Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tune in, tone up

A few weeks ago, my interest in the gym didn’t so much hit a plateau – it nose-dived spectacularly into a tail-spin of boredom and monotony.

The treadmill had become a chore, the bike was boring beyond belief and even my personal favourite, the cross-trainer, failed to rekindle my waning desire to work out. Hands up if you’ve been there.

I tried plugging in the headphones and watching TV but that didn’t work for me. I became so absorbed in the programs that my brisk walk turned into an afternoon stroll. The music channel seemed like a good idea but, call me old-fashioned, scantily-clad girls lamenting their lost loves and singing of plans to exact terrible revenge on their exes just left me cold.

Finally, I hit upon the idea of compiling a workout playlist for the iPod. Perhaps I’m slow on the uptake, it just hadn’t occurred to me to do this before.

But you know what, it worked so well. I chose a few fast tunes for the 40 minutes of cardio then some favourite crooners to slow the pace for a cool down. It’s hard to believe something so simple could make such a big difference. My energy and motivation were renewed.

So today, lucky ladies and gentlemen, I am sharing with you my Number 1 motivational, workout playlist. Give it a whirl or make one of your own, then when the excesses of the festive season are over you can, quite literally, hit the ground running with a new fitness regime!


 Click on the song titles to go to a website where you can hear a snippet from them. Then click the little speaker symbol and they will launch in Windows Media Player.

Cardio:
If you could read my mind – Amber
Love Generation – Bob Sinclair
Destination Calabria – Alex Gaudino
Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas
Mambo No 5 – Lou Bega
Bingo Bango – Basement Jaxx
We’re Going to Ibiza – Venga Boys
You’re The First, the Last, My Everything – Barry White
20 Good Reasons – Thirsty Merc
Hot Hot Hot – Bina Mistry

Cooldown:
Put Your Records On – Corinne Bailey Rae
Grace – U2
Fix You – Coldplay

That's all for today. Enjoy your workout and some of my favorites. Have a very Merry Christmas and an amazing New Year.

Deborah

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The 80-20 Rule


I guess most of us have heard of the "80 - 20 Rule" (formerly Pareto's Principle). Its origins go back to around 1897 when Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80 percent of the land was owned by 20 percent of the people. Since then, this theory has been applied to almost every sphere of modern life.

I have mainly heard this used along the lines of 20 percent of the people doing 80 percent of the work. But I have recently read about applying it to personal time management. When applied this way - it means that 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of the results. In other words there is the critical few and the trivial many.

I am now trying to identify the vital things in my day and focus on getting those done and it's amazing how the rest takes care of itself.

Now all you organised, choleric types are saying "der", but for someone a little more "relaxed" like me, this can be a revelation.

Hope someone finds this helpful!

Sam

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Time Matters

It seems funny to be writing about time management at this busy time of the year when we are experiencing out of control concerts, late nights mixed with the sugar rushes, excitement and shopping, shopping, shopping and one more trip to the shops for that last ingredient for the rum balls…and the story continues…

Doing things well is about stopping in the midst of the craziness and taking TIME to remember what it’s all about (especially during this beautiful season). For me that means:

A celebration of faith and TIME with family and friends.

Taking the TIME to stop and smile at someone instead of getting shoppers/road/airport/petrol station rage.

Taking the TIME to let the kids wrap the presents even though they look a bit dog eared and dodgy!

Taking the TIME to turn Mariah Carey up loud and sing like a crazy person and enjoy it.

Allowing the kitchen to be a mess for a while so everyone can be involved with the Christmas baking and letting the kids play a part in choosing a part of the meal.

Taking the TIME to create your own traditions.

Taking the TIME to count your blessings.

Taking the TIME to consider those less fortunate and what your contribution could be to easing their suffering.

We went shopping today (again) so the kids could choose presents for my hubby and myself while I waited outside. They were so excited and I’m so glad I took the TIME to let them choose heaven knows what (they were given a budget) then wrap it at home and stick it under the tree.

This is the TIME of year to manage our TIME moment by moment and make every effort to enjoy each special one…..New Year’s Eve will come around soon enough and we’ll be resolving to make 2008 a TIME of efficiency with our lists and structure…until then, take a deep breath, create some great memories and enjoy the ride.

Lv Jane

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Date to Remember

So last night was just one of those nights that I will remember for a long time. It was nothing flash, rather extremely simple and in it’s simplicity it was simply amazing (how many times can I use the word or a derivative of simple?). Anyway it started like this….

My hubby was out running errands and I was home making a gingerbread house with the children (that was super fun!) and I called him and said, “hey how bout a babysitter tonight and let’s go Christmas shopping?” To which he replied, “yeah sure, why not.” I quickly called the babysitter, arranged for Philip to pick him up and YAHOO we were going out…totally unplanned and unexpected.

We decided to leave the car and walk (we are currently living in a rather ‘urban’ area). Our night was open and we were simply going wherever we were drawn. First we found ourselves in a Christmas shop looking at all the beautiful Christmas decorations and then we found ourselves at a Japanese/Korean restaurant where we enjoyed very simple, inexpensive food. Our conversation was great and we noticed no one else in the restaurant (for anyone who knows me that’s strange because I ALWAYS know what’s going on all around me). After dinner we walked the streets window shopping, talking and laughing. At one point I was laughing so hard Philip noticed that I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Slowly we made our way home ~ so much for the Christmas shopping! We had a great night together and I realised once again why I love this man and how important it is to take time just to BE together and rediscover each other. We commented (last night) about how we both hope that at 70 we are still enjoying one another as much as we did last night. As we continue to deposit into and work on our relationship I’m confident we will remain enjoying one another. I believe the years will just make it all that much richer because we will have even more memories both of the hard times, that we’ve made it through, and the great times; that we’ve shared together.

