Monday, 5 December 2016

Things I'm not doing this December

I love Christmas! I've been counting down to Christmas since September 16th (100 days to Christmas, just in case you didn't know)
But there's a whole lot of things I'm not doing this month.

I'm not doing an advent calendar. I looked at one of those Cadbury calendars last night. I picked four up (they're on sale at Coles!) Then I put them back. First of all - Sophie will inhale everyone's chocolate in about 3.2 seconds, then Riley will cry (he's still mad at her because she ate his last tic tac. Last Sunday.) Then Douglas will yell because Riley is crying, and Natalie will just hide in a corner with Daisy ignoring everyone. I know these kids. They're better off harrassing me for my stash of chocolate than bickering over who's calendar that is, and who ate who's chocolate (and mummy doesn't have any wine.)

I'm not doing Elf on the Shelf (or any other elves) I reached breaking point last weekend. I spent hours browsing pinterest and etsy and even ebay, trying to find elves that weren't ridiculously priced, to bring some kindness elves into our household. Riley's got some in his classroom at school - elves who bring books to class, and some special lollies, and suggest that the kids do nice things for other people. We so desperately need that. So I frantically asked Caitlin if she had some elves patterns I could borrow, she did, and I thought that was it. But then I looked at the mammoth task in front of me - make the elves, create printables (so no one recognises my writing) move them around every day, and then what? I really want my kids to be kind to each other because they like being kind to each other. I know that's a huge ask, siblings bicker, but I need to find a way to help them. So instead of kindness elves, I started family meetings.

I'm not going ahead with that street party idea I've had in my head for months. As I walk around the streets each day with Daisy, I dream of simpler times. Neighbours say hi to each other, and gather for drinks on Christmas Eve while kids play hopscotch. I've never actually lived it, and I'm not about to start this month. Sure, I can say hi to the people I see early in the morning, or late at night, but to sit out in the street, pretending to enjoy being there and chatting about things not connected to my life, no thanks!

I'm not going to any major Christmas festivities (except 1) Every year as I drive past the signs at the park, I think that maybe this is the year I'll venture out with the kids to whatever-it-is. Then I remember how cranky and hot they are when they get home from school, and how much I don't really want to pile them into cars but just sit at home sucking on icy poles and enjoy some quiet. Except the Carols by Candlelight at our school. Hosted by a local church for the last twenty years or so, we pack up a picnic dinner and head over early (so we get the best spot to watch the fireworks after), check out the market stalls, kick a ball around, and sing loudly (and maybe this year I won't be the only one singing!)

I'm not making any Christmas gifts. I love crafting and making things. And if I was better organised, I make gifts all year round. But I'm not. And I doubt I ever will be. So I'm not making handmade gifts for the kids, or for anyone else. 

But just in case it sounds as if we don't do any fun stuff in December, here's a few things we are doing.

We are having pancakes for breakfast the first day after school finishes.

We are having Santa photos taken at the shopping centre we've been going to since Chloe and I first moved to Brisbane.

We are going to sing Christmas carols (see above)

We are going to watch Christmas movies on hot afternoons

We are going to take the annual Santa hat photo of the kids

We are going to make memories

We are going to be together.

What are you not doing this December?

linking up with One Mother Hen, Denyse Whelan and All Mum Said
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Monday, 28 November 2016

Hello Monday

Hello Monday is where I share a photo from the week that was, and snippets of what's to come this week, in an attempt to change from "Mondayitis" to gratitude.

hello doubt I've been struggling the last week or so with the blogging class I'm taking. I've kept up with all the class instruction, but the actual doing of the work is slowing me up a bit. I'm doubting myself and my ability to finish the work. I'm doubting my ability to actually reach my goals. I mean, for me, they're big goals, for traffic and newsletter and creating that class that's been in the back of my head for far too long. But doing it has me a bit bewildered at the moment. And there's so much stuff going on in the background that I'm letting that noise take over everything. I guess the only thing I can really do at the moment is sit with it, and keep plodding.

hello December I see December in the spitting distance now. 27 sleeps to Christmas. Two weeks until kids finish school.Time to start madly writing lists, addressing envelopes, shopping for piles of wrapping paper, browsing pinterest for ideas you'll never create.

hello housework It's taken me a lot of years to realise that the reason I don't like housework is because it's never-ending - once you've finished, it's time to start again because they've made a mess. But that has ended us in a bis mess of sticky fingerprints on walls, and dust on skirting boards. It's amazing how clean your house looks when the skirting boards are dust-free! So over the next few weeks, I'm planning to attack those sticky fingerprints, and skirting boards, and get rid of them, at least for this month.

hello family meetings I've often tried to embrace the idea of family meeting for our family. But as I pay attention to the feeling of our family, I realise that despite the resistance of some, I need to force this idea down everyone's throats. We start this week. We're going to start with some gratitude, compliments, and hopefully an introduction of something pretty exciting. Then we're going to eat cheesecake, and play card games together. Fingers crossed I cn make it work.

hello cheap electricity bill Despite embracing our large electricity bill, it was nice this month to get a smaller one. Having half the most used appliances decide to pack it in in the same week helped, and I'll embrace my clothes dryer again, but for now I'll relish Steve not whinging this month that it's too high. In fact, because we make part payments all quarter, by next quarter we'll be ahead on the bill for a change!

hello Monday, a new start every week

linking with All Mum Said, One Mother Hen, and Denyse Wheelan
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Friday, 25 November 2016

Gingerbread Apple Pies

It's here at last! After weeks of talking about the amazingness that is gingerbread apple pies from the supermarket, I'm finally happy to share my very own homemade version with you! Believe me when I say that once you've made them, you'll be baking them for weeks to come, they're just that good!

