In My Kitchen, July 2014

I look forward to Johanna’s ‘In My Kitchen’ posts at Green Gourmet Giraffe.  I often have all these kitchen blog post ideas floating around but they kinda never seem to fit other posts I make (or don’t make, especially lately!). Inspired by Johanna, I thought I could put everything together in an In My Kitchen Post. The In My Kitchen series is hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

I very much enjoy stickybeaking in to other kitchens though I’m cringing a little at showing my own, because it’s a bit poxy. We are planning a renovation but no idea when it will actually happen. My house was built in 1930. The previous owners updated the cabinetry and put in a small oven-stove combo, but the food prep area is still original shoebox size and incredibly frustrating to work in. Both Husband and I have cracked our heads on the wooden mantle you see in the photo. To give you an idea of how small the kitchen is, two people can’t stand side by side at the sink.  And I took this photo from the doorway (the kitchen table is behind me). If you stretch your leg out from where I’ve taken the photo, you can almost touch the dishwasher.  You can’t see the contents of a pot on the rear stove burners clearly, unless you stick your head in the alcove.  I did this once, some oil suddenly splattered right near my eye causing me jump up and I banged my head hard. The chimney mortar also falls down so the stove gets covered with gravelly bits, so I always have to cook with lids on.

So, in my kitchen I have “charming original features” that I smack my head on often. I have a set of anodised canisters that hold dishwasher tablets, all kinds of tea bags and the ‘random stuff’ canister for things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.  I found the old coffee jars in my dad’s garage.  The red striped jars come from both my dad’s garage and op shops (thrift stores).  When I see the striped ones I can’t resist buying them. I don’t get natural light in the kitchen so I’m not that concerned about keeping stuff out on the shelves. I also love my pink whistling kettle you see on the stove.  My grandmother always had a whistling kettle when I was growing up.  I think my tea always tastes better when the water comes from a happy little whistling kettle. I like to pause when turning the flame off, because the kettle does this final little high pitched whistle and it reminds me of looking forward to that sound when I was a child in my grandma’s kitchen. DORK:

1930s kitchen

A little rearranging here, so you can see these sweet little sweet packets my sister in law bought from overseas and a little tea tin:
kitchen mantle

In my kitchen my latest addition is a cast iron frying pan (skillet).  I really do love how you can get crispy tofu without needing to use stacks of oil. The thin mental spatula is from an op shop:

cast iron pan

Thanks to Doctor Who, Arthur wanted to try fish fingers and custard.  I bought these fish fingers by Making Waves from the Cruelty Free Shop.  I never liked fish fingers at any time in my life but I thought these did the trick for a fish fingery vegan alternative. Arthur says he prefers them with tomato sauce than custard.  Somehow, I’m not surprised:

Making Waves fish fingers

Also from the Cruelty Free Shop is this delicious caramel slice. There was no label on the packet so I don’t know who makes it but it was really, really good. This is the last bit left, I ate most of it before remembering to take a photo:

caramel slice from Cruelty Free Shop

In my kitchen is the blue cheese variety of Cheezly vegan cheese.  Although I was never much of a cheese lover before I was vegan, I did enjoy a blue cheese pasta now and then.  This Cheezly has the same sharp stinky cheese kind of taste.  I’ll have to look up some non-pasta recipes so I can figure out how to use it.  I usually cut a tube of Cheezly in to thirds and freeze it:

Cheezly blue cheese

I received a packet of Twinings Chai and vanilla scented teabags as a gift.  I love chai and this Twinings flavour is quite nice:

Twinings Chai tea

In my kitchen is my trusty sandwich press.  When it comes to sandwiches toasted in a grill, I have to get the bumpy grill. No flat plates for me, I have to get the grill marks. Now and then I buy a packet of tortillas then stuff them too much and get impatient so I press the lid down and end up with tortilla guts everywhere:

exploding tortilla

In my kitchen is this jar of cashew butter I bought from Terra Madre in Northcote.  I know I can make my own but sometimes it’s just easier to have someone else do it for me:

