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:

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

learning room

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Not even the back door is spared:

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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:

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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.

What I Ate (and got rid of, including food disasters) This Past Week or So

This past fortnight has been decluttering time.  About once a year I do one of those big declutters and my front hallway is filled with boxes of stuff to get rid of.  Then over the year I seem to accumulate enough stuff so that the process is repeated again twelve months later.  And I always say WHERE? HOW? WHY DO WE ACCUMULATE SO.MUCH.STUFF???

I’ve been reading some home organisation books and websites to get inspiration.  I honestly can not sit down to do work, or meal plan, or even craft activities with the kids if I don’t have a large cleared table or surface to work on.  If the kids are trying to do schoolwork, stuff around them distracts them.  I find it very distracting too. I’ve also been reading about minimalist homes and take my hat off to people who do it and do it well.  But I’m guilty of liking stuff too much and I have lots of little knick knack dust gatherers that I’d never part with.

Anyway, I’ve been ruthless with getting rid of stuff and here’s the list of what has been given away, donated, eBayed or binned:

– a drawer’s worth of kitchen utensils.  Goodbye, silicon pancake shaper thingies in the shape of a circle and a star.  Goodbye wooden ginger grater that I never used.  Goodbye metal template thingies that sit over a mug of hot chocolate so you can create pretty shapes with sprinklings of cocoa.  Goodbye metallic contraption where I don’t even know what the heck you were.

– slow cooker.  I barely used it before I was vegan.  Now it’s not worth keeping as nobody eats the vegan stuff I’d cook in it! My sister in law will be getting this one 🙂

– a big box of about 30 plastic coathangers.  I use those velvetty/felt lined thin coathangers that take up less space in the wardrobe.  They do make a bit of a difference.

– nappies and assorted baby items.  These are going to my niece.

– lots of Arthur’s clothing and shoes that no longer fit him, or that he just never wore.  I give things like this to St. Kilda Mums.  They’re a great organisation, please consider giving them your unwanted baby/kids goods!  Please also consider casting your vote for St Kilda Mums to help them win $5000 that will be put towards providing essential items for babies and children experiencing hardship, so they have a safe, warm place to sleep: http://sunsuperdreams.com.au/dream/view/providing-a-safe-place-to-sleep

– food serving stuff.  A melamine food container I never used that just took up space and a metal platter that has always been a pain to store.  A faux silver serving dish engraved with “thanks for your work”– it was a gift to my sister when she finished her two week year 10 work experience at a pharmacy.  She passed it on to me and now it’s time to go.  But as I type I feel like keeping it.

– mini food chopper: Used once.  I use a knife or food processor most of the time so this has been given to my sister.

– clothing.  Lots of stuff I no longer wear is heading to the op shop or Fitted For Work, another charity I recommend you consider if you have work/business attire to get rid of.

– shoes.  A few pairs that seemed like a good idea when I bought them but highly uncomfortable after wearing them for ten minutes.

– books. On their way to the op shops.

– paper stuff.  I went through the drawer where I throw in warranties and instruction manuals.  I found manuals for electricals I got rid of ages ago.  I found the manual for the microwave and now know how to use the power level setting instead of randomly punching numbers and hoping I get the sequence right.

In addition to physical clutter, I’ve also tried to cut down on the mental clutter.  For such a long time now I’ve toyed with the idea of no longer reading the news.  All it takes is for me to see an article, or even a headline, that then causes me to feel upset/depressed/sick– things relating to children (particularly those with special needs) or animals being hurt is enough to kill my mood, cause trouble sleeping and all sorts of other stressful stuff.  I’m very sensitive to all that.  A couple of weeks ago I read one such article that affected me so badly that we changed the configuration of our internet servers to block my access to the popular news sites (I never watch tv news or listen to the radio much so that wasn’t a problem).  I found that all the bad news I was reading really began to take its toll.  I also unsubscribed from various online services and Facebook pages to reduce the mental clutter and stress triggers even more.  Do I really need to be subscribed to a dozen recipe services when I barely read them?  Nope!  I always wanted to stay on top of world news and current affairs, but when so much of that is just bad news, I’m happy to skip it.  I figure I’ll find out about things anyway but at least I won’t load up news sites and be confronted with distressing images or headlines first thing in the morning.

