Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #7


Come and join us in The Creative Home and Garden


Even as the season changes, our hop stays fresh and fun. It's the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening, whether you live in the suburbs, the city, or out on the range.


Meet The Creative Home and Garden Hop hosts: Alison (that's me) from Mumtopia, Kathy from Creative Home Expressions, Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill.


Week Six's featured posts here at Mumtopia are:  


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Small Good Things We All Can Do

Changing the world may start at home but sometimes I'm a bit reluctant to take that first step on the Paying It Forward Path. 
 
Maybe because I spent a lot of years being unkind to myself. It's so easy to tell myself I can't afford to be ethical, or I haven't got time, but those are just convenient excuses. Because I am so "all or nothing", I convince myself that, really, if I'm not living in a commune, I may as well shop at Primark, but that's just apathy. Time to put my money where my mouth is and do some good deeds for Mother Earth and my Fellow "Man". 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ten Tips for a Contented Marriage

My paternal grandparents on their honeymoon, 1937

I've got weddings on the brain, because the King and I have been married for thirteen years! Our anniversary is 26th August; we got married a year to the day that we started seeing each other, and we had our wedding reception in the restaurant where we had our first date.

My lovely dad, congratulating his brother, on his wedding day, circa 1970

I thought I'd share with you a few things I've learned in thirteen years of marriage :

Making your home sing Mondays
1. The marriage is far more important than the wedding. Scrimp on the wedding: invest in the marriage. Save your money for a house deposit.

2. Like any relationship, marriages change over time. Prepare to take the rough with the smooth. Make your marriage your priority. Accept that you will both make mistakes; neither of you is perfect. There are always new things to learn and adapt to.

3. However in touch with his feminine side he is, your husband is not your best girlfriend. You need women in your life to fill roles that your husband cannot. 

4. Play to your strengths. If you are great at paperwork, do the paperwork. If he loves to cook, let him enjoy that. And share the tasks no-one wants to do.

5.  Talk about changes and new phases beforehand. Think ahead, especially when you have children, so you can see the challenges on the horizon.

6. Monitor your menstrual cycle so that you know when PMT is clouding your judgement. Maybe warn your husband each month when you are likely to be pre-menstrual (I have a tick-chart of my symptoms on the kitchen cupboard!) 

7. Remember you can never un-say what you have said. Even if it is in the heat of the moment, do not say things you will regret. Don't let the sun go down on an argument.

8. Romantic gestures pale into insignificance beside the acts of a loving husband who will see you through the birth of your children, gallbladder surgery, PND, job changes, a break-in, loft conversions etc. Look at the great things he does for you and your family and don't moan about the fact that he never sweeps you off your feet. You want flowers? Maybe buy yourself a bunch? 

 Tutorial Tuesday 9. Use your wedding anniversary to look back on what you've achieved together, what's working, what needs working at - a bit like a self-appraisal. I realised yesterday that I have achieved everything I wanted in my life - a husband, children, a home, and happy relationships with my wider family and friends. Everything else is a bonus. I am so lucky to be content with my lot! 

10. Read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr L Schlessinger. More than once.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #6


Come and join us in The Creative Home and Garden


Our hop is fun, fresh, and the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening.


Meet The Creative Home and Garden Hop hosts: Alison from Mumtopia, Kathy from Creative Home Expressions, Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill.


Week Five's featured posts here at Mumtopia are:  


Monday, 19 August 2013

Holy Grail Cooking #8: Moist and Moreish Courgette, Carrot and Orange Cake

Based on the recipe I found here at BBC Good Food, this is the most moist and moreish use of carrots and courgettes in Tennessee/ CalifornIA or anywhere else you happen to live. 


Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #5



Come and join us in The Creative Home and Garden


The sun is out again! Just like the season, our hop is fun, fresh, and the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening.

Meet The Creative Home and Garden Hop hosts: Alison from Mumtopia, Kathy from Creative Home Expressions, Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill.