 Terra Madre cashew butter

In my mum’s kitchen is this tomato kasundi my sister brought. It was pretty good and although I was just using it as a dip, I think it would be really nice mixed through chickpea and lentil dishes:

tomatokasundi

In my kitchen is (was… I ate it all) this cashew cheese, made following a recipe given to me by Cate from Green Renters.  The recipe calls for miso and apple cider vinegar which I forgot to put in and I had doubled the amount of nutritional (savoury) yeast.  It was fantastic:

vegancashewcheese

I had planned on including a few more food items but realised I’ve already mentioned them on the blog before. And thanks to this post, I’ve realised I really should clean my oven door…

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Autumn food and decorating

mantel1

Ah, felted wool.  I know nothing about crafts this-and-that and think people who sew those stuffed fabric owl door stoppers are geniuses.  I never knew of this felted wool stuff. Actually, I knew about felting but in my case it was more of an accident with woolens in the washing machine.  I just didn’t know there was a name for it. Or that people do it on purpose.

Savers had a half price sale on clothing a while back, so I picked up a few old pure wool jumpers (sweaters) to make some felted wool.  The jumpers weren’t in great condition and were quite cheap. I followed advice from a few felt-your-wool websites.  Step 1 was to put the wool garments in an old pillow case along with an old towel (for agitation), then tie up the pillowcase and throw it in to a hot wash with your regular washing.   The pillowcase is to stop the wool fibre bits from getting on your other washing and clogging up your machine:

feltingpillowcase1

My Step 1 disaster: my old pillowcase was certainly old.  Old enough for the jumper to dig a hole and escape:

feltingpillowcase2

My second Step 1 disaster: NOBODY SAID YOUR OTHER WASHING WOULD STINK OF WET DOG.  ‘They’ said the pillowcase could go in the wash with your other items. I had to wash that load all over again, then hang it outside overnight to get the smell out.

I put the pillowcase, with the big hole secured, in to the dryer on the hottest setting.  I didn’t let it dry completely, instead I took it out and spread the jumpers out to finish drying flat.  I read on one site that this helps you get a flatter finish.  I have no idea.  They did shrink considerably.

Other sites said that if you can still see the stitching being a bit stretchy, you should run it through the washing machine and dryer again.  So I did it a second time but this time with a better pillowcase, and I added a bit of washing powder (some sites use the powder in the pillowcase, others don’t):

wooljumpers

Okay, that’s the prep work out the way.  Wool garments with smaller stitching are apparently better than the sorts of jumpers I bought.

I decided to make some stuffed hearts from the felted wool.  I love autumn so the hearts seemed fitting! I used tapestry thread to stitch around the edges:

woolstuffedheart

I recently bought some fabric squares from Spotlight that were something like three for the price of two.  I went straight for the autumn colours:

autumnfabric

With this autumn fabric I made smaller stuffed hearts, this time with a sewing machine, right sides together then turned out and stuffed– the wool hearts were a bit too thick for this.  Because I am such a hack with this stuff, I didn’t realise that when I stitched up the holes, the shape of the heart top would change to look like a chunk had been cut off.  I sewed a ribbon loop on to the wool hearts and added a button (taken from one of the woolen garments) at the front for extra cuteness. I sewed the heart buttons on the fabric hearts before realising I’d forgotten to attach the ribbon loop.  So I just got some tapestry thread and threaded the fabric hearts on to it.  If you don’t get too close, it looks fine:

autumnhearts

I also made some tealight candle holders.  I had three old glasses and decided to glue twigs around them.  This involved gathering lots of twigs, cutting them to size with pruning shears and hot gluing them all around. ZOMG you guys, hot glue guns are the BOMB.  Seriously, it’s like the less daggy version of the Bedazzler. Anyway, due to my extreme impatience and superhuman ability to get bored really fast, I stopped at one twig-covered glass and decorated the other two glasses differently with, shall we say, the goal of not spending more than five minutes on them:

candleholders

Back to more felted wool.  I bought a bunch of 2cm and 1cm felted wool balls on eBay.  I had a collection of acorn caps from our local park, though finding the teeny caps (on the ground of course!) was a little challenging.  I had to roll the larger sized wool balls hard to make them oval shaped and make a better fit for the caps.  The little 1cm felt balls were a great size for the small acorn caps. Then I grabbed some fallen branches from our garden, unholstered my hot glue gun and went to town:

