Thursday, November 30, 2006

Summer Time Eating

Well today is officially the first day of summer (in Australia) and I thought I'd write about some summer time eating for the family that doesn't have to involve enormous amounts of the stuff that sends them crazy and doesn't benefit their beautiful growing bodies.

The kids get so busy outside that we can forget to feed them until they are at our heels fainting from hunger at which point it's easy to send them in the direction of a sugary ice block in the freezer or that kid sized packet of chips in the pantry.

If the kids survive only on sugar this summer, no matter how much time they spend burning it off in the pool, not only will they crash and burn, but summer won't be as much fun as it could be with even blood sugar levels!

Being prepared is much easier than trying to pull something together when the little treasures are hungry.

Here's what works for me:

Frozen fruit is a winner. Watermelon and pineapple in chunks are good fun and bananas, peeled, cut in half with paddle pop sticks stuck in make sweet ice blocks that can be pulled out of the freezer quickly and easily. And frozen grapes are yummo.

The kids will also enjoy making juice in the juicer and then pouring it in to ice cube trays. You could then put the cubes into some soda water, throw in some frozen blueberries and you've got a fab kids cocktail.

Adding milk to the ice trays gives you a boost of extra protein to fill up their tummies and frozen smoothies are great too, especially if they're old enough to help make them. We put in milk, (cow's or soy) and frozen fruit with some yoghurt and maybe some cinnamon or honey if they need more sweetness. These fill up little tummies and keep them going longer. The other thing we do after school and on long sunny weekend days is platters of all sorts of goodies that can sit on the table with a cover or in some tuppaware, and they can help themselves when they're hungry.

These platters could hold chicken or beef kebabs with sauce, sushi (if you're feeling inclined to make some, it's actually quite easy), chunks of cheese with crackers and baby tomatoes, carrot and cucumber sticks with dips, and some slices of home made pizza.

Don't forget lots of water. When my kids are home all day, I give them a drink bottle and bargain (ok bribe) with them to finish it by the end of the day. Then they get juice with dinner.

They could also make their own salads from big containers of different veggies and fillings and may be more inclined to eat it if they've been involved in the process.

The chips and ice blocks are not black listed but once again leave them for sometimes or party time and get them into the good stuff and watch their little sun kissed bodies glow with health.

Have fun!
PS. I'll post the recipe for sushi in the next few days, it¹s healthy, yummy and a great lunch box or after school snack.
©thefamilyroom 2006

This One's for you Barbara....and to all the mum's out there caught up in trying to remember what end of year celebration is happening today at school

Have you ever had one of those mornings when you feel like you’re on top of everything (lunches for the little ones, hubby out the door to work, older kids organised for the day) and then all of a sudden the world around you seems to fall when your child in the back of the car says, “Oh no, it’s the Christmas Assembly today and we’re supposed to be dressed in something Christmassy today!”

As I looked in the rear view mirror I saw my little angel sitting in full school uniform without a stitch of Christmas reference on her person. As I drove down the driveway towards school all I could see is a sea of bobbing Santa hats as the other children made their way to their classes.

I did what all of us would do at that moment…. I said, “honey I’ll be back before assembly starts.” All the while I’m praying that the shop will be open, that they will have something and that I will get back, as I promised, before assembly starts. As I tore out of the school drive (minding the go 40 for me) my mind raced, do I go to the supermarket and hope they have something appropriate or do I go to the new Christmas Lights store up the road hoping that they carried more than lights. I knew that the Lights store probably didn’t open until 9am but I thought it would be my best option……The Lights store won!

As I stood outside the shop hoping that it would open early I saw another car race into the car park. I wondered could she be in the same situation as me? As she made her way to the store window I knew……. I wasn’t not alone! Thank you Barbara for being so normal and loving your children so much.

Our story gets better… In conversation I mentioned to Barbara that I hoped they took card (most places have a $10.00 limit on cards so I had already accepted the fact that I would be leaving the shop with things I didn’t need in order to buy the $3.00 hat I required). To my question Barbara quickly answered, “don’t worry I have cash.” How great is that – I love women on a mission especially when it involves their children.

The store finally opened, Barbara and I rushed in and found what we needed. We
found the cutest headband in the shape of reindeer antlers with bells on them and little brown ears sticking out the side (so cute!). We knew our little ones would LOVE them so we both took one and headed to the counter ready to pay. Barbara confidently handed over her $50.00 bill at which point the shop assistant asked if we had anything smaller. Barbara and I instantly froze thinking, we need these antlers and we don’t have anything less…panic, what were we going to do?

