Sunday, 26 February 2012

Home challenge - week 8 -meal planning

Week 8 of the home challenge is meal planning. Around 18 months ago I signed up to a meal planning service Meals by Mel.  This is a great service - Mel provides 5 meals per week, which includes recipes and the shopping list.  This was fantastic as we would have different meals each week - rather than the same old, same old.  In November last year I bought a thermoix so decided I wanted to use this more so decided not to continue with my membership. But after having a meal plan for 18 months I don't think I could go back to shopping without it anymore! 

Now I complete a meal plan prior to undertaking my weekly shop. I plan dinners only, and add in staples like fruit, bread, milk and so on for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Meal planning for me saves money, waste, time and stress.  It's fantastic not having to worry about what we are going to cook each night!

I will decide on meals based on the food we have already (in particular meat in the freezer and veggies in the fridge), meals I know the kids will eat and I try and mix it up so we are getting a variety of meats and some healthy meals. The kids prefer meals with not so healthy foods such as sausages, so I aim to only have 1 or 2 of these per week. I've been trying to include thermomix recipes and like trying new ones. 

Life challenge - week 8 - happiness

The last of our building blocks and our topic for week 8 is defining happiness. I decided to write a list of things that make me happy. I'm sure the list can be added to as I think of more, but for now my happiness list consists of:
  • having a good cup of coffee either on my own or with a friend
  • seeing a movie at the cinema
  • watching a movie at home with the family
  • having a cuddle with my family - Nigel, Hunter and Savannah
  • scrapbooking
  • reading a book
  • watching my favourite TV shows
  • learning new things- external courses
  • overseas holiday
  • within Australia holiday
  • short break -weekend away
  • chatting with friends either on the phone or face to face
  • bubble bath
  • pedicure
  • massage
  • manicure
  • facial
  • reading to the kids (2-3 stories -I get sick of it after that)
  • exercising -walking/treadmill/gym
  • playing games with the kids
  • laughing - listening to the kids laughing
  • going out for lunch
  • going out for dinner
  • going out for breakfast
  • spending time with my family - sister/Mum/Dad
  • cuddles and kiss from Hunter at school drop off
  • Mums group dinners
  • getting hair cut/coloured
  • musicals/shows
  • buying new clothes
  • accomplishing a goal
  • getting 8 hours or more of sleep
  • eating sushi
  • music - listening to a good song and singing out loud!
  • golden syrup dumplings
  • fresh flowers - especially gerbras, sunflowers and tulips!
  • walking on the beach
  • the smell and sound of the rain
When I look through the list I see I'm lucky that I get to do at least one of these things daily, reading, cuddles with the kids, watching a favourite TV show, reading to the kids, exercising, having a cup of coffee. But the sad thing, I don't appreciate them or I take them for granted. These little things really do make life and I need to grab them with two hands and appreciate them in them in the moment.

Since I wrote the list I have had a chance to undertake many things from my happiness list. I have recorded just one for each day - to show to myself there is usually something happening each day that makes me happy!!

21st Feb - I went on the treadmill whilst watching The Biggest Loser. I felt hot and sweaty during, but after I felt great - really energised!

22nd Feb - Cuddle with the kids in Savannah's bed.There were lots of giggles, tickles and cuddles. There is nothing better than starting the day with a child's laughter.

23rd Feb - Lunch with colleagues. It was nice to have a delicious lunch and get out of the office with good company.

24th Feb - I bought a new dress. I don't normally buy dresses but since losing a bit of weight I feel more comfortable!  I love this dress!

25th Feb - Good, hot coffee made in my coffee machine. After doing my Barista course last year I make quite a good coffee.  I drank this whilst playing Battleships with Hunter.

26th Feb- Movies with my sister. We saw the Stephanie Plum movie One for the Money. I had read the book so was looking forward to it and enjoyed escaping into Steph's life for a few hours.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Life challange - week 7 - vision boards

Whilst I do enjoy scrapbooking - I don't consider myself to be a creative person. For Week 7 we were asked to create a vision board, so time to get a little creative.  I didn't have any magazines so had to find a different way. I did a few Internet searches, however this was time consuming. I then spent one evening watching TV and cutting out words from newspapers. I cut out words that screamed out to me - some were from my goals, some from my values, some my mission statement and some I just liked.

On Saturday afternoon I spent some time sticking the words onto some cardboard.  I got out the craft box and my daughter even had a go at making a picture too.

My finished vision board:

I put it up in my bedroom underneath a photo of hubby and I.

Here is Savannah having a go.

Here is her finished product.  We then hung it on the wall in her bedroom.

Hunter then found the craft stuff and decided to make something too.
Here is one of his pieces.. (he took the photo which is why it's a little blurry!)

And we put them in his room.

So this activity lead to some creativity time for all of us.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Home challenge - week 7 - organise coupons

Week 7 is set aside to organise coupons. This is one I don't feel I need to spend a lot of time on.  I'm not sure if it's a bigger deal in the US compared to Australia, but lots of the coupon categories seemed irrelevant to me - like we would never have a coupon for that!