feltacorns

acorntree1

I stuck the branches in a jug.  Leave a comment if you know where this jug comes from, they seem to be everywhere:

acorntree2

I picked some vines off our tree, tied them in a wreath shape and hung them on the front door then promptly took a photo.  Except now, days later, they’re all limp and embarrassed looking:

doorwreath

I looked up how to decorate with leaves but not have them go all dry and stuff.  I marvelled at web pages where people dipped leaves in wax then used them to decorate.  Genius!  I bought a soy wax that I thought gave off the impression that it would dry clear with no milkiness (I didn’t want beeswax). I melted the soy wax in an old pan over simmering water, dipped some grapevine leaves in the wax and let them dry on a sheet of baking paper.  I was most annoyed to see they dried with white blobs of wax everywhere.  Oh well, live and learn.  Hopefully people won’t see the white bits unless they’re right up close…

waxedleaves1

waxedleaves2

 

Autumn is also a time for those cold weather comfort foods.  I made the Pumpkin Pie Bites from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. The filling was great and I’d use it as a pie filling, but the base got way overcooked (the filling was not cooking in synch with the base so I had to leave it in the oven) and was very dry as a result. I wouldn’t blame the recipe, because the substitute gluten free flour I used was buckwheat (with more liquid added).  Perhaps I didn’t add enough liquid because it was still dry over the next couple of days.  I’d make this again though:

pumpkinpiebites

I made these tasty Sweet Potato Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins from Ricki Heller‘s fab book Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free:

minichocsweetpotatomuffins

I cook up a big batch of pumpkin and add it to Arthur’s smoothies along with spinach, broccoli and banana.  He won’t eat veggies so I stick them in his smoothies.  I also leave enough to add to my own meals.  Here I used some pumpkin in place of noodles with a lemongrass-garlic-ginger-chilli tofu dish I made:

lemongrasstofu

I really love the idea of decorating my home according to the seasons.  I drool over North American blogs, where people decorate for autumn with all those gorgeous colours.  The problem is I have zero skill or patience for it. But I WANT IT.  I even want all that white Christmas stuff in winter.  I tell myself who says Christmas has to be in stinky-hot December?

Okay, I’m off to look up more autumny recipes.  I can’t think of anything my family would eat apart from sweet stuff like pumpkin pie.  I’m loving the look of these sweet potato and kale balls. They might do the trick!

 

… aaaaaand I just noticed that in the photo below, I forgot to hang up one of the wool hearts.  Not only that, but the whole thing fell down right after I took the photo.  And you can see the milky-dried wax from a distance.  And I should consider using a tripod.

autumnmantlepiece

The No-Resolutions New Years Resolutions

In recent years, I’ve given up on creating a new years resolutions list.  Mostly because, you know, I never followed them.  I think “lose weight” has been a resolution since about 1990.  For 2014 though, there are some more mental health related resolutions I’d like to make and stick to, more to help me stress less!  They are:

Meal Planning

Oh boy, is this a biggie.  When I meal plan, I swear everything is just about stress free with the added bonus of everyone eating healthy meals.  In the past I’ve planned for a month at a time which really did work well but I think I’ll stick to weekly as we often have some last minute interruptions to plans.  The meal planning definitely makes me stress less!  I use the meal planner pad from Kikki K:

kikki k meal planner pad

No More News

Technically this is something I’ve done for about six months now, but I no longer watch or read news.  I found it was triggering periods where I’d feel really blah, particularly when the stories involved children or animals being hurt in some way, or some kind of injustice.  The final straw came when I read an article that upset me so much that Husband and I decided to configure our server firewall to disallow my computer access the news sites.  I don’t care about celebrity news and if there’s something major I should know about, I’ll no doubt find out pretty quickly from Husband or a family member.  And I can always check out the positive/good news sites!