I think the girl behind the counter could tell how desperate we were and being an understanding girl (maybe a mum herself I’m not sure) she politely said, “you can just have them, that’s fine.” Barbara and I were both extremely shocked by her kindness – almost speechless (sadly this kind of stuff doesn’t happen that often anymore) so we emptied our change on the counter leaving her with approximately $2.95 and a HUGE thank you.

We both jumped in our cars and headed back to school. On our way back we found ourselves side-to-side on the road. Barbara was signalling to me that we both needed to breath deep, I was signalling to her how I wished the bus in front of us would make way for two mothers on a mission.

We arrived just as the classes where filing into the auditorium for the assembly. Barbara raced to her daughter’s class and I raced to mine. We made it…and the look on our children’s faces was so worth ever second spent.

As we left the auditorium we gave each other a high five, breathed a sigh of peace and knew exactly what the other was thinking…… We were great mum’s today, yes we both forgot something important but we didn’t let that get us down (I believe that guilt is highly over rated). Rather we changed directions, focussed and made the reindeer antlers a priority.

So to my new friend and mother who is determined to be the best mum for her children – this one’s for you Barbara. You inspired me today and reminded me that all the crazy things I do to make life great for my family is worth it. Thank you for being great and for caring!

Susan xoxo
©thefamilyroom 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

thefamilyroom Christmas Plan - Week 6

Okay so we have arrived at week 6 and if you have been following the plan you should be well on your way. If you haven't don't stress you can jump on board now and use the next few weeks to get yourself ready for the season.

Week 6 It’s all Under Control – Relax!

• Make sure cameras and videos are in working condition and batteries are charged.
• Send email Christmas letter to overseas family and friends, try and provide an updated fun family photo.
• Buy 4 more gifts.
• Put up external decorations (wreath, lights in trees).
• Book in any hair appointments for the family.
• Clean the bbq.

To buy this week: BBQ supplies (fill gas, matches, extra foil roasting trays)
Foils and plastic wraps
Plastic cups and plates for kids
Canned Juice x 2
2 bottles of wine

Have fun preparing and whatever you do make sure you RELAX. You are and will be on top of things.

Susan xoxo ©thefamilyroom 2006

HELP.....What Can I Give the Teacher for Christmas???

Saturday morning I received an email, from a friend, with the subject title being HELP! I quickly opened the email to discover that HELP was required to organise a gift for her daughter’s teacher.

Some of you may find this a strange cry for help but the requirements put on each parent was that the gift must be made or baked….a task my beautiful friend was not up to.

I quickly typed out a few ‘home-made’ gift idea’s that I LOVE in the hope that my suggestions would alleviate the stress in her life or provide her with that simple creative push she desperately needed. I hope you too will enjoy these simple ideas and remember it doesn’t matter if this is for your 16-year-old child’s teacher or your 5 year old’s – these suggestions are gifts that speak volumes – they are made with consideration and much thought and will be enjoyed.

Dare to be different this Christmas and let your gift speak volumes…..Have fun!

Simple Gift Ideas:

A Christmas decoration with your child’s photo in it

Cookie Mix In The Jar - This is super simple. Layer the dry ingredients in the jar with the chocolate chips on the top. Let your child hand write the ingredients and cooking method (remember it doesn’t include the butte or egg make sure you include it in your method).
125 g unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups tightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups plain (all purpose) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 ½ cups chocolate bits/chips

Bath Salts – This is super simple as well.
6 parts coarse sea salt
3 parts Epsom salt
1 part baking soda
A few drops of your favourite essential oil
Food colouring for look if you want however leaving it natural is best and looks great in a glass jar with a hand written label and a ribbon (you could even use an old instant coffee jar – make sure it’s washed really well in hot water and the label to TOTALLY removed).

Your favorite Fudge Brownie recipe layered like the choc chip cookies and wrapped in cello with a ribbon and placed in a small tin.

Praline Crunch – this is SUPER easy and it tastes great plus it’s a huge hit with the male teachers:
3/4 cup of sugar
2 Cups Pecan Pieces
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
Butter baking sheet; set aside. Place sugar in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking pan occasionally, until sugar starts to melt. Reduce heat to low and cook until sugar is golden, stirring as necessary.
Stir in pecans, butter, vanilla, and, if desired, cinnamon. If sugar resolidifies, cook and stir until sugar is melted and nuts are coated.
Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet; cool. Break into small clusters. Store in airtight container in cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks.
To wrap simply use the cellophane and tin again – super easy and looks great!

