Saturday, January 7, 2012

Holiday Cooking Fun with the Kiddos - shortbread biscuits with passionfruit icing

During my Summer cleaning rounds, I re-discovered a giant container filled with cookie cutters that I hadn't used.  I have a feeling my husband purchased them from Aldi many years ago because they looked great.  And they do!  So I put them in a basket and whipped up a batch of simple shortbread.

 A rather large assortment of cookie cutters

 The trouble is choosing which cutters to use

 Rolling out the shortbread

 More rolling.  Easier to roll if you put the dough between layers of baking paper, as it is a really soft dough.

 Baked!  They smelled delicious.  I think half the dough got eaten raw!

Decorated with passionfruit icing.  Phil came home and devoured the teddy bears :D

The recipe is:-

250 grams butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups plain flour

  1. Beat butter, vanilla essence and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Stir in sifted flour, mix to a soft dough.
  3. Roll out, cut out shapes etc.  Bake biscuits in moderate oven for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on trays
  4. Decorate with passionfruit icing
My recipe for passionfruit icing is really easy.  Just passionfruit pulp with icing sugar.  Throw the pulp in the mix master and keep adding icing sugar until it looks like stiff egg whites.  Then it won't drip off the biscuits. Use it up quickly because it will set. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Household Organisation

I like to be organised. I need to be organised or my family life completely falls apart, and I get grumpy! I have some helpful charts and noticeboards around our house to help me in keeping my family somewhat organised and informed of what's going on.  It really does make life a whole lot easier.

 Our fornightly meal planner.  I usually try and fill it out, because when I do it is much easier.  I had to put a disclaimer on the bottom because I have a somewhat fanatical son who got 'put out' when I changed my mind at the last minute. We had sandwiches on Tuesday night instead of pizza, and said son has been hounding me since, because he loves pizza.  Home made pizza, of course!  We had been meal planning for a few years now.

 My family calendar.  All our events go on here.  It runs for three months.  I left December up so I could take this photo, so you can see what goes on it, and how it gets crossed off.  It is a giant sheet of cardboard that has had a calendar drawn up on it, then covered with contact.  I use whiteboard markers to write on it, then eucalyptus oil to remove the writing.  It's nothing fancy, but it definitely does the trick!

 My birthday and anniversary 'chart' that my Mother-in-Law made for me.  I LOVE it!  It has little wooden hearts that I had to 'decorate' and write everyone's name and date of birth on.  The red heart in December is my wedding anniversary :D

 A whiteboard outside my daughter's room that has the children's daily school events listed.  It helps remind them when they need to wear their sports uniform or take their library bag to school.  It helps jog my memory too ;D

A noticeboard on the opposite wall of the whiteboard where I keep the children's excursion notes, textbook fees and anything else I get important from school.  After I diarise whatever needs to go on my giant calendar, it gets stuck up on this board so it doesn't get lost.  It keeps all those notes off my kitchen bench too!

What organisational aids do you have in your home?  Perhaps you have something that you think might only be little, that might be life changing for someone else.  Feel free to share :D

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sunrise in Port Macquarie

 5:40am, a few minutes prior to sunrise

 Would this make a good spot to view the sunrise?  Nope, a little further along the beach...

 And then it started to rain.  Oh no!

 So we headed up to the Lighthouse.  In this photo you can see how choppy the waves are and the remains of Cyclone Grant on the horizon.

 More choppy wave views.  My husband informed me that the ocean is usually calm at sunrise, and that the choppy waves were a result of the Cyclone.  Mother Nature likes to stir things up and remind us of how insignificant we are!

 A feathered friend was interested in our car.  We thought we wouldn't be able to see the sunrise due to the cloud cover, but we started to see something interesting in the sky about this point.

 Hello Sun! (just before something weird happened to my camera :( )

 Camera sorted itself out after about 30 seconds.  Was that caused by a solar flare?  Who knows.  More of the sun!

My favourite picture of the morning.

...and then the sun seemed to rise above the clouds and disappeared for a few hours.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

5 January 2012 Spring Cleaning Continued minus the vacuum cleaner :(

Continuing with my Summer cleaning, I'm finding it's easier to keep on a roll once you have started and are motivated.  The amusing thing is that my children are hiding in case they are asked to help.  However, it turns out I can bribe them with lolly rewards, or computer time ;D

 This larger visitor scared the living daylights out of my daughter, who was trying to be very helpful and put some things in our recycling bin.  Perhaps this is our resident female who usually lives near the front steps of our porch and in previous years has sat on the steps in the sun.  She was a bit friendlier than the smaller visitor we had, but was still very skittish, which is probably a good thing in my opinion!

 We gave her some raw chicken, but she was very cautious of us, and rightly so!  Not all humans like blue tongue lizards, and some even try to kill them :(  They are very welcome in my garden though!!

 A bit random for this post, but I learned from my Mother-in-Law how to keep lettuce really crisp in your fridge.  My husband loves really crunchy lettuce, so he asked her exactly how she does it.  First, you remove the stalk with a serrated knife.  Fill the hole with water, and keep the whole lettuce under the tap for about 15 seconds (with the water running into where you just cut the stalk out).  Turn it over and give it a shake or two (there will still be a little bit of water in it - only a little), then into a Tupperware container it goes.  The lettuce stays crisp for weeks!

 Sadly, my vacuum cleaner has well and truly died.  It keeps turning itself off :(  I don't think it's worth repairing, and even though it's not really old (it's probably right on 5 years now), I have certainly gotten good use out of it.  It's a shame it died rather suddenly without any warning.  I'd love to get a Dyson next, but I'll have to start saving furiously when I begin teaching.  Hubby thought Dysons were a few hundred dollars.