 

Heavily Reduced Social Media and General Computer Distractions and Especially Never-Read-The-Comments

I’m not big on social media at all.  It makes me feel very anti social, but I’ve always been a rebel like that.  I have a Facebook account I forget to log in to these days, though I used to be quite active on it earlier in the year.  I found that when I’d meet new people at an event, everyone started friending each other.  So I felt obligated to do the same (which leads me to the next resolution of assertiveness, ha ha…) even though I didn’t know these people and I only wanted close friends and family on my fb.  And then these people would start posting links to articles or comments that I really disagree with and in some cases found personally offensive, particularly when it referred to matters my family deals with.  I found that these comments, images and whatnot really spoilt my mood and all by people I don’t consider buddies.  So I nuked just about everyone and stripped it right back (though like I said now, I barely use it and prefer email!).  I have also started cutting way down on my google+ hangouts.  The hangouts are great but even with notifications turned off, I was still checking them far too often.  If I know something is there, turning off notifications doesn’t stop me from checking!  I’ve now removed myself from most of the hangouts and have kept family hangouts to a minimum (which are very low traffic anyway) and only one social event hangout.  Already it feels so much better.

I’m not in to playing games on my computer or phone.  I got as far as installing Angry Birds and quickly got bored with it so uninstalled it, so I’m thankful for that at least!  But I am very easily distracted by computer stuff.  A typical example would be I am doing something else (like housework) then stop to look up say, a recipe.  While I’m looking up recipes, I might also refresh my blog reader.  Oh look, six new blog posts to read!  I’ll do that quickly.  Each of those blog posts contain links.  I read the links.  My email pings.  I check my email, google some information, reply.  I check hangouts while I’m at the computer.  There’s a discussion going on, I contribute to it… etc.  And before I know it, something that should have taken five minutes at most has ballooned out past one hour.

Cutting down on this stuff helps too.  I will be turning off all notification sounds, closing the door to the study, putting the phones on silent– this usually happens when I’m doing school stuff with the kids but if a friend or relative calls, I tend to answer it. I’m a worrywart like that, the last time I ignored the phone when it rang three times in fifteen minutes was someone calling to tell me a relative had passed away.  If family are trying to contact us urgently, they now have other ways.

I found that when I wasn’t getting my stuff done because I ran out of time, it would usually always be a time management issue where I pretty much wasted time!  Now, I’d rather make myself a cup of tea and settle down to do non-essential computer stuff.

Also, I will try harder to Never Read The Comments.  Mostly because if it’s an article about something like veganism or homeschooling, many of the comments are either trolling, or genuine (in which case I get fired up).  Remember folks, Never Read The Comments!

Happy Grover!

Assertiveness

I like to imagine I’m confidently assertive but truthfully,I’m just a big old wuss who hates confrontation. I think I’m more assertive-after-the-fact.  Like when I get really bad customer service somewhere and I’m too stunned to say anything because my brain is saying “did I just hear that no I must be wrong surely someone wouldn’t be that rude” sort of stuff.  And five minutes later, when it’s often to late to say anything, I am fired up and figure out then what I should have said earlier.  Whenever I have been assertive, it has ended badly.  There have been times when I’ve had to stick up for myself and my family and no matter how polite or diplomatic I am, some people take it very badly or react in a fashion where I end up being public enemy number one over things like “you have the flu right now I know, but would you mind not kissing my baby while you’re sick?  It’s just that I don’t want to risk him getting sick I’M SO SORRY DON’T HATE MEEEEE”.  As a homeschooler and a vegan, I’ve had plenty of sillybilly comments made to me and most of the time it’s smile-change-the-subject.  I am practicing feeling comfortable with saying “we find that homeschooling is the perfect fit for our family and has worked really well” and repeating it with a slightly firmer yet still polite tone if the comments keep coming.  Ditto for being assertive where veganism is concerned! I usually answer “check out vegan body building” when people ask the protein question.  So yep.  Assertiveness is something I will try to be mindful of now.

Anne and Gilbert

Exercise is another one that is always on the list.  Since I stopped going to the gym regularly, I must admit there has been a definite change in my body and mood, and not for the better!  I do have the stuff at  home to continue being active but the truth is I’m lazy.  So I’m planning out some family fitness activities utilising the park and playground up the road.

Life. Be In It logo

More Raw and Green Juice!

