20 April 2011

It's been quiet around here!

Yes, I know. Apparently I've lost what little motivation I had. I'm hoping that will change again next week when the kids go back to school.

Part of the reason I've been so quiet is that we were considering building a new house. I got a little (lot?) obsessed there for a couple of months and spent way too much time looking at real estate sites for land sales,  floor plans, design elements, colour charts, etc, etc.

We also spent a fair bit of time visiting display homes.

Then we decided to put it all on hold until I go back to work. Which sounds like a great plan. Our current house isn't ready to sell, so we figured we should concentrate on that and then start looking again in a couple of years.

We nearly built about three years ago, we'd put down a deposit on a huge block of land and all. Then the builder came back with a really crazy figure for site costs and told us it would probably only get higher, his words were something like "at least $30k, probably a lot more" and I got panicked and talked us both out of it. We ended up giving up the land. I'm kicking myself now, because blocks in the same estate, the one of two there are left, are now double that price. Land prices here are crazy at the moment. Really crazy. So crazy, in fact, that I actually think it would be cheaper these days to buy an established house, even if it's not exactly what we want. It used to be that buying land and building a house was the cheaper way to go, that doesn't seem to be the case any more.

In other news, I feel a big decluttering coming on. I'm going to start with the kids closets when they go back to school and get rid of anything that's too small, or that I haven't seen them wearing in ages.

I'm even seriously considering selling all my stamping/scrapping supplies. I haven't scrapped in around three years and I haven't stamped in maybe a year and a half. I used to be a Stampin' Up! demonstrator, so I have a LOT of stuff! I used to also run cardmaking sessions with a group of girlfriends. I might go through my stuff and see what I can get together to run another couple of sessions, as one of the girls asked about them last week when we were all out for dinner.

Knowing myself as I do, though, I'm sure that I'll get sucked into buying new stamps to make them happy, though. Maybe I should try and sell some of the stamps I never use and with any money I make I can buy new ones. That sound like a pretty good plan.

23 February 2011

Menu Plan Monday February 21st

Monday: Shepherd's Pie

Tuesday: Tortellini Soup. I used this recipe, but modified it for our needs (and made it metric). I used spinach and ricotta tortellini and it was DELICIOUS! It's definitely going on our regular dinner rotation. The kids asked if we could have it again for dinner tonight, that's how good it was.

Wednesday: Chicken and Bacon Fettuccine

Thursday: Take away. Thursday is our crazy day. I've been struggling to get dinner on the table on time the last few weeks since school started up agian, so this week I'm not going to bother. Take away it is. (Although, I'm sure my Mummy guilt will kick in and I'll try to make something quick and easy, OR I'll obsess about it all week).

Friday: Orange Chicken. I'm using my own modified version of this recipe. I made this for the first time last Sunday and it was delicious, but way too sweet for us. I'll post my modifications next week.

Saturday: Beef and Broccoli. I bought some light soy to see how that changes the flavour. The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons each of dark and light soy. I've been using 3 tablespoons of dark with 1 tablespoon of water. Very delicious, but I'm curious about the original recipe.

Sunday: Chicken Massaman.

Fettuccine with Chicken and Bacon - Updated Recipe

I think I've finally found the perfect combination for my Spaghetti with Bacon and Garlic Sauce recipe. It's still very similar, but I've made a few additions, I've also changed the name.

Chicken and Bacon Fettuccine


500g dry fettuccine
2 chicken breast fillets
250g bacon (I cut most of the fat off)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4-5 spring onions
1 can (375mls) low fat evaporated milk
sea salt and black pepper
chili flakes, to taste (I only use a pinch)


Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Add salt to the water onces it's boiling, if desired.

Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally, so you're left with two breast-shaped pieces, this helps them cook more quickly. Season chicken breasts well with sea salt and ground black pepper. Fry until golden brown in a small amount of olive oil. Set aside when just cooked.

Add a tiny bit more olive oil to the pan if needed and gently saute garlic, add bacon that has been sliced into 1/2" squares and saute until cooked. Add evaporated milk and scrape the bottom of the pan. Leave on a medium/high heat to start reducing the sauce. Add in chopped spring onions and sliced chicken breasts and allow the sauce to reduce a little. Add a pinch of chili flakes. If the sauce gets too thick, add water until the desired consistency. Once at the desired consistency, turn the heat off.