I encourage you all to take time and enjoy a simple day/night together. As hard as it can be, try and forget the ‘issues’ of the day/world and just BE together. Talk about the time you met, talk about the way you made each other feel and stir up some of the goodness that sits between both of you but sadly can get lost in the mix of life. Your partnership is worth working on……..

So, I will sign off now with a smile on my face remembering every moment of last night. Truly a DATE TO REMEMBER!

Susan

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Begin With The End In Mind.....

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters
Compared to what lies within us

Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I was interviewing someone for an article recently and I finished by asking them this question: “How would you like to be remembered?” They paused for a moment, and then answered. It got me thinking: How would I like to be remembered? This is a question I had never really asked myself. Or, morbidly still, what would I like people to say about me at my funeral. If my eulogy involved my nicely decorated house, great writing or how well I dressed I was – I’ve failed. But if those closest to me honour with words like kindness, compassion, generousity, love for God, commitment to her family etc – then I’ll be smiling in my casket. In Stephen Covey’s best selling book: ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective people,’ he takes this thought even further.

See yourself going to a funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking your car and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice flowers, soft music playing (which sounds like that favourite song of yours). You see the faces of your family and friends. You sense the loss.

As you walk down to the front of the chapel and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral. All of these people have come to honour you and to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take your seat and wait for the service to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers: a family member, a friend, a work colleague and someone from your church. Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of mother, wife would you like those words to reflect. What kind or friend were you or working associate. What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements do you want to be remembered for? What difference would you like to have made?

Doing this exercise, as sad as it seems, can often re-set your internal navigation system. Maybe you have to make a u turn, or simply a short right turn, before the automated voice inside you says: “your destination is ahead.” It’s never too late to change. Start now. Begin tomorrow with the end in mind.

Nicki Partridge

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding!


Those of you who know me know that I don't eat a lot of Italian food unless it's at Sam's house or a good restaurant (I do however love a good veal parmigiana). Strangely it’s just not a food that I ever really got into cooking with the exception of the odd Spag Bog or Lasagna that my children request once in awhile. However after spending time at the gym and watching the food network whilst I work out (I know it’s a little strange) I have found that I have come to love watching Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. She seriously makes the most yummy looking food and is always so calm.

In preparation for our amazing Christmas Holiday, that we are spending with our friends the Cosatto’s (Sam’s family) and the Dell’s (Belinda’s family) I decided to ‘have a go’ with an Italian desert. So, in honor of Sam’s hubby, the great Italian man Tony, my eldest daughter and I stayed up later than normal, chatted non-stop and baked this morish, very (very) simple dish.

The main ingredient Panettone.....I’ve always seen this in almost every shop around Christmas time and have never known what it was. I always thought it was some cheap version of fruit cake so never bothered with it. That was until I asked Sam and she informed me that it was, in fact something really nice and loved by Italian people both young and old. So, I decided to buy it and try it. Below is the recipe we used and I promise you it is beyond simple, it could be the perfect dinner party desert or part of any families holiday food!

Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding (Giada De Laurentiis – Everyday Italian)

Ingredients:
575 mls of milk (don’t use 2% or full cream, use either 1% or skim)
575 mls double cream (thick, heavy cream)
1 vanilla pod (or just a tsp of vanilla if you don’t use pods)
4 medium eggs
170 grams caster sugar (the finest you can find but don’t stress use whatever you have ~ I did!)
Panettone, cut into thick slices and buttered (I didn’t butter, just seemed to rich)
1 orange zest
A little icing sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 (160 degrees or #3 for Gas)
To start the custard base, bring the milk and cream just to a boil in a saucepan.
Cut the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds (or just add your tsp of vanilla) and add the zest to the milk.
In a separate large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until they are pale or well mixed.
Dip each slice of bread into the custard and then place in a well buttered baking tray (9x13 is best).
Once all the bread is in, use your hands an gently press everything down.
Pour remainder of custard slowly over the bread.
Bake for 45 minutes – when cooked it will be slightly wobbly inside with a slight crust around the edges.
Dust with a little icing sugar and serve with extra cream, even a little jam or just by itself with a nice cup of coffee!

Enjoy!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Celebrating Relationships

Hi all,

I’ve been a little quiet over the last month because we have been in the process of selling our home. I know some of you can relate. It’s amazing how tidy you have to the house because you never know when the agent is going to call ready to bring someone around...... With three (busy) children many of you will know what I’m talking about!

I’ve been thinking about what Susan said on the Facebook video today (if you aren’t on Facebook yet you should join up, it’s so much fun connecting with people plus you can join thefamilyroom Group) and I thought I would share a little something from the pages of our family in regards to people who make a difference.

The other day my 12 year old son was talking on the phone to his Grandparents in New Zealand. They have just returned from a trip overseas and Jacob (my son) was asking them all about it. He wasn’t just being ‘polite’ to the grandparents and doing as mum said by asking questions, he was really and truly interested. The conversation warmed my heart because I could see and hear that although an ocean separates us from them, the distance isn’t changing the relationship. An extremely important relationship I might add. I know that through the conversation both parties felt valued, Jacob because his Grandparents were talking to him in an age appropriate way and his Grandparents because he was interested in their lives ~ sadly sometimes Grandparents can be pushed to the sidelines of life and only thought about when gifts are due or help is needed.

Anyway I share this because I think it’s important that we remind each other, and teach our children, that life isn’t all about us. Rather we are part of a big puzzle and we need to value one another and share in life. So today I celebrate both my son and my husband’s parents. Little do either of them know how impacting their conversation was on my life.......I realised today my husband and I must be doing something right and that’s encouraging.