Your favorite Marinade – this is a great one! Make your favorite marinade, put it in a great jar with a sealed lid and label giving clear instructions (what it works with, etc.). Super easy and really nice.

Well friends there you go a few simple tried and true gifts made with love from your home to another. I hope you use these and enjoy……whatever you do don’t stress you CAN do it!

Susan xoxo ©thefamilyroom 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Breaking the routine in favour of Family

In the family Room, we often talk about the importance of meal times; those precious moments spent discussing the day’s activities, high’s and low’s and anything else that might make for interesting conversation with our kids.

Tonight, I was tired, hot and my husband was going to be late. It would have been easier to have fed the kids last night’s lasagna, and then put them to bed early. Once they were in bed, I could have relaxed in front of the TV or read a magazine, happy in the knowledge that my kids were ‘out of the way.” Instead, I decided to make our meal time a priority. It took longer to prepare a meal for all of us, we ate a bit later, but in the end it was worth it. I even made it a little special. We ate outside under the pergola, listened to Christmas music and talked about our day.

When I asked my seven year old her ‘high’ for the day, she said: “sitting here with you and having dinner” … right away, I knew I had made the right decision.

As the queen of the routine, I do find it hard to operate outside of the time I have allotted for each activity. However, sometimes, just sometimes, we need to throw the routine out the window and focus on what’s important – our relationship with our family!

Nicki Partridge
©thefamilyroom 2006

The Christmas Countdown - We’re Half Way There!

Week 5 Keep on top of Things!

•Play Christmas music from now until well after New Years :)
•Buy 4 more gifts.
•Send out invites to parties you’re planning to host.
•Prepare a holiday house-cleaning schedule that works for everyone.
•Get your photo with Santa earlier rather than later (avoid the cues).
•Invite family and friends to school plays, etc.

To buy this week:

•Frozen Deserts

So far many people we have talked to have endeavoured to stick by our 9 week Christmas plan and have done really well.

Week 5 is a crucial week as it is now setting the scene for your Christmas season. So stack the freezer with your frozen treats, pop on the Christmas music, sit down with your family and write your holiday party invitations together.

Write to us and tell of your adventures through your week. Whether that is the crazy moments lining up in the supermarket, or those golden moments chatting to your kids at bedtime.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty!


Well I finally found some time to get my Pav recipe online. I'm so glad yourequested it.... I know you will love it! Actually Susan you should have ago now that you are officially Australian Citizens (yes, Australia has accepted 3 more great people to herself....well done friends).

The Perfect Pav

4 egg whites (or up to 6-7 if you want it bigger)
Eggs MUST be room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 heaped teaspoons cornflour

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Beat the egg whites in a metal bowl with a pinch of salt till white.
Slowly (1 tablespoon at a time) add the castor sugar and beat until mixture is no longer 'gritty', it should look glossy and stiff.
Add vanilla and vinegar.
Sift the cornflour over the mixture and fold through.
Place on a non-stick baking paper as a whole big pavlova or as smaller individual meringues. My tip was put wet kitchen paper underneath the baking paper.
For children you can sprinkle with hundreds and thousands or add food colouring to the mixture.
Place in oven, reduce heat to 120 degrees.
Bake a whole pavlova for 1 and 1/2 hours / smaller meringues for 45mins. Turn the oven off and allow them to completely cool while still in the oven.

When cooled, take the pav out and gently tip it upside down onto the serving plate, peel off the paper and let it sit. It will fall into itself and give you that great crusty, smooshy thing!

Serve with cream, berries, banana, kiwifruit, passionfruit, chocolate...whatever!

PS. I have also learned, living in Fiji, that humidity does weird things to eggs!
I always have to make my pavs or any baking, with the air con blasting.
So if it’s a humid day, make sure the fan or the aircon is on or if you don’t have aircon, take your kitchen tools to a friend’s house, Susan will happily have you over, as long as you share the results with her!

* * * * *

Hope you’re all happy and enjoying the lead up to Christmas with your wide eyed kids!
Giorgia stopped believing in Santa last year, girls can be clever beyond their years – but she has kept the magic alive for Jonah and any other little people we have around as Christmas approaches. Lots of fun!

One of the Christmas foods I love – and there are so many – are those big fat pretzels with chunks of salt on them!
I think I just buy them for the salt! They’re too good!

BUT as I’m sure you’ve all heard, we may love salty foods, but they don’t love us.

So how much can we have before it becomes dangerous for our health?

Well it’s around 2300mgs daily, which is great I hear you say, but is that one teaspoon or a whole packet of pretzels?