Okay, so here’s a look at what I’ve been eating this fortnight or so.  Oh my gosh you guys, lots of disasters.  And I swear I don’t eat crap all the time.  I’ve been pretty sick with a bad cold so my appetite wasn’t the best.  In an effort to start using up food supplies instead of shopping for more, I made the ‘Chesapeake Crab Cakes’ from Vegan Brunch.  There was vegan mayo in the fridge that had to be consumed soon as well as tempeh that had been in the freezer for too long.  I used half the tempeh called for and subbed the rest with chickpeas.  The kids didn’t like the cakes at all and I don’t think I’d ever make them for myself.  I still can’t bring myself to like tempeh enough to buy it again and I don’t like mayo in such quantities:

crabcakes

For Mothers Day, I received some items from Vege2Go on Lygon Street in Brunswick.  I got the pear and blueberry quinoa breakfast.  This was okay as I’m not crazy about quinoa and only eat it because it’s a good source of plant protein (remember folks, you absolutely do not need to eat animals for protein, you can get more than enough from plants.  I believe Harvard and Cornell U will tell you so).  The sweetness was just right in that it wasn’t too sweet at all.  If you love quinoa I’m sure you’ll like this.  I served mine with some stewed plums made by my mother in law, with plums from her tree:

quinoaplums

I also received Vege2go’s hazelnut tiramisu.  On first tasting, I thought hmmm there’s something about this that makes me think it should not be called tiramisu.  A couple of bites in and I was really enjoying it.  It was hard work not eating it all in one sitting:

vege2gotiramisu

The Vege2go coconut lemon slice was an absolute winner.  I love anything that has lemon and coconut in it.  I really hope I find a recipe for something like this because it would absolutely win over the people who don’t believe desserts can be made without egg or dairy:

vege2golemoncoconutslice

Finally, I received the Vege2go lasagna.  This was nice too but I could easily make one similar myself.  Still, it was nice to have a few meals out of this for myself without having to cook anything.  Note the microwave splatter pattern:

vege2golasagna

The family wanted pizza one night so I asked the local place if they could make a vegan pizza.  They did, but it was pretty bland:

veganpizza

For Mothers Day, I treated myself to a movie (Star Trek: Into Darkness).  I have not been to the cinema in years (I’m not including taking Arthur to see The Croods, I’m talking about films I want to see).  Beforehand, I killed some time eating this from Little India, located in the food court at the Crown complex. Little India is in a few food courts around town, I blogged about another Little India outlet here:

littleindialunch

While I was sick I felt like eating something hot and spicy so I made Black Pepper Tofu that I’ve blogged about before and ate it with rice:

blackpeppertofu

For one late breakfast I had the leftovers from Magic Mint:

magicmintleftovers

I visited the lovely Cafe Sarabella again and came away with a vegan laksa and rice:

laksarice

I tried the Jerk Chickpeas from Dreena Burton’s ‘Let Them Eat Vegan’.  The kids and husband, as expected, didn’t like them but they never eat chickpeas.  I thought they were okay, although allspice is one of those things I’m really on the fence about:

jerkchickpeas

I decided I would try to make my own corn tortillas.  I found the packet of maize flour that has been sitting in the cupboard for a year and the best before date was two days ago.  Now this will tell you what a hack I am.  I have a metal tortilla press I bought months ago but haven’t used yet.  I thought you put the tortilla dough in it, squash it down and have the whole thing sitting on the stove over a flame.  Thank goodness I used the recipe from ‘Vegan Eats World’ where Terri mentions using plastic wrap.  And I thought oh… that must mean the tortilla press is not supposed to get hot.  NO VEGANOPOULOUS. NO.  It’s just a tortilla press.  Anyway, I made up the mixture and did this:

tortilla1

Step 2.  Give it a squish, open, and let out an expletive. More photography for blog:

tortilla2

Fry it anyway, just to see what it tastes like:

tortilla3

… and realise it tastes disgusting.  Go to google, type in “is maize flour the same as masa harina” then read lots of comments saying  NO THEY’RE NOT.  Throw dough in the bin.