Belinda

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas Truffles


Well, here's another YUMMIE Christmas recipe that has become a 'must have' in our home. These come directly from one of thefamilyroom kitchen's.......Sam's kitchen and we all know anything that comes from Sam's kitchen is simple delightful.

Actually this another Christmas request from my children. Sam and her family will be joining ours and the Dell's for a white Christmas this year and last week I emailed Sam asking her if she would prepare these when we get together ~~ the request came straight from my children and you gotta trust the kids because they truly know what's good and what's not when it comes to Christmas treats!

So, without anything more here's the recipe for everyone to enjoy and share......BTW these, along with Jo's Christmas cookies make and excellent gift for anyone. Pop them in a little box with tissue or a Christmas tin and the perfect, cost effective gift is ready to GIVE.

CHRISTMAS TRUFFLES
(makes around 28)

SHOPPING LIST/Ingredients

200g coconut biscuits
100g blanched almonds, toasted
375g NESTLE White Melts, melted
1/4 cup cream
100g NESTLE Dark Melts, melted
Red and Green decoration (i.e. ready made icing, glace cherries)

METHOD

1) Crush biscuits and nuts in food processor (of just crush them under a rolling pin if a food processor isn't an option), combine with 1/2 the NESTLE White Melts and cream. Mix well.

2) Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into small balls, refrigerate until firm.

3) Coat truffles in melted NESTLE Dark Melts. Refrigerate until firm.

4) Drizzle remaining NESTLE White Melts over each truffle.

5) Decorate with red and green to resemble holly.

Enjoy ;)

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Blue Christmas


There is a Christmas tree which stands 20 feet tall in the lobby of our office, its branches heavy with baubles and bows, presents stacked at its base ready to bring festive joy to those less fortunate.

But this week, the hundreds of fairy lights twinkling a welcome have failed to captivate the staff and visitors passing by. Instead, their gaze has fallen on a small side table displaying a soft-focus photograph of a middle-aged man and an open book half-filled with messages and signatures.

The man is a well-known journalist who died this week at the age of 46 after being diagnosed with brain tumours just two months ago. His wife and children, aged 11, 14 and 16, will find comfort in the words of condolence the book contains when it is presented to them after his funeral on Friday.

As everyone points out, Christmas will be tough for them this year as they begin to come to terms with the reality of grief and loss. The first Christmas without a daddy, the first New Year as a widow. They are not alone. Their story is repeated in households and communities all around us where people face the festive season lonely and hurting. The depth of their sadness somehow heightened by the focus on joy and celebration around them.

Christmas and New Year are a time of reflection; taking stock before embracing the future and planning new beginnings. For those who are hurting, either through death, divorce or the breakdown of a relationship, it’s a double-whammy. The season is made bittersweet because they cannot share it with the one person they want to be with.

So can I urge you to spare a thought for anyone in your world whose heart is heavy this Christmas? Shun your fear and embarrassment to include them in your plans – whatever that may look like.

Or just let them know that you’re there holding them up and cheering them on.

Deborah

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Recipes

With the Christmas Season well on it's way it's time to start baking. Today we are giving you 2 great recipes that are loved by everyone (young and old), are great gifts to give plus they freeze well so can be made well in advance!!!!

The first recipe is FUDGE from Belinda and it looks yummo!! The second is a CHRISTMAS COOKIE DOUGH recipe (those yummy sugar cookies) from Jo who is a great of thefamilyroom. I have to tell you, these sugar cookies are amazing. They are so good my children actually requested that I email Jo and ask her to send us the recipe. She has made them with my kids and they LOVE them.

Jo is an amazing cook/baker and I'll let you in on a little secret......She's given us a few other recipes to share and they are absolutely divine and I might ask her if she will spoil us and give us a recipe every 2nd month as a treat! Here's hoping :)

So, Christmas baking here we go:

Christmas Fruit and Nut Fudge by Belinda

Ingredients:
125g butter
395g can of NESTLE Sweetened Condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Nestle Melts dark
1 cup cubed sponge finger biscuits
1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted almonds
1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted cashews
1/2 cup halved red glazed cherries.

Method:
1. Place butter, NESTLE sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar in a pan.
Stir over a low heat until butter has melted. Bring to the boil,
simmer stirring for 3 minutes.
2. Add NESTLE melts dark, stir until combined and chocolate has melted. Stir
in sponge finger biscuits, nuts and cherries, mix well.
3. Spoon mixture evenly into foil lined 12cm x 23cm loaf pan, cool in
refrigerator until firm.
4. Turn out, cut into squares or slice to serve.

Christmas Cookie Dough by Jo

2 cups butter (softened)
2 cups icing mixture
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
5 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

Method:
(Preheat Oven to 180'C (160'C fan forced))
1. Cream butter with icing sugar.
2. Beat in vanilla and eggs.
3. Mix together flour, salt and baking powder; add gradually to butter mix.
4. Chill for a couple of hours until mixture is firm enough to roll out.
5. Cook cookies on greased cookie sheets. Bake in a 180'C (160'C fan forced) oven for 8-12 mins. Remove as soon as they start to turn slightly brown on the edges. Leave on tray for 2-5 minutes, then onto cool surface.
(Do not leave on tray for too long, they will continue to cook.)

You can decorate them with icing (the kind with egg white in it to make it go hard) or they also taste great drizzled with a little chocolate. Get the kids involved and maybe buy some of those cute decorating bits from the supermarket ~ make them your own!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The War on Drugs


Yesterday seemed to be a day (for me) of being bombarded with drug related topics, reports and conversations.

As I was driving back from dropping the kids at school I heard a report that said only 50% of parents talk to their children about illegal drugs and only 30% talk to them about prescription drugs. I didn’t know where they were going with the prescription drugs but the report carried on saying that a new trend was growing within children, teens and young adults and the usage of prescription drugs.