Week Four's featured posts here at Mumtopia are: 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Top 10 tips for Fussy Eaters

This week's guest post is from Alice at The Foxglove Shed (everything DIY, Kids and Crafty). Over to Alice: 

#I’ve raised 2 of my own fussy eaters, and in a professional capacity I
support parents through this frustrating stage. I’ve also studied nutrition#

So here are my top 10 tips to survive the tea-time tanties




Monday, 12 August 2013

Resources for a Smooth Transition to School

Back-to-school time is on the horizon. A nation of mothers breathes a sigh of relief and then realises just how much needs to be organised before then!
Bundle #32: Back-to-School

Sunday, 11 August 2013

What Counts As Nothing?

I hereby declare that I am undertaking the 31 Days of Nothing challenge, which means there will be no spending on:


* Eating at restaurants. The King said the other day that my cooking had improved so much it was better than some restaurants! Just had to blow my own trumpet there, sorry. It has only taken THIRTEEN YEARS. Eating out is expensive! You can make delicious wholesome meals at home in minutes for the entire family for less than the cost of one person eating out! Check out the Easy Crockpot Recipes and Menus e-book today!

* Takeaways

* Coffees/ snacks to go

* Clothing. I was lucky enough to see a school summer dress (red and white gingham) that would fit Prima, in the charity (goodwill) shop today for just 75p. It is quite big and will last at least a school year so I decided to buy it.

* Hobbies–crafts, golf, etc. I have sorted out my fabric stash today in preparation for moving out of our current bedroom into our new one. I have enough fabric and haberdashery to fill a packing box. 

* Exercise eg. gym membership. I have decided not to renew my annual gym membership because of the physical work required on our building project. I intend to exercise at home and go for walks. 

* Entertainment. At the moment we have a free month on Netflix. I am going to try and borrow more books from the library, rather than buying them. 


* Toys. My kids have so many, they hardly know what to play with. They have got on a lot better since a lot of our possessions went into storage while the loft extension was happening.

* Toiletries. Already stockpiled. I have far too many lotions and potions that I don't really use.

* Alcohol. I am on the wagon anyway.


* Lottery Tickets

* Furniture. We are going to re-paint what we already have, when we re-decorate our bedrooms.

* Purely decorative items

* Cleaning or laundry products

* Non-reusable sanitary products

* Magazines

The ultimate goal is to spend NO money except for necessities. For my family I consider necessities to be diesel for the King's work and appointments, groceries and our basic bills and utilities. Necessities may mean something different for your family. 

I haven't listed prescription medicines because we are lucky enough to get them free due to our income. 

If the children have school trips or visits, or Brownies activities I need to pay for, I regard this as something it would be unfair to opt out of. 

Second-hand
Furthermore, I will endeavour to buy second-hand any items which are required, such as school uniform, if I am unable to get them on freecycle/ from hand-me-downs. 

De-cluttering
In addition, we are trying, once more, to de-clutter. Today we gave away three bags of books to the local library, we have been doing some freecycling of unwanted toys etc, and passing non-fitting clothes to friends/ friends' children. This will increase when we bring all the stuff out of storage that we have managed just fine without since June. We are determined not to bring it all back into the house. 

Grocery budget
£45/ week including delivery (that's about $70)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #4


Come and join us in The Creative Home and Garden

The courgettes are going crazy! This recently-established hop is fun, fresh, and the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative home-making and gardening.

Meet The Creative Home and Garden Hop hosts: Alison from Mumtopia, Kathy from Creative Home Expressions, Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill


Week Three's featured posts here at Mumtopia are recipe-based this time, because I have gotten all keen in the kitchen this past few weeks: 

Recipe Box: Homemade Crackers by Nancy at Prudent Living on the Home Front



and 25 Yummy Zuccini Recipes by Second Chance to Dream



Friday, 9 August 2013

Simple Pleasures #11: Tin Can Candle Holders

Little House Living"Today we are going to head through the house on an adventure," says Melissa of Little House Living on Day Two of 31 Days to Simpler Living. I look around my house. There is plasterboard in the hallway, skirting board on the landing and assorted pieces of rubble all over the carpet. There are three men working hard at it upstairs, one of whom is the King, trying to find the cause of an electrical fault. It is an adventure to walk through our home.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Kaffee Klatsch #1: Avon, Ariel, Daily Dockets, Curry and Repairs

This is a new kind of post; the idea is that we are sitting down, having a nice cup of coffee and a chat, and I'm telling you my little bits of news, things I've discovered and so on. So how do you take your coffee? Milk and sugar? 