Like you did with sugar, go and grab some packaged foods out of your pantry and have a look. Two minute noodles have about a day’s worth of salt and a tablespoon of soy sauce or fish sauce has more than 1000mgs.

Don’t forget to look at the amount per serve. You may have to multiply the amount shown, by the 5 servings the brand is telling you is in that little can of chicken meat!

Chips, twisties and alas pretzels all contribute to the tally and tinned tomatoes or tinned anything can take us off the scale. A tin of tomatoes with reduced or no added salt has a negligible amount, but the regular ones have lots, look for yourself.

Too much salt in the diet has been linked to high blood pressure, poor heart health, fluid retention, dehydration and kidney problems.

Also people with Diabetes and exsisting heart problems or high blood pressure should have less than the average of 2300mgs and should have their diets balanced by their doctors or a nutritionist.

Are you adding salt to your food through habit or because you absolutely can’t eat that egg without it?

Like all foods, I’m not saying cut salt out completely, but be aware of the amounts that your body can handle in a day and shop for packaged foods with open eyes, and read the nutrition labels before you buy them. Remember the fancy name for salt is sodium.

Also why add salt to our kids’ foods? Often they don’t notice of it’s not there and hopefully won’t develop a taste for processed salty foods when they’re older.

Meanwhile, enjoy your Christmas pretzels! And don’t forget to drink lots of water while you do, so you don’t dehydrate from salt OD and too much Aussie sun!

Lv Jane
©thefamilyroom 2006

A HUGE Thank You to our Partners

I thought I would take a quick moment today to thank our incredible partners/supporters of thefamilyroom. I am overwhelmed at the generosity of the businesses in our area. They all seem to really understand the family message and have made it a priority.

Being the end of another busy year most (if not all) companies have what is called donor fatigue – basically they have given so much and have usually exceeded their ‘giveaway’ budget that there is nothing left! However, we have found that companies are more than happy to generously support the vision of family. For those of you who attended our LIVE event on Thursday you know that we gave away gifts and services to the value of $43,000.00. At this time of year this is an incredible blessing and one we are exceptionally grateful for.

Thank You to our supporters, thank you for helping us make our LIVE event something to last a life time, thank you for believing in family and for touching the lives of the families in our community and beyond through your generosity.

I will leave you with this story:

On Thursday night (at our LIVE event) we had a Santa sack full of toys (all of the toys were generously donated). One woman attending had recently had her house broken into and most things were taken including the toys she had already bought for her children for Christmas....devastating. BUT thefamilyroom were able to step in and give her the sack full of toys – this was one of the most touching moments of the was fantastic, we were able to make a difference simply because we can and with the support of others a life was touched.

Have the best day, give someone a hug today and remind them how much you care and make sure you visit our local businesses and thank them for their support of familyroom.

Susan xoxo

Thursday, November 16, 2006


What a night......thefamilyroom LIVE.....Christmas with the Girls!

If you were there THANK YOU for joining us. If you were unable to come this time we really hope you are able to join us at the next one......we had such a good time.

Girls were treated to live music, a gift bag (given to every woman) valued at $150.00 each, roses given out to unsuspecting women, plus over $40,000.00 worth of goods and services given which were all generously donated by the businesses in our community. Everyone left with something in their hands and a smile on their face - exactly what we wanted to see.

From thefamilyroom team Susan, Michaela, Sam, Nicki, Belinda, Annie and CJ we would like to say a huge THANK YOU for coming and for enjoying a great night with us. We worked hard to prepare the night and now that the dust has settled, we've had a good nights sleep a cup of coffee we are all celebrating the moments.

Have the best day, stay connected as we will have so much more on the blogspot later today and over the weekend and into next week.

Keep smiling, love each other and remember your family story is still being written......

We love you and believe in you.

Susan and team xoxo

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What on Earth is Glycemic Index?

Hello again.
Hope you’re all having a great week so far and enjoying your families.

We have recently learnt to make pavlova in my household as I feel that every self respecting Australian and New Zealand woman should know how!
It’s actually quite easy - Giorgia can now do it pretty much single handed!

Unfortunately pavlova is not a low GI food and as such is on the party food list, but hey, Christmas is just around the corner and I plan to make several, topped with cream, berries and grated chocolate!

So this week Glycemic Index…

You’ve probably heard a lot about eating low to moderate GI foods for good health and weight loss. In fact a great book about GI that I recommend is ‘The New Glucose Revolution’ by Jennie Brand Miller, Kaye Foster-Powell and Stephen Colagiuri – if you’re interested in learning more.