Here’s a picture of DeeW’s dinner.  Macro brand curry corn pumpkin puffs (she doesn’t like them, Arthur does) and vegies (she likes them, Arthur doesn’t):

deewdinner

After ballet class, Husband sometimes takes DeeW to buy some avocado maki hand rolls.  They picked up a couple for me.  They’re not very fresh looking:

avocadomaki

I made blueberry breakfast muffins with buckwheat flour I ground myself (in the blender of course).  They weren’t very sweet which is fine with me but Arthur wasn’t that thrilled:

blueberrybuckwheat

I found a vegan mushroom pie in the freezer.  It was okay but I don’t really like to eat stuff like this.  Even as an omni I was never in to the meat pie thing.  There’s a reason why meat pies are called ‘gristle ‘n gravy’.  I’m so glad that being vegan means I will no longer have to bite in to something hard in a meat pie and wonder which bit of the animal it is:

veganmushroompie

Another disaster.  I made the lovely Mac-Oh-Geez recipe from one of Dreena Burton’s fantastic books.  Everything went great until I tasted it.  And realised the rice milk I used was obviously the sweetened variety.  The kids said it was awful and I agreed.  Sorry Dreena, next time I will read the plant milk carton and use the unsweetened variety like your recipes states.  I’m certain it is a fantastic recipe with the right milk:

pastabake

I love roasted hazelnuts and lately my breakfast has been a smoothie made with frozen bananas, cacao, plant milk and hazelnuts:

chochazelnut


I went in to the city as well during the week. Here are some photos taken around the Flagstaff area in Melbourne, where you’ll find the law courts and the lovely Flagstaff Gardens:

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city1

This is the lobby of the Hellenic Museum:

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One of the old trams in Melbourne:

oldtram

No, this isn’t the wild Australian bush.  It’s in the eastern suburbs somewhere:
eastbush

This week I am going to try and create menu plans based on what I already have.  I just read a post over at Happy Herbivore where a reader says she made every recipe from Happy Herbivore Abroad and that her family were all on board.  I suppose I shouldn’t have a defeatist mindset but I really don’t think my family would go along with something like that.  Both kids and Husband have food related sensitivities, as I’ve mentioned before, that qualify them as very fussy eaters.  This is really difficult for me sometimes, as I can rarely cook one meal that everyone will eat.  Naturally, we all agree on dessert but in terms of nutritious meals, it’s incredibly challenging and I’m often struggling to keep my head above water there.  It’s crazy, having to cook separate meals.  So I’m constantly having to try different recipes in the hopes both kids will like them.  If I can get both Arthur and DeeW to like the same meal, that’s a big problem solved right there.  With Husband, at least he can eat the same thing for days in a row so if I make something he likes, or he makes something himself, that problem is solved.

Well, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  I may never have a table setting like this, where I serve up vegies in lovely serving dishes and the kids argue over who gets the leafy greens first:

family-dinner

but I’m trying lots of different recipes and I’m sure I’ll find more the kids like.  Tomorrow’s plan is chickpea flour pikelets with vegies– the ingredients are chickpea (besan) flour, water, seasonings and whatever grated veg I can come up with.  On the plus side, the kids are willing to try more stuff!

Meal Planning

Do you meal plan?  When I do, we eat really well nutrients-wise.  Everything is organised, I have veggies prepared a day in advance and leftovers are put to good use.  When I don’t meal plan, we don’t eat as well and I’m always running around frazzled wondering what to cook.

My most ambitious meal planning effort saw me plan for the month ahead.  People thought I was nuts but I love organisation systems like this.  In terms of eating and food preparation, that was an excellent month.

So today I’ve started meal planning again.  In the past I printed out my own 7 day meal planning sheet.  Now I have the meal planning pad from Kikki.K.  I thought if I spent money on something I’d be more inclined to use it (image belongs to Kikki.K and is taken from their site, click on the image to get to the product page):

kikkik meal planner pad

As well as taking in to consideration what the family like, I also check out the 7 day weather forecast.  For instance, today will be 35C (95F) so the oven won’t be going on.  I made a batch of sausage rolls yesterday and they will be tonight’s dinner.  Wednesday will be 22C (71.6F) so much better suited to using the oven.

I also take in to account how much effort a meal will require.  Do I have to stand at the stove stirring something often?  Does anything require an overnight soaking?  And so on and so on.  Having a meal plan really does help the “what am I going to cook?” stress levels.  I like to sit down with a cookbook or two and choose a couple of meals or snacks, so I can just keep those books on my recipe stand and be ready to go for the week.

Okay, I better put this week’s meal plan together seeing as it’s Monday morning.  I was supposed to have it done last night but I fell asleep early.  So breakfast for everyone was again slightly frantic.  Even having fruit cut up and prepared, or ingredients ready to go, can help when you are surrounded by “what’s for breakfast I’m hungrryyyyyyyy” voices that kind of go on and on.

Have a great Monday!

"Tsssss!"

“Tsssss!”