According to the study and the report children, teens and young adults are finding that these prescription drugs are easy to come by either at home or at friend’s homes. Also, they are inexpensive because they aren’t paying the prescription price….the parents are. In an effort to trick parents they are finding that ‘mixing’ the drugs and making home-made cocktails gives them a better high and allows them access without it being obvious that medication is missing. These cocktails are proving to be deadly in some cases and highly addictive.

After that report and a few others I heard during the day I was at the gym working out and whilst doing so I like to watch TV (it keeps my mind off what I’m actually doing). I watched a show many of us are familiar with called ‘INTERVENTION’ and my heart was ripped out of my chest through the story of this young boy who started smoking marijuana at 12 and then moving onto harder, heavier stuff as he became inoculated to the ‘lighter’ drugs.

This boy was destroyed and his family in ruins. During the documentary he repeated how he needed it to dull the pain of life. He had been hurt as a child through divorce and other circumstances and to protect himself and hide he turned to drugs ~ he felt safe there and didn’t even care if it killed him. Very, very sad!

I tell you this today because we hear about the war on drugs on television, the newspaper, the Internet, through friends, etc. And one thing we hear through the people affected is that they never thought it would happen to them. I urge you today, be open with your children, whatever age they are and know that you MUST protect them. In doing so it will mean that at times you will be very unpopular with those in your care. Remember good parenting ISN’T about a popularity contest and we must not be afraid to do what’s right when it comes to thier lives. Love you children, communicate with them, be open and honest and don’t be afraid to show them what drugs CAN and WILL do to them.

This is a war, it is real and sadly the opportunities to engage aren’t far from our front doors. Be aware of your children’s friends, watch for changes in routine, personality, food intake and sleeping habits. These can all be signs that something is happening.

We believe in you and hope that this will alert you to the dangers that surround our children. Love them, protect them and remember we’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason…….Listen to them and be available.

Susan J Sohn
(for more familyroom discussion on drug related issues see our recent podcasts)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Helping Hands


A few years ago, we were inspired by an item on TV to create the unique piece of artwork pictured here.

We grabbed a big square canvas from the bargain shop, loaded up on acrylic paint, then set to work making our handprint masterpiece.

My three children had a ball coating each others’ fingers in eye-catching primary colours and stamping them onto the canvas. They curled their fingers around the edges of the frame for extra dimensional effect. Our homemade art still takes pride of place on the study wall – a permanent reminder of a moment in time.

With Christmas coming, I thought I would share our little project with you because it’s not only a fun holiday activity for the kids, but it would also make a beautiful gift for a family member.

Happy painting!

Deborah

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Making Christmas great, for someone else…

Tis the season to consume!! There’s the food, the alcohol, the expensive gifts, that one more present for the kids’ stocking just so everything looks perfect, the school concerts, 1000 Christmas cards and…I could go on and on.

For many of us this can be quite a stressful time and we need a good holiday at the end of it all to recover! (See the Family Room Christmas survival guide for tips to making it easier!)

One thing I often think about as my kids are asking for every latest gadget and game is how excessive this whole exercise can be and how we so often lose the true meaning of this great season. Family, memories, generosity, a celebration of faith - how do these get reduced to the latest MP3 player or designer perfume?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no scrooge and I’m all for giving and receiving gifts (and love anything from L’occitane just BTW), but can’t help wondering how we could do it all better and take some of the focus off getting stuff.

Something I started doing a few years ago in an effort to bring back some balance to the silly season was visiting the websites of Tearfund, Compassion, Oxfam, Salvos or World Vision and looking for ways that I could contribute to the great work they do, at Christmas time.

This year I went to Tearfund http://www.tear.org.au/ and bought some mosquito nets for children in Africa ($10 each) and some packs of school supplies ($5 each) for kids in India.

They send you a card telling you what you’ve bought, without the price, and there’s a nice pic and some info. I’m planning to give them to my kids and some of their cousins, with their other gifts. With my kids, we’ll have a talk about living grateful and will spend some time talking about how life is for so many others.

Other organisations can put your donation no matter what the size, towards Christmas gifts for children living in poverty or could purchase life saving medicines or resources for families to be able to create their own incomes.

I love the idea that the focus is taken solely off this season being about me and mine and extending it to others who live with the sort of need I can only imagine.
There are so many ways we could do this, from inviting someone lonely to Christmas lunch, or taking the kids to visit a nursing home and chat to the golden oldies, or having them make cards for those in your world that would be so touched, and by something so simple.

However you choose to do it, your family will be so much richer for making the effort and making Christmas great for someone else as well as a special time for you.

Fight the consumerism, reach out to someone else and enjoy the process this Christmas…

Lv Jane

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Dream Table


In our home we have a ‘dream table’. Affectionately named so due to the creative splatter of paint, glue, glitter, etc, that has become part of its appeal. As much as I love art, I have never wanted my home to look like an art gallery. Stark walls hosting minimal content begging constructive criticism from an obscure leather bench seat in the centre of the room. No thanks. I’ll leave that to the experts.

In my home, I’ve always wanted people to feel welcome and comfortable. Lazy lounges, stacks of cushions, piles of magazines, fresh flowers and endless cups of coffee in oversized mugs. That’s more like what you’d find in my home. More than aesthetics, my main aim is to put my family at ease and create a haven, especially for my daughter Mannie. She needs to know that this is her home, that she has full run of the house and that she never need feel like a guest.

