bottom and adding them first, so that you can select them on the first page.  Then print it out and stick it up somewhere for all to see!  No more asking 'what's for dinner?' !  Before I stick it up on the fridge, I use my standard shopping list and tick off all the ingredients I need to prepare the meals on my plan.  I also check the notepad on the fridge for any items we need. The shopping list goes in my bag, ready for shopping day.

This might seem like a really long process to go through, but believe me it'll save you lots of time and sanity!  Once you have a basic plan, it will take you less than 30 minutes a week to tweak it for next time.

Try it out and let me know how it goes.  And if you have any tips to share, please tell us about it in your comments!

Have a wonderful week!

05 October 2011

A time to bake ... with bananas!

Do you happen to have a few over-ripe bananas in your fruit bowl?  Instead of throwing them away, why not make these delicious, and healthy cookies:

3 bananas
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup raisins
1 cup fine coconut
half cup of chopped nuts or sunflower seeds
2 cups rolled oats

Preheat oven to 180C

1. Mash the bananas
2. Add rest of ingredients, adding oats last
3. Roll into golf size balls and place on greased cookie sheet
4. Flatten slightly with back of spoon
5. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

PS. I used half a packet of compressed dates, just broke them apart and softened them in the microwave with some hot water until they're mashable.

There you go - no sugar, no fat, no dairy! Can't get any better than that.  If you're trying to give your family a healthier option for snacks, I suggest you always have dates, raisins, nuts and oats in your store cupboard. You can always make something nice with those.


25 September 2011

A time to wed...

 This Saturday we attended Julia and Athol's wedding at Groenland Wine Estate.  They made a lovely couple and the setting was so beautiful and romantic, that Marlon and Carmy looked like they wanted to get married all over again!Pastor Beckett was the minister and the whole ceremony took place outdoors on a really warm and lovely Spring day.  Groenland took care of the food, tables, chairs and table settings at a VERY reasonable price.  It also made sense to have everything happen in one place: the ceremony, the reception and the photographs in the lovely garden.  The outdoor ceremony finished at around 10:30am, after which we had nice brunch indoors with a few speeches and then the photographs out in the lovely garden.  By lunchtime, everything was over and the happy couple could head off to their honeymoon.

I just loved the simplicity of this wedding, and thinking of RJ's (Ruth-Jade) wedding coming up next year, hope that she will be inspired to keep it simple too!

This is how the place settings looked.  The flowers were stunning too, and were supplied by Bunches for Africa !  Each guest was given a cute little jar of honey as a gift.

A wedding like this for 60 pp could have cost around R10k which is a really affordable option. 

20 September 2011

Winter, a season for...

A few years back, I jotted down a few thoughts about what the Seasons mean to me.  This is what I wrote about Winter:

inner reflections
rain boots
hot porridge
pumpkin pie and lemon curd
winter stockings
darkness at 6pm, light by 7am
doing morning chores in the dark
gale-force winds (and sleepless nights)
driving rain, and snow on the mountains
hot bubble baths
fleecy pyjamas and sheepskin slippers
oranges and marmalade
the smell of gas from the heater
soup and homemade bread
paw-paws for breakfast
fires and sun-downers (meaning bbq'd chicken wings) in the yard

What does Winter mean to you, and make you do differently?

A Time for Action

Maximize Your Mornings e-book
Do your mornings need a booster?  Need some time alone?  I've recently discovered this free e-book "Maximize Your Mornings" and it really inspired me to make the change I've been wanting to do for weeks!

As with all things in life, 'if you fail to plan, you plan to fail'.  This booklet helps you to plan your mornings so that you can energize yourself for the day ahead, before you wake up the children!


12 September 2011

A season to clean

Funny how we feel the urge to really  clean the house in Spring, isn't it?  I'm sure it has something to do with the growing strength of sunlight each day as our part of the world slowly turns its face towards the sun once more.  We also seem to have more energy too.

Whatever the cause, the cleaning bug has bitten us!  The best tip I can give you is FLYLADY ...  http://www.flylady.net/pages/begin_babysteps.asp

Flylady works on your attitude, to turn what seems like a chore, into a blessing.  She'll teach you how to overcome perfectionism and to tackle big projects with 15 minute baby- steps.  She even makes it fun!

I subscribe to her daily emails, and these ideas stood out for me today:

"Self discipline is remembering what you really want."  That helps me focus on what I need to do, not necessarily what I want to do.

"Feeling overwhelmed is caused by procrastinating."  This is especially true when the Spring-cleaning bug has bitten, and you suddenly want to re-decorate the entire house, including tiles!  It's all the small things that I've left undone, that make me feel overwhelmed. 

Once you subscribe, FlyLady will send you exact details on how to get started.  So do yourself a favour and pay her site a visit.

11 September 2011

A season to read

There is a window of opportunity that parents, should take full advantage of when the children are small.  Even before the age of 1, you can start to read to your child.  At that stage, just pointing to a picture and saying its name is enough (together with your happy tone of voice of course!)  Repetition is the key at this age and reading to your child should be part of a bedtime routine.  A picture Bible story book will be loved by your little ones and will also introduce them to the Bible, which is our most important book.

Even when your child can read, you should still continue to read stories aloud to them, even one chapter per night.  This could become a family tradition after supper, so switch off the television (if you own one) and spend 30 minutes together as a family, reading an exciting story together.  This is such a wonderful bonding opportunity, so don't miss it!  I remember winter nights, reading Laura Ingall's Little House on the Prairie series (there are about 6 books in all), when our youngest were 8 and 6. 

There are wonderful suggested book lists on the internet, given by age and grade level, if you don't know where to start.  I can think of one such list called '1000 good books'.  Then phone your local library to find out if they have the ones you've chosen.  Perhaps in the future, you'll be able to look this up on the internet too.  Make friends with your local library and make it an exciting outing.

So, read to your children while you can!  It's the only way they'll learn to love reading!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a mother who read to me.

~S. Gaillilan~

Seasons, and what they mean to us

Having a vegetable garden has made me acutely aware of the seasons.  These days you can buy almost any vegetable or fruit at the supermarket all-year-around, which is nice.  But how are they grown, I wonder, when I can see that tomatoes don't thrive at all in our cold, wet winters for example?  Ok, so they must be grown in hothouses or imported from elsewhere.  And how does that affect us and our digestive systems?  We know that God gave us certain foods to eat at certain times of the year, because that's when our bodies need that particular vitamin or mineral.  They're also cheaper when they're in-season!

The seasons also affect what we do daily and sometimes how we feel too. 

Then there are seasons in our lives ...  as Solomon said:  "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" Ecclesiastes 3:1. To paraphrase: there are seasons for everything in life - to be born and to die, to plant and to harvest, to kill and to nurture, to destroy and to build, to be sad and to be happy, to declutter and to replace, to encourage and to avoid, to speak and to be silent, to love and to hate, war and peace.

The seasons play a big role in our daily lives, so they are my inspiration for this blog.