I have some coupons I use regularly - the regular 4c discount on fuel, vouchers from The Entertainment Book and the union voucher book. I also get ad-hoc vouchers/coupons from time to time.

I have a draw where I keep all vouchers.

I know the types of vouchers that are in the books (dining out, fast food, entertainment and activities), so whenever we are looking at doing something we will check out the books first to see if we can use a voucher. I have a number of vouchers I keep in my purse as they are ones I may use on the spur of the moment (e.g. coffee - buy one get one free, discount sushi and icecreams and the like).

This system is working for me, so I'm going to stick with it.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Life challenge - week 6 - goal setting

Week 6 - goal setting and goal setting and priorities.  All the tasks to date made this task much easier than it sounds. 

When I looked at my wheel of life the areas with the lowesst ratings were friendships, health, family and finances. So these are the ones that I'm going to set goals for to start with.  


Goal: Reconnect with my current friends

Make time for personal contact (e.g not FB or SMS) every week. This can involve a telephone call or a face-to-face catch up.


Goal: Go to bed by 10.30pm at least 4 nights per week (Sun-Wed, the nights I have to work the next day). 

It's when I go on the computer that time gets away from me, and before I know it, its 11.30pm. I plan to spend less time on the computer at night. 
I also lose track of time when reading (and this is often in bed). I enjoy reading so don't want to stop - I just need to be more mindful of the time.

Goal: Walk up the stairs at work once, everyday I'm there (I counted them today as I walked up - 232 steps - 14 flights!)

Make an effort to go down at lunch time every day, and climb up the stairs.

Goal: Undertake 3-4 excercise sessions per week (mix of gym and treadmill)

I have a regular walking date on Tuesdays with a friend at work.  We only walk for 1/2 hour - but it gets us out the office and active!

I plan to go to the gym once over the weekend. If I miss the Saturday class (if I miss the 8am class I can't fit another one in due to Savannah's sport or hubby could be working) -I will go to either pump or step on Sunday.

I plan to walk briskly or run on the treadmill at least once per week - I aim to get up early on one of the days I drop Hunter to school to make time for the treadmill.  .

Goal: To brush my teeth twice a day and floss each night.

This one shoud be easy - but as I've been going to bed later, I've been tired and have been skipping some steps at night.  My plan is to go to bed earlier and just do the teeth - it's important!


Goal: To not spend more than we earn so we don't feel stressed about money

To make a budget which gives both Nigel and myself spending money so we don't put extra expenses on the credit card.

Stick to the budget.

Limit impulse purchases - before a purchase think about if we really need it and how useful it will be.

Home environement
Goal: For our house to be free of CHAOS (as fly lady would say - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)


I need to tackle this slowly and one piece at a time and I've started.

I started the
52 week organised home challenge, which tackles one area of the house at a time. So far I'm keeping up with it and I aim to keep up with the challenge for the entire 52 weeks. This will slowly get my house into order and free of CHAOS.

I've hired a cleaner once a fortnight (she starts on Monday 13th February - yay!!!) to keep on top of the cleaning tasks. This will give us incentive to keep the place tidy, as she cant clean if the place is untidy.

The kids are lazy and get all their toys out and don't pack them away. We let them get away with it. We need to be more strict on them putting toys away as they go, and no stories until their toys are packed up each night.


Goal: Spend quality time together doing things we enjoy (this is from our mission statement)

I want to plan a "family day" once per month,where we spend the day together doing something fun! I haven't quite worked out this will work- I will discuss it with my family, but I was thinking along the lines of each month someone will get a turn of choosing what we do. Or we put fun activities in a jar and pull a mystery activity out. Or decide as a family what we will do.

Goal: Focussed time spend with the kids
Each child to have one-on-one time with one parent each night. This is usually at our nightly reading time.

Limited computer time whilst the kids are awake.

Say yes to the kids more- yes to that one game they want to play, yes to that story they want me to read them, yes to jumping on the trampoline with them.

Try and fit in sometime for playing with the kids before we start our nightly bedtime routine. 

Goal: Nigel and I to spend time together one night a week
Be in the same room! Turn off the computer. Only have the TV on if it's a show we both want to watch (we have 2 TVs - and currently 1 of us will be watching one whilst the other is watching the other). Talk.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Home challenge - week 6 - recycling and trash

Week 6 is about creating a home recycling center and dealing with trash.

I had anticipated this challenge and got in early at making a start on my recycling centre. I've always been into recycling but my previous set up wasn't working at keeping the bench clear and clutter free! My previous set up involved putting all the recycling in a big tub in the garage (which is through a door off the kitchen - so relatively easy to get to), and putting the bottles and cans in plastic bags in the garage.  When the tub in the garage got full, we would take it out the front to the recycling bin, which is picked up fortnightly.

In practice, this meant we wouldn't go to the garage to put each piece of recycling into the tub, therefore there were piles of paper (junk mail and the likes) on the kitchen bench, along with bottles and cans, waiting until there were enough for us to be bothered to move them. Alternatively we would throw recycling in the bin as it was more convenient.

I had a space in the kitchen next to my fridge that was just wasted space, and my sister recommended I use this for recycling.  So I measured the space and Nigel and I headed off to Ikea with the aim to get bins for recycling.