But keepin’ it simple - what is GI?
Basically a food is assigned a GI measure – low/medium/high - when tested to see how quickly it causes your blood sugar to rise when digested.
SO, if a food has a high GI, it will cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. High GI foods include Rice Bubbles and baked potatoes.
Foods that are low-medium GI have a slow-medium affect on blood sugar, examples are pasta, lentils and yoghurt.

So that’s great I hear you say, but what does that mean??

Well, the state of our blood sugar affects our moods, (we’ve all seen the kids at birthday parties) our health, our weight and the potential for disease.

Saving the high GI foods for party time and sometimes, helps keep our blood sugar even, the hunger pangs to a minimum and keeps us healthy.

Eating high GI foods daily has been linked to hypoglaecemia, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Inturn, regular consumption of low-medium GI foods has been found not only to help prevent these conditions, but have a positive affect on reducing symptoms.

I’m not a stickler for structuring meals around the GI of each food eaten by my family – I prefer the everyday, sometimes and party time concept - but I do make sure we are eating low-medium GI foods as part of the everyday, at some point.

Do some research yourself to get a better understanding if you’re interested, but here is a little list just to get you started.
Also, as we talked about last week, check the labels of the foods you’re buying, often they will say low or medium GI (they’re not likely to admit to high!).

Low – Medium GI foods
All Bran
Wholemeal and mutligrain breads

High GI foods
Baked potatoes
White bread
Many breakfast cereals
Soft drinks
Jasmine rice

Sometimes GI can be confusing, fatty foods have low GI’s (because they take longer to digest) and yet are not good for our bodies. Watermelon has a high GI, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat it, just eat other fruit too.
For these reasons, and with a plethora of other information and diet tips out there, I promote the idea of everyday/sometimes/party foods, I like to keep it simple.

I just wanted to explain the basic GI idea so you can contribute to the conversation next time it comes up over morning coffee!

Eat fruits and veggies everyday, good sources of carbs, proteins and fats, lots of water, limited party food….and you’re good to go!

With summer on its way, it’s a great time to throw some good quality meats, chicken and fish on the barbie, toss up a few salads loaded with greens and then round off with a fruit platter….yum-mo!!

Lv Jane

PS. Getting back to the pav….Some great tips I received include:
Use a metal bowl
Make sure eggs are room temperature
Place wet paper towels underneath the baking paper, then when the pav is cooked tip it upside down onto the serving plate and peel the paper off. This will make it sink into itself and help give you that great crusty outside, smooshy inside feel!
We had bananas (they’re FJ$2 for about 8 here!) and passionfruit on ours last night…too good!
©thefamilyroom 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

thefamilyroom LIVE

Hey girls I thought I would give you a quick update on thefamilyroom LIVE which is only 2 days away. If you haven't booked we would love to have you so do it today. If you have already we are so excited and can hardly wait to see you.

Remember we have champagne or orange juice on arrival plus some nibblies (I know some of you were a little hungry last time so don’t worry, we’re looking after you) and a few other treats as the night progresses..... I can’t tell you everything I have to leave some surprises :)

I need to tell you that we have more GIFTS and STUFF to give away this time — we’ve been working really hard and we are super excited so get ready. It’s going to be a GREAT night!

I thought I would take a moment and let you know about some of the great gift ideas that we will have available on the night – we are doing everything we can to help you prepare for Christmas so in an effort to assist you with some of your shopping we have brought in some GREAT people and their products. I have listed them below, with their website details in case you wanted to jump onto their website, have a look around and familiarize yourself with their beautiful products.

Bliss Designs -
Inspirational Gifts -
Sweet Deliveries -
Compassion Australia -
Mel's Memory Boards

Amity's Child (spectacular children's clothing - up to size 12)

We are so looking forward to seeing you again and some, for the first time. Stay well, and continue enjoying life.

Susan xoxo

©thefamilyroom 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Computer much time are you spending staring at a box?

Hello everyone I hope you've had an excellent weekend. It finally felt like summer in Sydney and I believe it was a wintery day in the Northern Hemisphere. Pure enjoyment for everyone.

I had a great conversation today with one of my closest friends about computers and their place in the family. Following our conversation I thought I'd do a little research and find out just how much trouble computers are causing and I was alarmed.

I discovered (what I already knew to be true) that couples are breaking up due to computer use, children are becoming violent due to the games they are playing and the online company they are keeping. Families are being torn apart due to a box that plugs into the wall.