 Prima, having rifled through the Avon catalogue which gets pushed through our door each month, had her heart set on a lipbalm for 99p (on special offer). Earning the money to buy this herself was an excellent motivator. As Prima cleaned the kitchen sink, she suggested I share with other mums that their children might do chores for pocket-money too. 

I know that isn't rocket science, gang, but it really drove home to me what different children find motivating. An Orange Kiss lipbalm is a winner with my daughter, who is looking forward to "being grown-up and being able to buy (her) own shoes". 

I won't pay Prima every time she hangs out the washing, helps me wash up and so on, but it is useful to be reminded that she is keen to earn, if she has got something on her wishlist. In addition, we plan to introduce a pocket money system at the end of the summer holidays, to increase the children's awareness of what things cost, and to encourage them to do housework. I would appreciate any tips on paid chores systems that have worked for you, readers. 

THIS is a brand new box of washing powder. I have just opened it. The King got paid "in kind" for some furniture he made for a janitorial supplies guy. Otherwise we wouldn't have an Actual Branded powder in an "XXXL" box (We got other things too, don't worry, not just washing powder!) You can read about my DIY Laundry Powder here. My point is: isn't the packaging deceptive? I'm sure it contains as much powder as the box label says, but it just doesn't seem to meet my expectations, Mr Ariel.











A Daily Docket has become a Really Useful Tool this summer holidays. Mine, which was downloaded for free from the ever-fabulous Simple Mom, is the first page of my household notebook, and has been covered with sticky-backed plastic so it is re-usable if you write with a Berol drywipe marker. You can read about that method, here

I especially like the Daily Docket's section detailing Today's three Most Important Things, the box for Inspiration, Motivation, Encouragement and the tally of glasses of water consumed (I never seem to get past more than two out of the recommended eight).
For more help with organizing, cleaning and laundry, take a look at the Keeping It Clean e-books.




With the Evacuees away on the North Coast, I have been able to extend our culinary repertoire somewhat, and have focused on meat-free meals for the King and I.
An example of this is the vegetarian curry I made from scratch. When I say scratch, I didn't actually go and pick the coconut myself, and I used tinned tomatoes, curry powder and chilli powder, but I didn't simply open a jar of korma. 


Sweating the veg (some of which was from the garden), adding the spices, then the chopped tomatoes and creamed coconut: that was essentially it. The slow cooker did the rest and I added some kidney beans (rather than the green beans shown here) about an hour before I served up. Very simple, cheap and filling, it went down well with naan bread and some leftover couscous. 


Making do and mending is made simple if the garment has a sewn-on embellishment which you can use to hide a tear. Sew up the tear by hand as best you can, then unpick the patch/ pocket/ decorative bit, pin it over the mend, and cover up your repair job. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Moved to Tears Around the Piano

Being the 1940s keeno that I am, I was thrilled to find out that one of our closest National Trust properties, Beningbrough Hall, was holding a four day World War Two event in August. Only seventy years ago, the Hall was a billet and mess hall to the Royal Canadian Air Force, so to walk around its extensive gardens, hand-in-hand with my children, in a time of relative peace, felt like a real honour, and I dressed up in sorta 40s gear to mark the occasion.

What particularly interested me was the display about rationing in England, which began during the War and didn't fully end til the 1950s. A week's worth of food was laid out for us to look at, and it was humbling. The amount of cheese rationed to an adult per week, for example, would have filled just a couple of sandwiches for our very own Evacuees, Prima and Secundus. I was complimented on my "red badge of courage" (lipstick) by the volunteer who explained about the use of gravy browning and burned match heads to create the illusion of stockings with seams down the back. 

While Prima and Secundus were playing in the adventure playground/ playing "tig" with the King, I made my way to what I was sure would be the highlight of the visit: the chance to sing 1940s songs round the grand piano in the Hall. My mum, who was born in 1946, used to sing several of the wartime tunes to me as a child, so I hoped to be able to join in with the rest of the crowd, most of whom were a couple of decades older than me. 

What Joy Is MineImagine my delight when two chaps in RAF uniform strode in, one of whom sat down to play the piano, and one who, along with a beautifully dressed lady, began to sing "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" from 1939. The tenor teased me for not joining in with the actions to "Run, Rabbit Run" (I am too cool LOL) and stood right next to me, singing, until I relented.