So years ago when my beloved study table began to show traces of her artistic footprints, rather than grab the gumption/stain remover and scrub away, I stopped and thought to 20 or 30 years ahead. These are the things that I will wish I could look back on to recall those precious irreplaceable moments like her working so intently on making a birthday card for her great grandmother or writing me a love letter on Valentine’s day when she was six. To treasure the varnish on my table all paled into insignificance when weighed up against the dreaming spirit in my girl.

Hence, we started calling my study desk the dream table. A place in the house that Mannie can truly dream up anything and take steps to get there, no holds barred, even if it only involves sticky tape and coloured paper. I couldn’t count the letters that have been written on it or the pieces of ‘art’ that have been masterfully executed on it.

Obviously this is confined to the one area in the house, as the thought of creative mess all over my home doesn’t really do it for me! Yet I will never regret not reaching for the gumption/stain remover on our dream table.

Michaela.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rocky Road Cups


In preparartion for the festive season thefamilyroom will be providing you with some great family favorites that can be made ahead. These are great to make with the kids or encourage your teenage children to roll up their sleeves and have a go! When finished enjoy a few and pop the rest in the freezer for Christmas.

Rocky Road Cups
(This recipe makes about 25. Prep time is 20 minutes and cooking time is 5 minutes).

What you will need:
Double-layered paper patty cases
125g slivered almonds
2/3 cup shredded coconut
100g packet mallow bakes
100g packet red glaze’ cherries
1 cup Rice bubbles (or Krispies as we know them elsewhere)
375g packet white-chocolate melts.

Method:
Preheat oven to 180 or 160 for fan oven.
Spread the slivered almonds on an oven tray, and bake for 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool
Combine the almonds, coconut, mallow bakes, cherries and Rice Bubbles in a large bowl.
Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the Microwave (be careful not to overcook or burn, this happens very quickly).
Add to other ingredients in the bowl, then stir until well combined and everything is coated with chocolate.
Spoon mixture into the patty cases, then place them into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

These are loved by young and old. The recipe is SUPER simple to double and don't be afraid to do so because before you know it, they will be gone.

Enjoy and remember to keep an eye on our Christmas Plan, it will truly keep you on track and help you stay sane before and through Christmas.

Cheers,

Belinda

Thursday, November 15, 2007

thefamilyroom Christmas Plan


Well here it is the ANNUAL FAMILYROOM CHRISTMAS PLAN. This Calendar is designed to help you plan the weeks ahead allowing you to sneak into the festive season well prepared, relaxed and ready for fun with family and friends. Our hope is that all of us are able to de-stress the season simply by being a little more prepared this time round.

This is an 8 week plan however we are only 5 weeks away from Christmas so we decided, what the heck, let’s put the weeks that have already slipped by in. That way we can all check back and make sure we’ve covered those bases already. It's a little long but don't worry it's worth the read.

Make sure you take notice of our TIP for the week and our TO BUY grocery list ~ these are two extremely helpful bits you don’t want to miss.

Enough from us for now, sit back and enjoy the read (play some Christmas music while reading....get into the spirit:))

Week 1: Get Ready!

• Set a holiday budget for gifts/food and other expenses that everyone agrees on.
• Purchase Christmas Cards.
• Purchase your wrapping paper, ribbon and tape.
• Mark all end of year events on your calendar. e.g. School presentations, Christmas parties and work functions.
• Write your gift list – break it down to family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours.
• Send out invites to any functions you are hosting.
• Think about what your family can do for a charity this Christmas - get the kids involved.
• Purchase and send your overseas gifts (if necessary).

TIP : Keep an eye out for specials from now on as this will save time and money. e.g. batteries

Week 2: Making a Start!

• Write a holiday shopping food list – use our week-by-week guide and add your family favourites to the list.
• Clean up the back yard or basement and get it ready for the holidays
• Create a space in the house for gifts and wrap as you go (rather than doing it all on Christmas Eve).
• If you are hosting a Christmas event - prepare menu and make a list of things you will need. e.g. ingredients for Christmas cake, stuffing etc. (Check your pantry first, it will save doubling up on ingredients).
• Santa letters should be sent out about now if you want a reply. Check with your local postal service (remember to include a return address).

TIP: Get the kids involved in cleaning jobs, more hands make light work.
To buy this week: Candy Canes, Nuts, Crackers, Chips, Pretzels, 2 Bottles of soft drink, 2 Bottles of wine

Week 3: Gifts and Decorating!

• Consider your gift list and who you’re buying for. Check out ebay, online stores, local markets and other avenues for great gifts.
• Purchase more gifts. (If it works well for you, use a lay-by system.)
• Book baby sitters for December & New Years nights out now. A few weeks before Christmas and they'll be scarce.
• Book your carpet cleaning for post holiday clean up.
• Check Christmas lights and decorations – replace whatever needs replacing.
• Shop for non-perishable food items and store in a place that won't be raided by hungry teenagers before Dec 25th.
• Begin to declutter house for Christmas decorating and entertaining.

TIP: Online stores tend to get more expensive the closer you get to Christmas as people leave their shopping to the last minute.
To buy this week: Fruit cake and baking ingredients, Sparklers, Extra Sunscreen and Aeroguard (for the Aussies) extra mittens and hats for everyone else.

Week 4: Half way there!

• Continue to declutter your home, garden/basement in preparation for Christmas.
• Order and pay for your turkey, ham and or seafood.
• Purchase or make and wrap gifts for teachers.
• Send Christmas Cards out.
• Re-check your gift list and purchase more gifts if needed.
• Check your artificial tree or order your fresh tree.
• Bake your fruitcake & other goods that freeze well.
• Put up your decorations. Save the tree for next week!

TIP: Write letters (or get the kids to) while you still have a little time up your sleeve to include with your gifts. The gifts may not last a lifetime, but your words will.
To buy this week: Batteries for toys, Non-perishable items, Canned food items (sauces, salad dressing, mustard, etc.), Cooking Oils, 1 bottle of soft drink, 2 bottles of wine

Week 5: Time to decorate - it‘s feeling like Christmas!