Add pasta to the boiling water and follow the directions on the packet. My fettuccine takes 11 minutes, but I always set the timer for two minutes less than that to check if it's done. Once done, drain pasta and return to the pot. Add the chicken and bacon sauce to the pasta and mix gently with a pasta spoon.

11 February 2011

Beef and Broccoli

I used to love Chinese food. Beef and broccoli was always my favourite. A few years ago, actually it was probably more than a few, I went off it. It didn't taste as delicious as I remembered it, no matter which restaurant we visited. I don't know if it was my changing tastes after pregnancy, all I know is that I didn't like it any more.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago and the kids begged us to go "inside the Chinese restaurant to eat". The kids and Daddy love Chinese. I gave in and we went inside the restaurant to eat. I found my love of Chinese food again. It still wasn't as nice as I remembered it to be, but it was pretty good.

I decided I needed to find a really good recipe so I could make it myself. If you've been reading my blog you'll know that this year, I'm hoping to get back on track with my cooking and have way, WAY less take away than we did last year. So far this week, I've cooked every night and I'm really proud of myself. I've felt a little off the last couple of days and I still managed to suck it up and cook.

I originally found this recipe in the Chinese Food section of, but have made a couple of changes.

It is a little fiddly, and takes about 30-40 minutes to prepare, but it is so worth it. Tonight was the second time I've made this and I found that it seemed to go more quickly this time. I'm guessing the prep time will get shorter each time.

Beef and Broccoli


400g sirloin steak

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornflour

4 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoon premium soy sauce (dark)
3 tablespoon water

2 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoon water 

To Cook Vegetables: 
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, sliced into wedges
1 head fresh broccoli
220g frozen Asian vegetables 
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon sugar, or to taste

½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil 


Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices. Add the marinade ingredients, adding the cornflour last (use your fingers to rub it in). Marinate the beef for 30 minutes.

While the beef is marinating, prepare the sauce and vegetables: for the sauce, mix together the oyster sauce, light soy, dark soy, and water in a small bowl and set aside. In another small bowl, mix the cornflour and water thickener and set aside.

Wash and drain the broccoli. Cut the stalk diagonally into thin slices. Cut the florets into 3 or 4 pieces. Crush the garlic. Cut the onion into wedges.

Heat the wok and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is medium-hot
add the beef. Blanch the beef by letting it lay flat for 30 - 40 seconds, and then stirring to separate the pieces. Remove the beef when it changes color and is nearly cooked (the entire process takes 1 - 2 minutes), and drain on paper towels.

Add 1½  tablespoons oil to the wok. When the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic and onion and stir fry briefly until aromatic and softened.

Add the broccoli and frozen Asian vegetables, sprinkle the salt and sugar over, and stir fry briefly, turning down the heat if necessary to make sure it doesn't burn. Add 1 cup water, and cook the broccoli and vegetables, covered, for 4 - 6 minutes, until broccoli turns a bright green and vegetables are tender but still crisp. Remove from the wok and drain.  

Add 1 tablespoon oil and add the broccoli and the beef. Pour the sauce and cornflour mixture in the middle of the wok and stir quickly to thicken. Mix everything together and serve hot over steamed rice.

09 February 2011

Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Many years ago I came across my first raspberry and white chocolate chip muffin in a coffee shop. It was delicious and I knew immediately that I needed to recreate that deliciously wonderful treat. I didn't get it right first time, probably not even the second time, but it finally came together and this is what I've come up with. It has been a family favourite for years and all three kids love them.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Muffins


2 cups SR flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
90g butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 large egg
⅔ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup frozen raspberries


Makes 18 muffins.

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Sift flour and add sugars. In a separate bowl add melted butter, milk, and lightly beaten egg. Pour the wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined. Do not over beat. Add white chocolate chips and raspberries and mix through lightly.

Spoon, or scoop (I use my #20 ice-cream scoop), the mixture into prepared muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from tins and allow to cool. 