In South Australia we get 10 cents for recycling bottles and cans (soft drinks, beer etc), so I always keep them seperate.  The rest of the recycling (plastics, paper, cardboard etc) can all go together. Therefore I needed 2 spaces. We got 2 bins with lids and placed them next to the fridge.  The one at the back has a garbage bag liner in it, and is for bottles/cans (all the things we can get 10c for).  Once this is full, we remove the bin liner and take it to the garage for storage until we can get enough to make a trip to the recycling depo to get our money!  The one at the front is for normal recycling, and therefore has no liner as plastic bin liners cannot go in the recyling.  When this one is full we take it outside to the big recycling bin ready for the fortnightly pick up.  I still have the tub in the garage, in which I put big things (like boxes etc) which don't fit so well in the inside bin, and things from the car and garage.  Again this is taken to the outside bin when full (or just before the recycling bin goes out.

My recycling set up is as follows:

 2 bins next to fridge

Front bin for recycling

Back bin for bottles/cans (ones worth 10c)

I had a think about putting recycling bins in the other rooms in our house and decided there just isn't enough recycling in the other rooms to warrant us taking up space for a seperate recycling bin.  The kitchen is quite central so it's quite easy to take the recycling to the kitchen bins.

Our main trash bin is in the kitchen. It's always been under the sink so it looks neater and to keep in the smells.

We also have a bin in our ensuite already. So that one was good.  But then I went and bought bins for other rooms in the house.

We now have nice green bin in the toilet

I got 2 little bins for the laundry. One for rubbish (lint from the dryer, plastic bags that childcare put my daughters dirty clothes in etc) and the other one is for little things that end up in pockets etc.

I got a basket for the main bathroom for trash. I've put this in the cupboard to save bench space.

And finally I got a little bin for each of the kids bedrooms.
Blue for Hunter

And pink for Savannah

I'm quite confident with this new set-up, we can keep on top of the trash and recycling!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Life challenge - week 5 - take a break

Week 5 was time to catch up and catch your breath. We had the choice to take a break or free choice to write about anything relating to the last 4 weeks. Given I'm not really a blogger or a writer - I decided to take a that's it for week 5 for me!!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Home challenge - week 5 - cookbooks

Week 5 already...we have been busy over the weekend and made a change to the family room.  Got rid of the big bulky TV cabinet and put in a new low one (same one as in our lounge room) with some shelving! It looks awesome!  I will save the photos for later when we get to the living room.

Week 5 is organise recipes and cookbooks. I had recipes and cookbooks in quite a few places over the house.  We got a Thermomix in November, so my thermomix cookbooks were in the kitchen cupboard below the Thermomix. I also was signed up to a meal planning service Meals by Mel so had all the sheets of paper from this in a magazine folder on the shelf.  And then I had numerous cookbooks in the lounge room on the book shelf.

I started by going through each cookbook and deciding it's purpose.  Many of them I've hardly used lately. A couple of them had to say as they were given to me by my Grandma (Mama) who sadly passed away June 2011.  They had her handwriting in them.  They are keepers!  A couple were presents from my Mum and Aunties.  I wanted to keep those too. The Thai cookbook we got when Nigel and I did a Thai cooking course in Thailand.  Not sure if I'm going to try the recipes - but again sentimental value. And of course I need the kids birthday cake book and the kids cooking books! The Thermomix books I use regularly so they are keepers too.

There were a few which were easy to put into the "get rid of" pile. Some I had never used, some not in ages.  The weight watchers cookbooks were harder for me to decide on. I lost weight with weight watchers in the past and spent good money on these books.  But after going through the books I made the decision that they had to go. The recipes weren't things I was going to make - and if I wanted recipes it's not hard to find on the interent.  So thanks for the memories - but bye WW cookbooks!  So I got a little pile of "of you go to a new home" books. 

Next I went through all the loose recipes I had - such as the Meals by Mel ones - to determine which ones I would use again.  I recycled all those our family didn't like much, and sorted the ones we did like into a folder. I them under the categories of chicken, mince, red meat, pasta/pizza/rice and sweets/slices. These are in the green folder.  I also have a blue folder for printed thermomix recipes.  My aim is to eventually convert a lot of my normal recipes to thermomix ones. I prefer to have my recipes printed in hard copy rather than on the computer - easier for me to use and I don't have to bring the laptop into the kitchen for cooking.

Then I had to decide where to store the cookbooks and folders.  It dawned on me that as we put hooks up for the kids school/childcare bags, I now had extra spots in the draws under the kitchen bench. As this was closer to the kitchen than the bookcase where they were previously held, it seemed like a perfect spot for them. I chose a box right on the end, so closest to getting to the kitchen.  As they are the other side of the kitchen there is no chance they will get damaged from being in the kitchen, and they are easy to grab when needed.

The books/folders look like this in the box:

And here is where they sit in relation to the kitchen. They are in the top right hand corner!

Overall I'm quite pleased with the outcome. Wasn't a big job but should make quite a bit of difference to organisation - and now leaves a bit more room on my bookcase (which was chock block full) for other things.