• Play Christmas music from now until well after New Years
• Purchase more gifts.
• Set up artificial Christmas tree - make it a special time with family.
• Hang fairy lights and external decorations.
• Get your photo with Santa earlier rather than later (avoid the cues).
• Invite family and friends to school plays, etc.

TIP: Turn your Christmas tree decorating into a huge family event with great food and festive drinks. The kids will love it.
To buy this week: Shortbread, Biscuits, Panettone, Frozen Deserts, 4 Bottles of Soft Drink, Chocolate, extra coffee and creamer

Week 6: It’s all Under Control – Relax!

• Make sure cameras and videos are in working condition and batteries are charged.
• Send a Christmas email to overseas family & friends and provide an updated fun family photo.
• Purchase more gifts.
• Book in any hair/beauty appointments for the family.
• Clean the bbq.
• Put up your freshly cut Christmas tree and decorate. Make it a special time with family.

TIP: Make sure you have 'room' in your home for those dropping by over the next few weeks. Invest into some spare chairs, extra glasses and a couple of more little presents for your surprise visitors.
To buy this week: BBQ supplies (fill gas, matches, extra foil roasting trays) for the Aussies maybe and extra baking tray for others :), Foils and plastic wraps, Napkins, Plastic cups and plates for kids, Canned Juice x 2, 2 bottles of wine, Paper Towels

Week 7: Now it‘s feeling like Christmas!

• Purchase more gifts.
• Send cards for students and gifts for teachers to school.
• Bake Christmas biscuits with the kids and allow them to decorate and deliver to neighbours.
• Check that you have everything you need for your table settings.

TIP: Remember to replace the water for your fresh tree regularly.
To buy this week: Bon Bons, Tea Lights, Candles, Table Decorations, 2 bottles of Champagne, Garbage Bags

Week 8: Jingle!

• Purchase remaining gifts from your list - Christmas is just around the corner.
• Make time to sit down and enjoy some Christmas movies with the whole family.
• Take a Christmas Lights tour of the decorated homes either in your suburb or head into town.
• Finish wrapping your final few gifts.
• Go along to your local church or community Carols by Candlelight with your family.

TIP: Phone someone you haven't spoken to in a while, wish them Merry Christmas and remember it's not about you.
To buy this week: Fruit, Vegetables, Salads, Bread/Buns, Dairy Products (milk, cream, custard, Ice Cream, cheeses), Eggs, Bacon, Stuffing ingredients, Juice x 2, Pavlova/
Pumpkin Pie filling or your favorite desert, Dips

Christmas Eve – Merry Christmas – You Made It!

• Pick up Seafood.
• Cook your Turkey and whatever else can be made in advance.
• The only other thing you should be picking up today is bags of ice.
• Sit and relax by your Christmas tree with your family for a few hours listening to Christmas music and have a laugh. Make sure you get an early nights sleep. ENJOY!!!!

After Christmas:

Take advantage of the post Christmas sales and shop for cards, paper, decorations and other bargains that can be used for next year.

Take note of the things that were a success and change ideas that didn’t work.

Take down or recycle your Christmas tree.

Pack tree and ornaments away carefully and neatly. It will make things easier for next year.

Discuss with family, your plans for Christmas next year.
Email or send pictures of the day to loved ones and relatives that could not join you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saving Time in the Bathroom


I bet you wondered what this post was going to be about and truly it is about saving time in the bathroom ~ it has nothing to do with what you’re thinking about!!!

I’m talking about time management! Something I do to save valuable time is keep Clorex Wipes (cleaning wipes) and Windex Wipes under the sink in all of our bathrooms or powder rooms. This allows me, and those in my family to do a quick wipe and tidy up at any time and it takes less than 30 seconds and vavoom the bathroom is sparkling clean. Use the wipes around the toilet and in a moment all problems are solved.

I find quick tricks like this can add minutes back into your day to focus on the things that are important. Why don’t you share some of your great time saving tips with us and help everyone gather back a few precious moments everyday.

Susan xoxo

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pizza Made Easy ~ USE YOUR HANDS!


Okay, it is therapy time with Annie!

Have you found yourself a victim of the 21st century? Do you think baking bread means buying the par baked buns from the supermarket and cooking them for 4 minutes?? Does your recipe for homemade pizza consist of one frozen pizza and a bag of grated cheese? If you have answered yes to any of these questions then I have great news for you ~ you don't know what you're missing!!!!

Today I'm going to share my pizza dough recipe with you (and the toppings to accompany) and you are going to be equiped to host a pizza making night that is fun for both young and old. The children love to get their sleeves rolled up and create, the teenagers like to build and challenge each other and the adults...well we pretty much fall in both categories.

I recently made a huge batch of dough for my son Oskar’s 11th birthday party. We cleared off our dining table, covered it with flour and gave each child a ball of dough and let them at it (there were 11 kids!). They had heaps of fun (and made their own dinner!). Have a go and enjoy I promise you’ll be hooked ☺

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:

Pour one cup of lukewarm water into a bowl. Add to it two sachets of compressed yeast and one tablespoon of sugar (this “activates” the yeast).

Meanwhile, oil your oven trays and prepare your toppings.
Measure 3 cups of bread making flour (I use Anchor Bread and Pizza Flour) into a large bowl. Add a good pinch of salt and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of flour and mix it in.

Now for the fun bit!! Sprinkle your kitchen bench/countertop with flour and plonk your dough onto the surface. Now get kneading. Have both hands opposite each other and fold the dough from right to left. Turn the ball a quarter of a turn and make the same movement. This warms the dough and incorporates air into it. Knead your dough for about two minutes. This is a great upper arm and ab workout as well so knead away!!