Soppy girl that I am, I burst into tears when during the performance of "(There'll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" and the soprano, whilst still singing, kindly passed me a lace-trimmed handkerchief from her vintage handbag. It's the line "And Jimmy will go to sleep| In his own little room again" that brings a lump to my throat. Seventy years later, we still owe "The Few" so much. 


Towards the end of the day, we headed to the Tree of Hope and Prima, Secundus and I wrote our own messages of peace which we tied to the branches; lest we forget. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

31 Days to Simpler Living #1


Little House Living's series on Simpler Living kicks off with the task of tackling "that pile" (a.k.a "hot spot", if you're still into Fly Lady).

Little House Living"You know the one I'm talking about" says Merissa Alink of Little House Living (author of Meal Planning Made Simple). "It lurks in the corner of a room or on the island or on top of a bookcase. You aren't really sure what's in it but that's what today is for. Put that pile down in the middle of a big open floor space (or at a clean table if you can't sit on the floor) and start sorting. Make piles for throw-away, to-file, and to-do."

Well, hell. I've got more than one place like that. The worst is The End of the Dining Table: 



It only took ten minutes to get the whole table spruced up, and part of that was taken up being distracted by The Inquirer magazine. I cleaned the table with some home-made lavender, lemon juice and vinegar cleaner, which (so far) has not damaged the wood... You'll see below the lovely American wall clock my dad renovated in the 1970s. He repainted the face himself by hand, a few years ago, before giving it to us. 


Monday, 5 August 2013

7 Resources for a Happy Homeschool

Bundle #31: Homeschooling Resources This week's bundle is packed full of resources for homeschoolers, including five ebooks plus two special bonus offers. With your purchase, you'll get tips for developing curriculum and teaching specific subjects, printables for you and your students, and encouragement for the school year at a discount of more than 80%! 

Homeschooling 101 by Kris Bales Whether you're just getting started or a veteran homeschooler, Homeschooling 101 offers inspiration and encouragement for your journey. Kris includes practical tips on important topics such as knowing your state's laws, discovering your homeschool style, recognizing your child's learning style, planning your calendar, dealing with nay-sayers and homeschooling on a shoestring to help you get off to a smooth start this fall! 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Creative Home and Garden Hop #3


Come and join us in The Creative Home and Garden

The view from the porch is lovely! This newly-established hop is the perfect fit for all of your wonderful posts on creative homemaking and gardening.

Meet The Creative Home and Garden
Hop hosts:

Alison from Mumtopia

Kathy from Creative Home Expressions

Mary from Back to the Basics and Mary’s Kitchen, and Lisa Lynn from Little Homestead on Hill
Week Two's featured posts here at Mumtopia are: 

Inexpensive Journals from Comp Books by biblelovenotes


and 


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Holy Grail Cooking #7: Timber Merchants' Bill Soup and New Boiler Crumble

We are now entering Month Three of the Great Loft Conversion Experiment, and so far, we are working to schedule. Other achievements include: learning how to graciously accept compliments from roofers, further practice with the biggest mitre saw DeWalt has created, the ability to carry a 25kg bag of plaster mix up two flights of stairs, and staying calm when the King fell off his stepladder and nearly plunged down the stairs.

The King's near-miss was a shock for us both, but not quite as shocking as our timber merchants' bill, and the fact that our boiler has taken this opportunity to go on strike. We are now looking to replace said boiler, at a likely cost of £2000. Essentially, we feel that, for the last two months we have done nothing but spend money. 

August, then, with its 31 Days, will become another (hopefully more successful) 31 Days of Nothing. Accordingly, and with my heart still thudding at the thought of shelling out for a new boiler we didn't expect to need, / screwdriver passing duties were over, I headed to the kitchen to rustle up a little frugal feast. 
First up: Timber Merchants' Bill Soup. This is based on potato and leek soup, but whereas leeks go out of season and get expensive, onions never do. It will serve 3-4 adults.

1. Heat four tbsp of butter in a large pan that has a lid. When the butter has melted, add three onions (chopped) and sauté until softened. 