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

08 February 2011

Menu Plan Monday 7th Feb

Monday : Fish fillets with parsley sauce and veggies

Tuesday : Chicken Massaman with basmati rice

Wednesday : Beef Tacos

Thursday : Vegetable soup with scones

Friday : Beef and broccoli with basmati rice

Saturday : Chicken and Bacon Fettuccine 

Sunday : Irish Stew

28 January 2011

Back to Normal Next Week

I have high hopes for the next few weeks. The boys finally go back to school on Friday of next week and Little Miss starts kindergarten (preschool) on Wednesday. I will finally be able to get into some kind of routine around the house. I am determined to get things under control. I want an organised house. I don't want to rush around tidying things when I know someone is coming over. I don't want to be embarrassed when someone shows up without calling first. I'm hoping all that will come together in the next couple of weeks.

I'm still not sure exactly how I'm going to do things, but I know I am going to do something, and that has to be better than nothing. Right? Right!

I'll have Monday and Wednesday mornings, and Thursday afternoon to myself or get started. I think I'm going to use Friday as my grocery shopping day. It's always been Monday or Tuesday in the past, but I'm finding that we're running out of food by the weekend and then eating junk. I'm going to get more serious about my menu planning, too. I don't think we've stuck to a single menu plan I've done. We've come close a few times, but something has always come up. I'm hoping that that doesn't happen too often any more. I figure if I plan a seven day menu, at least I have all the ingredients for those meals, no matter when I actually serve them. At least, that's my plan.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Send me links, send me advice, you can get my email address from my blogger profile, feel free to email me :)

26 January 2011

Menu Plan Monday January 24th

Yes, I know it's actually Tuesday, but let's pretend I'm not late with this one. At least I'm doing it!

Monday : Lamb chops with scalloped potatoes and veggies
Tuesday : Homemade Vegetable Soup
Wednesday : BBQ with chicken fillets, burgers and salad
Thursday : Chicken Massaman
Friday : Take away
Saturday : Irish Stew
Sunday : Impossible Quiche Lorraine and veggies.

I've been cooking a lot more lately, but always in a rush and just forget to take photos. I'm sure I've mentioned that a time or two.

It's Australia Day here tomorrow, the anniversary of the day the First Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788. Over the years I've heard all manner of jokes about how we come from convicts, and it's true, but I love this country and I think we are so lucky to live here.

20 January 2011

The Trampoline Incident

Christmas has come and gone for another year. It was a really great one in our house, even if one of the kids is a little more clever than we were expecting. On Christmas Eve my husband and my sister's boyfriend put the trampoline together while we took the kids out for the day. In Australia at Christmas time, the sun doesn't go down until close to 9pm, so we had to bring the kids back here in daylight. 

We thought we had everything set, all the curtains were closed, they were going to bed early, the trampoline wasn't visible from the front yard or any uncurtained window in the house. Or so we thought. Little Mr. 6 is incredibly clever. We already knew this. Why we thought we could get away with this without him figuring it out or noticing is beyond me. 

We have a set of French doors in our kitchen/dining area. They lead out to the backyard patio. Our garage backs onto the patio and it has a window. Little Mr. 6 spotted the trampoline in the reflection of the window. On Christmas Eve. Gah. So, we sat him down, away from his bother and sister and explained that Santa had asked Daddy and Craig to put the trampoline together for him, because it was too big to fit in his sleigh. He promised not to tell his brother and sister and let them find it for themselves in the morning. I'm not sure if he bought it or not, but he hasn't said anything about it and he did keep his promise and didn't tell his brother and sister. His reward we being able to bounce on the trampoline first. He was thrilled. They've been practically living on the trampoline ever since.

In another note, I've finally removed my Christmas Layout. I was getting a little sick of seeing Christmas trees, even as beautiful as they were.

I've used more lovely papers and element from Kristin at KCB Designs. This time it's a set called Cherry Blossoms. I can't see it on her site, so it might be an older one. 

Another note, I made my Chicken and Bacon pasta again tonight and yet again forgot to take a photo of it.

19 January 2011

The Non-Sewer Who Sewed

I'm going to sit down tonight (if I can swing the spare time) and change my blog design. I am! Gah.

I pulled out a brand new doona (duvet) cover for Erin that I'd bought a couple of weeks ago for her to use on her bed for her birthday and the stitching was TERRIBLE! I can't sew. At all. I don't even own a sewing machine. I do, however, have my mother's old Singer sewing machine sitting in my laundry, and have done for years. It's been mostly untouched. The last time I pulled it out, years ago, it wouldn't work. It appeared to me, the non-sewer, that it had seized up, so I packed it back in it's hard cover box and never looked at it again.