Place your dough into a greased bowl (with room for it to grow) cover with a plate or plastic wrap and put in a warm place. If you don’t have a warm sunny spot to place your bowl just stand it in a larger bowl of warm water. Leave for half an hour.

Now you have a beautiful bowl of soft yeasty pizza dough! Knead it a couple of times. Divide it into two or three portions depending on how thick you like your base and roll it out.

Place the base onto the tray and top with a thick pasta sauce to which you have added a little salt and sugar. Alternatively you may have pizza base that you like, if so then use it instead of the pasta sauce.

Finish with your favourite toppings and a layer of combined tasty, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake in a hot oven (about 210-220C) for 10 to 15 minutes ~ If you are looking for a lighter option use a little parmesan and lite mozzarella and when removed from the oven sprinkle with roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and basil.

Just another familyroom tried and true recipe. Enjoy friends.

Annie x

(ps - hope you enjoy the photo, not something we do at our place but gosh it looks great!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Health and Well-Being


Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about health and our well-being and I have come to the conclusion that everything seems to come down to balance. We need to cultivate balance in every area of our lives. Balance is what seems to keep everything operating correctly and when balance shifts anything can happen.

As all of you know I have been working my way back to health and fitness after years of being in the pregnancy/baby season. What I’m finding is that I have needed to rediscover my personal balance again. Prior to pregnancy I knew what worked for me; I knew what level of exercise I needed to engage in, what I could and couldn’t eat (freely), how much sleep I needed, how many weeks I could burn the candle at both ends, etc. Basically I really knew my body and how it worked and then WOW it was all new with baby weight, no sleep, hormones, spit up, dirty nappies/diapers, food when time permitted, chocolate, decaf coffee, chocolate ~ you all know the rest.

Well now after 10 years of being in that place, and thankfully trying to maintain some of the things I always known that worked for me I am now endeavouring to readjust and apply appropriate balance at this stage of my life. I realize that the things I once could do I know longer can (eg: eating an entire pack of maltzeers or peanut M&M’s whilst watching a movie) which is requiring me to re-evaluate balance in my life.

So my friends embrace balance, cultivate it and make it work in whatever stage of life you are at. Remember we are Body, Soul and Spirit and it is our responsibility to tend to all areas of our being.

Susan xoxo

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Organizing Your Home


Whether we want to think about it or not, Christmas is sneaking up on the calendar with vigour. Now is the time to begin planning the season so that when the time comes you can finally relax and truly enjoy the moments with your loved ones.

Soon we will be posting a Christmas Plan to help you with the nitty gritty during the countdown. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some tips for getting your home into shape before it becomes a holiday haven once again.

1. Behind closed doors…
Clear out your cupboards! It is such a great feeling knowing that you’re not going to be pelted with volleyballs, kites and suitcases when you open the hall cupboard. To avoid this happening, grab three large boxes (if you need more, feel free) and label one as ‘Give Away’, one ‘Throw Away’ and one ‘Keep’. This rule can apply to every cupboard in the house. Drop your giveaways off straight away to a local charity, as they could become timely Christmas provisions for many.

2. Spare me…
We all know that the spare room (for those who have them) can too easily become the family dumping ground if we’re not careful. If you find yourself asking, “Well, where am I supposed to put everything?” first ask yourself if everything in the room is necessary. If not, see Tip #1. If it is, install a storage system that will keep everything protected, tidy and out of view. Anyone who has the privilege of staying over will appreciate not having to climb over unused gym equipment, stacks of ‘filing’ and ‘giveaway’ boxes from last year’s spring clean.

3. The heart of the home…
The kitchen is noted by many families world wide as the heart of the home. If this is true, we should be taking every precaution to ensure that it doesn’t need a triple bypass a week before Christmas. Organise your pantry, dispose of anything that has exceeded it’s used by date and make room for the weeks ahead. Clear the benches or kitchen table of anything that isn’t kitchen related. Somehow it’s much more enjoyable to eat Christmas breakfast without having to look at a pile of oil splattered phone books or that old favourite again ‘filing’.

4. Please take a seat…
During the Christmas break, our house is flooded with guests. Some invited and some not. Allow your home the chance to enlarge its hosting capacity by simply investing into spare chairs, a few more plates and drinking glasses, back-up snacks, a couple more pillows/blankets, etc.

5. The way you look tonight…
Please do not feel the pressure to redecorate your entire home or go broke in an effort to impress Martha Stewart. You know she’s not coming anyway! Definitely make an effort with your home, take pride in it and get you family involved, but all it takes is simply rearranging a few things, adding a few touches and making room for those you love.

Let’s get started now because before we know it, we won’t have the time.

Enjoy!
Michaela.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Big Brother

I've always wondered what it would be like to have a big brother. I've always wished for one to be "over protective of me," always looking for me. I've even tried to have older male friends replace that desire by being big brother-ish.

I actually do have a big brother. This is him. Only his name is Scott. He was born June 7, 1982. He lived to 23 days.

My brother shared the same syndrome as Elliot. A syndrome called Trisomy 18 or Edwards Syndrome (for more information check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwards_syndrome).

I hope that through this video and my brother's little life you will be moved to live differently. You will choose to value everyday and choose to BE who you are meant to be in this big world.

Life is a precious gift!

~cj

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Lint of Life

Susan likes to tell me I’m a tech-head, and although I hotly deny it, I fear this blog may just confirm that it’s true!

Recently, I was scanning my computer for spyware – that’s the nasty stuff that downloads itself from the internet when you’re not looking, hops onto your PC hard drive and lodges amongst your files hoping to hijack your personal information and pass it on to the highest bidder.