I’ve said it here before (and here I am saying it again) that overall I feel so much better when my diet consists mainly of wholefoods, often raw.  I’ve slacked off on the green juices/smoothies but I’m back with a vengeance now.  The family have a cack-coloured juice every day which is the green plus carrot.  I sleep better, I look better, I feel better!

They’re really the main issues I want to tackle in the new year and hopefully they’ll set the tone for the rest of the year.  With other things, well, sure I’d like to stick to my organisation systems but I prefer not to sweat it when things don’t go according to plan.  Life never goes according to plan!

So here’s to more realistic and mental-health positive goals for 2014!

Our Learning Spaces (well, some of it!)

We have a room that is set up for all the homeschooley stuff.  We call it the sunroom, because that’s what you often call a room with big windows that gets a lot of sun, right?  Or it’s called the sumroom, in a lame reference to schoolwork. Although I’ve named my photos ‘learning room’, I don’t really call it that either because learning is done everywhere, both indoors and out!  Most of the time, Arthur and DeeW are wherever Husband or I happen to be and a lot of stuff gets done at the kitchen table.  I haven’t snapped a photo of that learning space, because right now it’s covered with non-kitchen table stuff: My Little Ponies, two little sewing baskets, heaps of books, board shorts, a t-shirt, Christmas decorations, my hat, my sunglasses, a basket, the radio and a couple of fruit bowls which are the only kitchen-tabley things there.

Okay, so I’ve been busy setting up the homeschool/sunroom and cleaning so I thought I’d get some photos while it’s all looking mostly nice.  Except for all those cables lying around, urgh.  I haven’t finished setting up because I’m still deciding what posters to put up on the walls. I don’t like bare walls, but I don’t like posters that are too high above a child’s eye level.  For Arthur it’s not much of a problem seeing as he’s nearly as tall as I am (he’s 151cm (about 5ft.), I’m about 164cm and he is nine years old.  My mum is 5’1″ and Arthur wears the same shoe size as her, so when mum is buying him a pair of shoes she tries them on for fit.  Handy!)  But for DeeW, I don’t want her to have to look up too high.

Before I begin my little tour, please let me stress that this is *not* what a homeschooler needs to do!  Some people have larger learning spaces that look like a classroom, others have none whatsoever.  It really doesn’t matter in my opinion, because as I said, learning happens everywhere, for all of us.  Arthur has zoomed through his maths work sitting in bed late at night. Or he’ll be in the lounge room building something.  DeeW is often at the kitchen table or sitting on the playroom floor. But I wanted one central room where I could store everything, especially our books.  And although we have this somewhat dedicated space, I still have other maths and literacy resources strewn around the other rooms so the kids don’t have to go to the sunroom all the time to get games and whatnot.

Tour time!  As you walk towards the back of our home, this is what you see:

learning room

I love these book racks.  I fill them with books on things we’re currently studying (both our own books and library books).  I haven’t finished setting up yet.  I just move the rack on to the floor when we need the posters 😉

learning room

I use up every available bit of wall.  I can’t help it, I love posters:

learning room

Main view.  Ignore messy computer cables:

learningroom1

View from the other side.  I really need to fancy up those bare walls.  And mow my lawn:

learning room
I have a little table suited to DeeW’s size, and a small table from a church to act as a writing station:

learning room

All our reference/non fiction books are in these white folders that I bought from Ikea.  They’re $2.99 for a five pack according to the website.  I had to cut them a bit to fit in the shelves (two Ikea ‘Billy’ shelves my sister didn’t need anymore) and I printed up labels for the fronts:

learningroom5

learningroom15

I’ve set up our geography centre by the back door:

learning room

learningroom6

learningroom7

Not even the back door is spared:

learningroom17

We have Montessori puzzle maps I bought years ago.  These are the cheapy imitation ones, not the million dollar baby ones made by official Montessori suppliers:
learningroom11

We use the Workbox System, though I’ve made some modifications.  Arthur’s boxes are numbered 1 through 8 and DeeW has the bottom four.  The large white tub on the floor is called the finish box.  Their work gets divided up and sorted in to their workboxes (the numbered boxes).  When box 1 is complete, they put their completed work in the finish box and the empty tubs are stacked up.  This way, they get to see how much work they have done and how much they have to go.  We found this was a good motivator for Arthur when he was younger:
learningroom13

Some maths stuff:

learningroom14

All the texts and notebooks we will use all the time get put in these baskets so they’re always easy for us to access:
learningroom16

And that’s it for the Sumroom!  Now I should get on to cleaning the rest of the house, post-Christmas.