I don't want to spend to much time on this because as I've said before I'm not in any way against technology, it has it's place. What I am against however is the amount of time we spend staring at a screen and ignoring life that's going on around us. Reality is what's happening in our backyards, in our kitchens and lounge rooms. Reality is not found behind our screens (have you ever looked behind your screen, it's either a bunch of wires or if it's a laptop like mine all you'll find is a table top!!!!).

In some of the research I did I found that in a Stanford University study or 4000 people they found that there is a noticeable effect even with just 2-5 Internet hours/week, and it rises substantially for those spending more that 10 hours/week, of whom up to 15 percent report a decrease in social activities. Even more striking is the fact that Internet users spend much less time of talking on the phone to friends and family. Basically, through excessive computer/internet usage we are losing contact with our social environment – our reality.

I encourage you to limit the time you spend on the computer and those in your home.

Don't allow all hour access
Encourage conversation
Keep the computer in a high activity location (not in a room away from the action)
Check history files regularly
Limit games played
Establish a ‘log in – log out’ book for the family and decide what an acceptable amount of computer time per person and stick to it
Keep each other accountable

Lastly, if you find yourself getting definsive when someone says something about the amount of time you’re spending on the computer you might want to stop and think because.....they’re probably right.

Take care, be well and keep loving each other.

Susan xoxo
©thefamilyroom 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reading Glasses...Not TV Glasses

Yes I am guilty just as much as the next girl for taking in more television viewing time than I probably should. A few months ago, my daughter, who is a bookworm, brought to my attention that my glasses were called ‘reading’ glasses rather than TV glasses.

So lately I have been challenged to pick up a book rather than reach for the remote, which is often the easiest form of ‘debriefing’ after a long day.

There is a great quote by poet and short story writer, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, “A man is known by the company his mind keeps”.

We all know we are often defined by the company we keep, but how often do we cultivate the company our mind keeps. Have we forgotten the art of reading?
Have we confined reading to emails, magazines and mail? With busy schedules it is too easy to slip into this very habit.

So inspired to return to the beauty of reading, to the turning again of pages, to the discovery of another’s world, to the quiet moments of escapism, I am leaving the television off a little longer.

My challenge to you is to switch off the television for one week, pick up a good book and see how much more you expand your thinking, imagination and creativity.

Rather than grabbing an old romance novel (which have their place), read a book that inspires you to be the best version of yourself, to think larger and make a change…and encourage your family members to do the same.

Here are some titles worth the read:

A Song Flung Up to Heaven - Maya Angelou.

The Story of My Life – Helen Kellar.

Desert Flower - Waris Dirie.

The Alchemist – Paulo Ceolho.

To Kill a Kill Mockingbird – Harper Lee.

Go ahead and get lost in the pages. You won’t regret it, in fact, you will probably find yourself in far more interesting conversations than those that surround Desperate Housewives or the latest CSI series.

Let us know if you have any ‘greats’ on your list that we should indulge in. HAVE FUN!


©thefamilyroom 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Sweet Life

If my kids were allowed, they would sit and dip their fingers in sugar and just lick it off for hours!
Most of us love anything sweet and all the more during that afternoon slump or when we’ve got PMS!

So when we hear about choosing low GI foods and cutting down on sugar, it can be confusing to know which foods are which and how much sugar we should be cutting down.

I’ll go into GI, or Glycemic Index in more detail next week, but first let’s look at sugar.
Our bodies don’t need – but can handle – let’s say 9 teaspoons of sugar a day. There are lots of different numbers and recommendations out there, but from my reading, 9 teaspoons is a pretty good reference point.
This is for adults, for kids, I would say around 6-7.

Carbohydrates (a carb is basically anything that grows), eventually break down as sugar, or glucose, in the blood stream which is why we don’t need extra sugar in our diets if we are eating our fruit and veg and some good grains, legumes and nuts.

Over time and if we eat more than the 9tsp/day regularly, we will put on weight (sugar not used by the body will be stored as fat) and our blood glucose may start to go a bit nuts.
This is especially true for kids, we’ve seen the evidence after those birthday parties!

So, what do we do?

Well bear with me while I give you a little formula and we can go from there.
9 teaspoons of sugar roughly equals about 34grams.

So, something like a 600ml soft drink for example which contains 70 something grams of sugar, has a whopping 18 teaspoons right there.
A can has about 11.

Going back to last week….case in point, not only do many soft drinks contain caffeine and all sorts of weird chemicals, the amount of sugar in my kids bloodstream would be off the scale!
Save it for party time. Too many kids (and adults) are guzzling loads of the stuff….enter obesity and Diabetes.