Fast forward to the day of Erin's birthday, Jan 10th, and I was SO upset that her new pefectly pink princess bedding was unusable. I grabbed the $20 mini kids sewing machine I had bought for scrapbooking and making cards (I never used it, the box we stilll unopened!), and tried to restitch the seems. Well. That was a big joke. A really, really big joke.

I ended up hoping and wishing that the old sewing machine had somehow miraculously fixed itself. Guess what? It had, or at least my wishing and doing whatever I could think of (some of it probably not good for the sewing machine!) made it work. 

I channelled my inner highschooler and remembered how to thread the bobbin and guessed how to thread the machine and it actually worked. I practiced and practiced on scrap bits of material and it held together well. 

I can't sew a straight like to save myself, but Erin got her new bedding that night and I couldn't have been happier. Ok, well I COULD have been happier, the product could have come stitched correctly in the first place, but you know what? I felt really good fixing that. Dare I say I am considering making a few doona covers of my own. I'll wait until the school holidays are over, about two more weeks and then I'll pop over to one of the fabric shops and see what's available. Maybe. I might end up chickening out!

04 January 2011

Blueberry Pancakes

My Lemon and Blueberry Muffins were so delicious that I've got another hankering for blueberries. The kids love pancakes and because we're home for the school holidays, we've had time for more involved breakfasts than we normally eat.

The kids are loving it! Luckily Santa brought a trampoline for Christmas, so they're getting plenty of exercise to burn off all the extra deliciousness.

Blueberry Pancakes


2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
5 tablespoons white sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Makes 18 pancakes.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. In a separate bowl combine eggs and milk. Pour milk and egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently until just combined. Mix in the melted butter and fold in the blueberries. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.

Pour 1/4 cupfuls into a fry pan prepared with non-stick spray and cook until golden on both sides.

Serve warm with maple syrup.

Menu Plan Monday January 3rd

Here's what we'll be eating this week if all goes according to plan, and it often doesn't!

Monday : Chicken Massaman Curry with Rice

Tuesday : BBQ - lamb chops, sausages and beef burgers with salad. (No, I won't be eating all that meat, but the five of us can't agree on which meat to have, so we eat take out pick from those).

Wednesday : Fettuccine with Chicken and Bacon

Thursday : Leftover Chicken Massaman Curry with Rice

Friday : Beef Tacos

Saturday : Cajun Chicken Salad.

Sunday : Fish fillets, corn on the cob, veggies and mashed potatoes.

No links this week, three of them are my own recipes that I don't have photos of at the moment. If I get a chance, I'll post photos and recipes during the week.

My plan with starting this new blog was to motivate myself to cook more. I have definitely been doing that and I'm having fun cooking again, which is an added bonus.

03 January 2011

Lemon and Blueberry Muffins

In the freezer section of our supermarket there is one freezer that only contains products on special. It's the first place I look when I go shopping. This week frozen berries were on special. We love berries in our house. I make delicious White Chocolate and Raspeberry Muffins that ususually go before I can snap a photo of them! The kids love frozen berries with ice cream, although they don't have that very often.

I already had a full box of frozen raspberries in the freezer, so we bought some frozen blueberries instead. Blueberry muffins here we come!

This recipe is a slightly modified version I found at Cooking on Clover Lane. We don't get half and half in Australia, so I had to find a substitute. I'm not sure what the original tastes like, but these were delicious. I also didn't have any lemon extract (and haven't been able to find any) so I used the lemon essence I had at home. I'm going to make this recipe again soon and use a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice in place of some of the milk. 

Lemon and Blueberry Muffins


2 cups plain flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup milk (just less than a cup, I'll explain further)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon essence
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries


Preheat oven to 190C/375F. My oven is fan-forced, I don't have the option of turning the fan off, if you don't have a fan-forced oven, increase the temperature to 200C/395F.

Line two 12 hole muffin tins with muffin liners. (I get 20 muffins from this recipe)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. 

Melt butter in the microwave in a measuring jug for about 15 seconds, add enough milk to bring it up to 1 cup. 

Combine the milk/butter mix, eggs, oil,  and lemon essence in another bowl. Add to dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.

Fold in the blueberries, taking care not to smash them up too much.

Spoon into muffin cases and bake for about 18 minutes. I used my #20 ice cream scoop to scoop the muffin mix into the liners and it made perfect muffins that didn't overflow in their cases.

Verdict - delicious!