 My current tools of the trade

 The current tools are doing a rather good job though.  My vacuum cleaner died before I could even vacuum properly after Christmas so out with the broom it was, and although it is a pain to have to sweep, it's probably no harder physically than having to push a cyclonic vacuum cleaner around. 

The blue rug had tinsel and bits of ribbon and string and, well, 'stuff' all over it, but the broom made light work of cleaning it.

 My kitchen floor not looking too bad either, thanks to the broom and dustpan.

 More Summer cleaning.  We got stuck into my son's room.  We washed his sheets, picked all the stuff off the floor and spent an hour cleaning all the paraphernalia off his desk.  We ended up with three garbage bags full of goodness knows what.  Shame I can't vacuum the floor for a bit though!

...but it is a very tidy looking floor!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It all happens at Sunrise

Phil had to go back to work this morning, so just after he left, I got up and started my day.  The sun hadn't risen yet, so I pattered around quietly, trying hard not to wake the children.  Sometimes it's just better when they're fast asleep, and out of the way ;D It was already warm at 5:45am, so I knew we were in for a scorcher of a day.  I wandered around and planned what I should do today.  But first, I paused to look at the flowers :D

A Magnolia in a pot near the pool that I have been told numerous times would never, ever flower.  Yet here are the most beautiful scented blossoms.  It is the first time this magnolia had flowered.  I think it was a young bush when I got it.

 Some noisy Galahs in my pine tree in the front yard.  They annoy the gardeners no end, because they chew off the pine nuts, and leave them all over the ground, just like messy children.  They seem to laugh about it too!

 Chewing pine nuts

My Frangipanni Tree beginning to flower.  I pruned this tree back about a month ago, so it wouldn't overhand the carport any more.  Good thing I did, although it provides lovely shade over the pool, and smells delightful when it blossoms.

 I got rid of a lot of excess plastic bags I had stashed away for some unknown reason, and came across these books I got from my parents 10 years ago.  They have been in my 'meaning to read' pile, but I haven't gotten there yet.  Methinks it's time to look through my recipe books!

 The Ices and Cold Desserts books is by Margaret Fulton.  Check out her gorgeous photo!

A potato box that Phil made for me a few years ago.  Most of it is done.  I had to lacquer it.  He gave up on the lid.  Maybe someday... ;D

I finished putting away the last of the Christmas decorations this morning (except for the's way too hot to get those down today!).  This Nativity Set was from Avon about 8-9 years ago.  I think it's adorable.  Apparently it was available to consultants only, but a friend of mine at work was a consultant, I placed an order and she asked if I'd like one of these at consultant price ($10).  I jumped at that!

Now to finish the vacuuming.  There was no point doing it before while the tinsel was still out.  At least, that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it ;D

Holiday Clean Up

Spring is well and truly over, so I can't call it a 'Spring' clean, but I'm going through my kitchen(s) and tossing out some things I haven't used in a while.  I'm scrubbing drawers and cupboards as I go too.

 I removed the remaining candy canes from the Christmas Tree.  There are fruit jellies attached to those, and they are absolutely scrumptious!  I purchased the children's school supplies already.  Woot, love the fact that it's done.  I decided to finally take the child locks off some drawers and cupboards. The rest were already put in the tool box in case they're ever needed again.  I doubt it though!

 Washing up cutlery storage holders.  I'm amazed how dirty these things get!  They only get clean cutlery put in them!!

A view of my storage containers on top of my downstairs kitchen cupboards.  I have one full of candles and torches, one with picnicware (plastic plates, cups and cutlery), one with rice, one with pasta, sugar and pasta sauce, and one full of sandwich spreads.

I keep some foil containers in sight in case I need to drop a meal off to a friend (after a baby has been born, sickness, operations etc).

I also have my giant electric frypan - thanks to my Dad who I'm sure was hinting that he'd like a million grandchildren.  It certainly comes in handy for pikelets and hamburger patties!  I have my indoor grill too that always sets off the fire alarm  :D

Monday, January 2, 2012

Garden Pickings, garden visitors and a sunburnt Hubby

Time is just flying by faster and faster, I tell you!  We've been having some fun here in the garden, and visiting family.  I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, and a fantastic New Year Celebration!

One 'normal' zucchini and one variegated one that my daughter was very impressed with.

 Purple King Beans fresh from the garden.

 Miss Smokey escaped for 2 mins, and rather than head for the garden and demolishing the carrots, she decided to dig a very deep burrow.  She must have worn herself out digging that hole, because she wasn't as difficult to catch as she normally is! ;D
 My solution to keeping the sparrows away from my lettuce, Bok Choy and rocket - a bird cage I rescued in a Council Clean up.  It has certainly come in handy!  I use it on occasions if I need to isolate a bunny for medical treatment.  Thankfully that doesn't happen often.

 A Blue Tongue Lizard ventured into our garden last week.  I hope it sticks around. It is a very welcome sight here!

 The sun about to rise in Port Macquarie.  This was at 5:40am, 4 mins until the sun was scheduled to rise.

 And there's the sun, just peeping behind the clouds.  We could see the remains of Tropical Cyclone Grant, but I'll put that in another post.

 My Parents-In-Law's visitor - a male Bluey looking for their resident female.  He was munching on lettuce my Mother-in-Law was putting in front of him.  He was a really fat, healthy looking lizard who wasn't afraid of us at all.  He probably would have eaten out of our hand.  We wondered if he was the tomato eating culprit.  Two days later we found out that he was :D

A Silly Billy who decided not to take his rash vest to the beach the morning of our departure from Port Macquarie, despite me telling him I would get it for him and it would take 2 minutes "But we're not swimming, we're just going to dig in the sand".  Yeah right, how can you just dig in the sand when you have two children already in their swimmers and sunscreen applied ;D  He has been a very sore and sorry husband since we got back from Port.