Ok, getting back to what we do about this – Start to read labels and understand them.
That way you can limit and reduce the amounts if sugar your family is consuming and prevent obesity, disease and behavioural problems, rather than have to fix them once they’re there.

Go and get a packet of something from your pantry and have a look at the nutrition label, and see how much sugar is in that product PER SERVE.
A packet of biscuits for example may have 11 grams of sugar per serve, then we see at the top of the label that their idea of a serve is one biscuit!

Check your breakfast cereals and low-fat-so-it-must-be-good-for-me sweet products and you will find enormous amounts of sugar.

Look at the amounts in sweetened yoghurts. Even the ones with just fruit have a days worth of sugar.
A teaspoon of jam has the equivalent of 3 teaspoons. One cup of ‘no added sugar’ juice has 5.
“Sports” drinks are just watery, coloured, flavoured sugar (about 15tsps worth) and are only necessary to replenish your sweaty body if you are an olympic athlete!

Add up the amounts of sugar your family is consuming in a day and see how you fare. It’s very easy to hit 9tsp of sugar in one go!

I’m not telling you all this to depress you, rather to empower you to be able to make smart choices.
If your kids love the sweetened yoghurts, then give them one a day and other sugary foods are limited or saved until it’s ‘sometimes’ day or party time (see last week).

My kids and I came to an agreement – they love juice so that’s their sugar for the day. They are allowed one cup and only if they’ve finished the water in their drink bottle at school.
Other than that, for sweetness, they have slushies made from frozen fruit and maybe something involving honey on bread.
And…..on the weekends ice cream and chocolate chip cookies may make an appearance!

Again, this is not some sort of regimented thing, I eat chocolate with the best of you, just know what your boundaries are, stick to them most of the time and enjoy the times when you don’t!

I’d love to hear your comments and talk more about how this can work in your family!

Next week GI…
Lv Jane
©thefamilyroom 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Scary Truth About Handbags

Have you ever noticed gals who sit their purses on public restroom floors - that go directly to their dining tables? Happens a lot! It's not always the 'restaurant food' that causes stomach distress. Sometimes "what you don't know 'will' hurt you"! Read on...Mom got so upset when a guest came in the door and plopped their purses down on the counter where she was cooking or setting up the buffet. She always said that purses are really dirty, because of where they have been. Smart Momma!!!

It's something just about every woman carries with them. While we may know what's inside our purses, do you have any idea what's on the outside? Shauna Lake put purses to the test - for bacteria - with surprising results. You may think twice about where you put your purse.

Women carry purses everywhere; from the office to public restrooms to the floor of the car. Most women won't be caught without their purses, but did you ever stop to think about where your purse goes during the day? "I drive a school bus, so my purse has been on the floor of the bus a lot," says one woman. "On the floor of my car, probably in restrooms." "I put my purse in grocery shopping carts, on the floor of bathroom stalls while changing a diaper," says another woman and of course in my home which should be clean."

We decided to find out if purses harbor a lot of bacteria. We learned how to test them at Nelson Laboratories in Salt Lake, then we set out to test the average woman's purse. Most women told us they didn't stop to think about what was on the bottom of their purse. Most said they usually set their purses on top of kitchen tables and counters where food is prepared. Most of the ladies we talked to told us they wouldn't be surprised if their purses were at least a little bit dirty. It turns out purses are so surprisingly dirty, even the microbiologist who tested them was shocked. Microbiologist Amy Karren of Nelson Labs says nearly all of the purses tested were not only high in bacteria, but high in harmful kinds of bacteria. Pseudomonas can cause eye infections, staphylococcus aurous can cause serious skin infections, and salmonella and e-coli found on the purses could make people very sick. In one sampling, four of five purses tested positive for salmonella, and that's not the worst of it. "There is fecal contamination on the purses," says Amy. Leather or vinyl purses tended to be cleaner than cloth purses, and lifestyle seemed to play a role. People with kids tended to have dirtier purses than those without, with one exception. The purse of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of the worst contaminations of all. "Some type of feces, or even possibly vomit or something like that," says Amy.

So the moral of this story - your purse won't kill you, but it does have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places where you eat.
Use hooks to hang your purse at home and in restrooms, and don't put it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen countertop. Experts say you should think of your purse the same way you would a pair of shoes. "If you think about putting a pair of shoes onto your countertops, that's the same thing you're doing when you put your purse on the countertops" - your purse has gone where every individual before you has spat, coughed, urinated, emptied bowels, etc! Do you really want to bring that home with you? The microbiologists at Nelson also said cleaning a purse will help. Wash cloth purses and use leather cleaner to clean the bottom of leather purses.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Modern Technology – What is it doing to us?