2. Add 6-8 potatoes, peeled and diced and enough stock to cover. 


3. Season with salt and pepper and add a tsp of dried oregano.

4. Bring to a simmer, then cover and allow to cook until potatoes are cooked through.


5. Part blend, to allow for a "rustic" texture, and serve. 




For pudding, I made New Boiler Crumble, which will serve small portions to 4 people. This started with a small amount of rhubarb which wasn't enough to do anything much with. After stewing the rhubarb, I added some sorry-looking strawberries from the garden, some grapes that had seen better days, from the fridge, cut up a plum, and found some mixed summer fruits in the freezer. I added a tbsp of Asda Smartprice honey.

To make the crumble, adapting the recipe in Becky Thorn's The No-Waste Meal Planner, I used

50g broken biscuits from the bottom of the biscuit barrel,

125g Asda Smartprice plain flour,

approx 65g Asda Best for Baking (instead of butter)

and 65g sugar.

This gave me too much crumble mix for the small amount of fruit, so I put some in the fridge to keep for next time.

I forgot to take a photo of it after it came out of the oven, but it did round off the meal very nicely with a dollop of crème fraiche, making us feel a little more inclined to count our blessings. Let the 31 Days commence!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Frugal Bugle #3: Help Yourself to Free Wallpaper


I just made this desktop wallpaper for all my loyal followers and readers, so feel free to right click and save as your new background. The photo was taken from our back garden, looking at the row of houses behind, and I noticed this cloud has a silver lining. I wanted to share it with you. Thank you for joining me here in Mumtopia.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

5 Tips for Great Day Trips with Kids

 1. Avoid "Are we nearly there yet?" chanting by keeping your journey short. Look for a destination that's less than 40 minutes away. You won't spend as much on fuel and you won't spend half your day stuck in traffic. 

When I drive, I enjoy the privilege of choosing the music on the CD player. I love driving and singing. Less enjoyable is having to answer endless questions about the meaning of lyrics - "Who is he singing about? (Honey Pie, The Beatles) " "Why is he miserable when he's found a job?" (Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, The Smiths) - so watch what you put on your compilations, gang. Alternatively, play an audiobook: Martin Jarvis reading Just William is unbeatable.

2. One massive advantage of going by car is that you can take a change of clothes, a picnic, waterproofs, sunhats etc and be prepared for most eventualities. Taking a picnic will save you the cost of buying lunch out. Take a flask of your favourite hot beverage and then you won't be paying through the nose for coffee or tea, either. A First Aid Kit, as the King found to his cost when Secundus tripped and cut his head open today, is a must.
3. Join an organisation that gives you free entry to lots of fascinating places. The National Trust is very family-friendly these days; it isn't all "please do not breathe near the portraits" and "don't touch the gilded spoon-rests" and there are many properties, beaches, woodlands and other sites of interest all over Great Britain. A family membership will pay for itself after about four visits to a National Trust place, and there are many special events and activities that take place during the school holidays. This photo was taken at World Heritage Site: Fountains Abbey, which also has an adventure playground, as shown below. The Royal Horticultural Society is also highly recommended.

4. Make it child-focussed. This doesn't mean you can only go to soft-play places and petting zoos. Know that when exploring the ruins of a centuries-old abbey, all your children really want to know is where the monks went to the toilet or where the dungeons are. Be grateful that they are interested at all when they ask questions like "But where did the monks get their electricity?". Encourage their wondering-alouds and make sure there is a good balance of learning and activity. To see an ancient monument through the eyes of a six year-old is enriching. 
5. Get some down-time. Being on-the-go all day is tough on you and the kids. Make sure you get a bit of a breather by bringing along a blanket, story books, activity books etc. These can act as a time-filler between activities or a distraction when it isn't quite time for lunch yet.
For me, being spontaneous is a real challenge; I find it difficult to make decisions happily on the spot, as I like to examine the alternatives and have control over as many things as possible! A spotting book like the one below can keep your children occupied while you watch the grey clouds appear on the horizon and hastily plan your next move. Always have a Plan B. Often, in Britain, Plan B involves making a mad dash for the car to continue the picnic with the windscreen wipers on. 
For more super summer ideas, check out The Confident Mom's 2013 Summer Survival Calendar. 
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