I tried a few different recipes for gingerbread before I settled on this one. While some would say that if it's ginger, it's gingerbread, I would argue that the perfect gingerbread is dark and spicy and soft, the perfect match of flavours for apple.

Now, I have to be honest here, these process photos aren't from the final recipe that I'm sharing with you, but I completely forgot about taking photos of the final recipe, and I'm just too excited to finally share it with you to take new photos.

But I think you'll agree that it was worth the wait for the perfect recipe.

Recipe adapted from the December 2016 issue of Australian Women's Weekly

Makes 24 pies
125g butter, softened (½ cup, 1 stick)
½ cup treacle
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 ½ cups plain (all purpose) flour
1 Tbs ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
apple pie filling

* cream butter, syrup and sugar until sugar is dissolved
* add egg, and mix well
* in a separate bowl, add dry ingredients, and whisk
* add flour to butter mix, mix until blended
* refrigerate dough 1 hour
* take half of the dough, make small balls, press into base of pan with fingers
* place one teaspoon of filling in each pastry base
* taking small balls of dough, either roll or flatten with hands to make lid
* bake 180°C (360F) for 17 minutes
* CAUTION filling is hot straight from oven, allow to cool slightly

If you're not a fan of gingerbread, this fruit mince pie pastry works for apple pies, too (I need to make some for Douglas this weekend.)

Please let me know if you try this recipe, tag #gingerbreadapplepies on instagram

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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Apple pie filling

I've been talking for weeks now about gingerbread apple pies, and how determined I was to make my own version. While I dabble in sharing recipes, I'm not a food blogger, so making multiple copies of recipes and taking process photos doesn't come naturally to me. And finding the right recipe to inspire is difficult in a pinterest world of no gingerbread apple pies!

If I was going to really be inspired by the gingerbread apple pies I'd been buying at the supermarket, I knew that just cooking the apples like I do for Sweetie's Apple Pie wasn't going to work. The joy of the store-bought pies is the sweet caramely filling around the slightly crisp apple pieces, combined with the gingery bite from the gingerbread. It hasn't been an easy recipe to get right, but I think I've finally hit the nail on the head.

I often see pie filling mentioned on American blogs as a seasonal item, but we're lucky enough in Australia to have several different varieties of apples that grow all year round. I generally judge an apple by the cheapest on the shelf that day (we go through up to 4kg of apples a week!) but I've made this recipe with Gala and Pink Lady. You could mix Granny Smiths with a red skin variety if you like the mix.

As I was setting the table for photos, I had a little helper beside me. She pinched apples to munch on (and feed to her best friend), as well as grabbing an apple to peel herself. She's become quite good at peeling apples over the last few weeks! The first time I made this recipe I didn't sprinkle lemon juice on the apple, but it really does help keep them looking fresh.

Once the apple is diced and covered in lemon juice, it's time to pull out the sugar and spices. Cornflour helps thicken the syrup with changing the taste.

Dump the sugar and spices into a big saucepan, and then add the water.

A quick whisk to make sure all the ingredients are mixed, and then onto the stove on a medium heat. I played around a bit with the temperature to see how long it took, medium is best if you might get called away from the stove.

Once the mixture has thickened up and come to a boil, add the diced apple.

Stir the apples around and make sure they're all coated in syrup, then bring to a boil again. Reduce heat slightly, and allow to cook for ten minutes.

The apples are cooked when they're soft, but not mushy, and float to the top of the pan. They're still slightly crunchy, and soft around the edges, and oh so yummy!

Allow the apples to cool for at least an hour, then pour into jars, and refrigerate.

8 apples, peeled and chopped
half a lemon
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup cornflour
1tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground cloves
2 cups water

* peel and dice apples
* toss in lemon juice
* combine sugar, spice and water in saucepan
* place over medium heat and bring to boil
* add apples, stir to coat
* bring to boil and cook 10 minutes
* cool completely
* pour into jars and refrigerate
* keeps refrigerated for 5-7 days
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Monday, 21 November 2016

Hello Monday

hello bike riding weather We have a love/hate relationship with kids on bikes. They love riding, until they don't; and we enjoy helping them learn, until they reach the don't stage, then we get stressed. But it's always a fun afternoon of bicker-free time and they get some great core strength happening, too!

hello clothes dryer Our clothes dryer died the same week Steve finished with his previous employer. And while I've learned to enjoy the process of hanging the washing out each morning, not having a dryer on rainy weekends has been an absolute pain in the butt. So it was the first thing on our shopping list once we'd caught up with all the bills and shopping.

hello playdough A couple of weeks ago, I whipped up some playdough to entertain Toni's little miss and Sophie while Toni went for her GTT. It smelled like gingerbread, and the girls loved it, and when I brought it home, all the big kids loved it, too. So we're exploring the world of smelly playdough. Last week, I made glittery peppermint, and this week I'm thinking purple lavender.

hello planning I'm 3 weeks into #FinishBigStartStrong and I've completed every module. If you've been around here for any length of time, you know how rare that is. But now that I've got my head around how to set up an electronic editorial calendar, it's time to get into the nitty gritty of actually planning a year's worth of blog posts. I'm about halfway through the brainstorming process (why do bursts of inspiration happen at 4pm on Sundays?) and pretty excited about it.

hello Christmas There's only 5 Fridays left to Christmas. That's 34 days, people.

hello Monday, a new start every week.

linking up with Denyse Whelan and One Mother Hen
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