Are you a homeschooler?  Please say hi in the comments and leave a link to any learning space photos you have!  I’m such a sticky beak when it comes to seeing other learning spaces 😀

Home organisation: my ‘Home’ folder

Are you obsessed with organisation?  And stationery?  And those before-and-after websites which show scary amounts of clutter that magically get transformed in to fully functional organised beauty?  I love that stuff but I often find it difficult to stay on top of things myself and eventually, my house gets cluttered, organisation systems are forgotten and then I start the whole decluttering/organisation cycle again.

I always had a bit of a problem with keeping things in a given place.  Because I have so many drawers around the house, stuff was everywhere.  I’d run around at the last minute trying to find vouchers and loyalty cards (I don’t like keeping them in my purse as they bulk it up too much), or prescriptions for medicine, or the printout of the Lego club a friend told me about.  In other words, a big fat disorganised mess.  OUCH.

headachealice

I got the idea for a ‘home folder/binder’ from different homeschool and organisation blogs around the www though I will give credit to By Sun and Candlelight as this is where I first got the idea.  Basically it’s a folder where you keep stuff related to the running of your home.  Sure, you don’t need to have this kind of stuff to ‘run’ your home but if you hate running around looking for stuff like I do, then the home folder may be your friend.  I love this folder. I want to tell all my friends!

alicephone

My home folder is a plain white binder with the clear plastic covering where you can slide paper inside, as I have done here with cutesy green scrapbooking paper and ye olde kitschy lettering.  Who goes there!

homebinder

This is how I divide up my home folder:

Health:  each member of the family has a plastic pocket that holds anything medical related like prescriptions, test results, referrals etc.

House Keeping: this is named in honour of Alice. Here I include various jobs I’ve jotted down on index cards that relate to things that have to be done around the house.  It’s handy to pull out these cards and know which jobs have to be done.  I do not use these index cards as often as I should.  I do not use these index cards at all actually.  Next year I will! *cough*

Meals: printouts of recipes I use often, with notes of any modifications.

Vouchers & Cards: any freebie/discount vouchers as well as loyalty cards.

Fun Stuff: printouts of places or events I’ve heard about or want to visit with the family.

Home & Car: I keep a running list here of things we need to buy that are not really grocery shopping list items.  Things like “new rug for the study” or “2x summer pyjamas for Arthur”.  Basically things that come to mind when I realise something like Arthur and DeeW are in need of summer sandals because their feet have grown so much.  In this section I also have a master to-do list for the house and car, like “replace broken lead lighting in front door” or… “wash car”. Oh and I keep business cards and loyalty cards for stuff related to car and home maintenance and use.

Special Occasions: this is where I keep info and printouts of things like Christmas recipes, cool looking birthday decorations and so on.  I also keep lists in here where I write down things like gift ideas or a list of handmade goodies I will give out for Christmas presents (with notes on recipes I have tested).

Having all this stuff in the one place is super helpful.  No more searching through fifty thousand drawers and cute storage tins for the one loyalty card I’m searching for!  No more losing prescriptions or making another doctors appointment to replace said lost prescription!  No more googling for my hairdresser, writing the number down on a scrap of paper, losing it, googling it again, losing it again…

janwig

Those days are GONE!  Some may say I’ve been brainwashed by the whole home/house organisation folder thing.  And okay, that may be true. But honestly, information is now so much easier to find when it’s all in the one folder.  It’s so handy being able to reach out from where I’m sitting now and grab the folder from my desk top file rack to look something up.  In the old days I’d search through all the drawers or try and think like Husband and work out where he may have put a particular piece of paper. None of that nonsense anymore!

trancecindy

Look in to my eyes.