Hey there I hope you are all well and enjoying the weekend!

As of late my thoughts have been filled with modern technology and how it is shaping us as individuals.

I was recently out for dinner with my family and was enjoying our time together. Our conversation was full of stories from each ones day - we were enjoying lots of laughs together plus the incredible food we had ordered to share.

Being an avid PEOPLE WATCHER I noticed the table beside us and was saddened by what I saw. The scene hurt my heart. It was of mother and father sitting in silence, looking around the restaurant whilst occasionally rearranging their utensils. They had two children aged approx. 12 and 14 and they were both transfixed with their mobile phones. One was continuously sending text messages and the other totally engrossed in a game. NO ONE WAS TALKING!

Just the other day I had the opportunity to spend time with a few great friends and I was extremely frustrated with the amount of time that was taken up either through text messaging or responding immediately to a mobile phone ring or another text indicator. Our communication was determined and dictated by technology and our insatiable need to be ‘in touch’ with life.

I guess my thought is what about the life that is happening right in front of us. The people we are with – we need to give each other our undivided attention. My suggestion is we turn off mobile phones or blackberries, blueberries or whatever it is that is causing you to become so distracted that you miss out on LIFE.

I’m not against technology I just think we need to be aware of how we, and our most precious relationships, are being affected by it.

I, like you I’m sure, often wonder what we did before email and mobile phones – I think we walked more, had breathing space and enjoyed face-to-face conversation much more.

Have the best day and make sure you turn everything off and enjoy those in your world.

Susan xoxo
©thefamilyroom 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Than Enough...For The Busy Single Girl

As a single working mum, orchestrating a square meal to be on the table by 6pm or so, is sometimes impossible.

I am sure that many working mums and single girls are in the same boat. Rather than feeling as is you’re flailing in this area, chin up and read on. I have listed a couple of tips to help you out after being helped out myself.

Last week I was picking up my daughter from a friends house after work as she was placing her families meal on the table. Thinking outside her world, she offered me her ‘more than enough’ portion to take with me for dinner. There was not enough for two meals, however, combining it with a quick salad…and voila!

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to serve my daughter up a great meal on time. The extra time we had together to SIT and chat was fantastic.

So here are a few ideas that sprung to mind:

•Try choosing meals that you can cook on the weekend that will freeze.

•Choose a vegetarian meal if you usually have meat each night. Cooking is often much quicker.

•Eat out at a favourite ‘cheap eats’ once a fortnight…make it a tradition.

•When unpacking your groceries, chop what needs chopping, wash what needs washing and pack into containers and refrigerate.

•Marinate meat the night before.

•Pot Luck – once a month. Invite your circle of friends over.

•During the week grab a barbeque chicken instead of roasting one yourself.

•Leave your intricate recipes until the weekend when you have the time.

•And finally think more like my friend...outside her world. When cooking add a little more and freeze your ‘more than enough’ for your friend, neighbour, elderly parents, etc.

ps: When it all gets too hard, when road rage was an option on the way home, when the washing greets you before your dog does…chin up! Call a friend, pour a drink and order takeaway. There is always tomorrow to try again.


©thefamilyroom 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Hello all just a quick story to put a smile on your face today.

The other night my hubby and I had decided to go out for a date. As you know whenever you decide to go out, once you have kids it’s no longer just getting yourself ready it’s everyone else as well. In an effort to be organised and ready for a great night out I bathed the children and whilst they were getting their jammies on I put the final touches on their dinner – a dinner I thought was really nice.

My eldest daughter and my youngest daughter feasted on the meal I had lovingly prepared and seemingly loved every morsel. My middle child who our boy in this great clan sat in his chair eating and chatting with everyone, mid way through the meal he said, "mummy, this is really good......except for the taste."

Needless to say, we all had a huge giggle. Thankfully I have a great sense of humour and his comment didn't rock my boat rather it made me love him even more (if that's at all possible).

I want to encourage you to listen to your children, let them talk. Remember, we were created with two ears and one mouth for a reason. Through their musings our children will challenge us, they will enlighten us, they will humour us and they will give us memories that will last a lifetime. Let them make you laugh.

If you have a funny story about something your child has said or done please share it with us. You never know who may be touched by the joy that resides in your home.

Have a fantastic day.

Susan xoxo
©thefamilyroom 2006

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