It’s these malicious little viruses that can steal your credit card details and land you with a bill bigger than Ben Hur.

Now, I don’t want to scare you, but to my horror the scan detected a whopping 800 pieces of spyware, and its little brother adware, hiding out on my hard drive. Thankfully, once I knew they were there, I could zap them with the click of a button, but I got to thinking how much “virtual spyware” my family – particularly my children – might gather in the course of a day.

By “virtual spyware” I mean the harsh words and negative comments that we all hear on our journey and which cling to us despite our best intentions. The stuff we see on TV or read in the newspapers that steals our joy and tramples on our dreams. thefamilyroom girls call it the lint of life.

In case you’ve never heard of lint, the dictionary defines it as “clinging bits of fibre and fluff”. It’s those tiny fur-balls that gather on the sleeves of your favourite woolly sweater turning it from chic to shabby.

Can we scan our families, like we scan our computers, and rid them of the lint of life? Maybe communication is the answer to this human spyware. Making time to talk about what has shaped our day and nipping those cares and worries in the bud before they get a strangle-hold on our lives and spoil the view.

So the moral of my story is two-fold. On a practical level, I need to become more tech savvy and keep my computer clear of those dubious downloads. But on a personal note, I’m determined to make sure the lines of communication at home are wide open and the family is fur-ball free.

Deborah

*Look out for a podcast coming soon on the lint of life

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stressed to the Max!


Hi friends,

So the busier my life becomes, and it only ever seems to get busier, I find myself feeling the affects of stress in my body more acutely and constantly having to remind myself about how important good nutrition and exercise are in the midst of craziness.

My neck hurts, I get forgetful and cranky and I don’t digest my food very well when I’m a bit edgy! Sometimes stress leaves me with a glazed look on my face and other times busy-ness can affect my quality of sleep, which leads to all sorts of new stress symptoms! I am daily doing my stretches, squeezing in 1/2 an hour on the treadmill whenever I can and remembering to drink water. I’m also writing lists to help me from getting more stressed about the different things I have to do and hoping I haven’t forgotten anything!

When we feel stressed we can get all worked up about eating properly, some of us overeat while others of us don’t eat much at all. A lot of the time, stress can lead to constipation or diarroea. Ugh. If we live in this stress zone constantly, we can do damage to our bodies that we may not be able to undo later in life.

All sorts of things are going on inside us when we’re on the edge. B vitamins, which are essential for energy and certain hormone functions (B6 is usually lacking when we get PMT) are depleted when we’re stressed as well as magnesium and vitamin C just to name a few. Lacking in magnesium can lead to headaches and muscle pain, and vitamin C as we all know is essential for our immunity and helps keeps our heart happy.

We may think that coffee, jelly snakes and chocolate are essential to our stress survival and keep us going, but poor eating habits can set us up for all sorts of other problems that will give us more to worry about! Did you know that excess caffeine in our bloodstream can affect calcium absorption?

I guess that moral of the story is….in the midst of our busy lives, it’s so important to take care of ourselves and stay strong to be able to go the distance. We all know it, but I think every once in a while we need a gentle nudge and reminder.

In regards to food, remember the 5+2 principle? In a day we should eat 5 serves of veggies and 2 pieces of fruit and enough water to keep us hydrated (approx. 8 glasses). Get hold of a good multivitamin and make the effort to take it everyday. Talk to a nutritionist or a naturopath and work out what good eating looks like for you in the busy-ness of life. Most of all remember to breathe and choose to navigate these busy days well, it may only be a season. If you’re finding it really tough, talk to someone, we all go through hard times.

Ultimately, the cheesy ad is right, you’re worth it! So take care of YOU. I love Robin McGraw’s book ‘Inside my heart’. She talks about how she takes care of herself so that she can give the gift of herself to others, fit and healthy and strong, and for the long haul….

Lv Jane
Nutritionist (just in case you thought I was making it up!) : )

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bring Back the Family Photo Album


This past weekend an article in The Sunday Telegraph caught my eye. The headline read: ‘Digital’s killed the photo album star’. According to the article, the family photo album may be a thing of the past – yikes! They go on to say that experts have warned that the rise of digital cameras; computers and mobile phones could lead to the death of the family photo album. The photo imaging council (didn’t know there was such a thing), are quoted as saying that that childhood memories and moments of great celebrations such as weddings and birthdays are missing from thousands of albums around the country. In fact statistics show that many never get around to printing their pictures, choosing to keep them on their hard drive. Executive Director for the photo Imaging council, Paul Curtis says that there is a whole generation of kids from 2003 to 2005 that never managed to make it into the family photo album.

Now I am not opposed to technology in the slightest, but there is something really comforting about sitting on the couch with the family and pouring over baby photo’s, holiday snaps and pics of kids birthday parties. Sadly, my own albums stopped when my five year old turned two. Now if we want to look at photos taken over the past three years, we all have to sit around a computer screen, which, quite frankly, just isn’t the same. So I say, ‘bring back the family album’ Next weekend, I intend to select a handful of shots from my computer, print them out and stick them in albums, which will be strategically placed around the house – encouraging my kids to take comfort in the cherished memories of our past. It may be old fashioned, but as Mr. Curtis said: “It’s not a real photo until it’s printed.”

Nicki Partridge

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thought Du Jour and Mild Chicken Curry


Today is our recipe day but I thought I would add a little story with my recipe. Warning: the recipe and the story have no connection just adding my Thought De Jour as an appetizer.

Like many of you I watch the news and keep myself informed about what is going on in the world today. Sadly much of the news we hear is of pain, devastation, sadness and things that are simply wrong. I find myself in conversations and hear people say that the world is going to Hell in a handbag and that we live in terrible times.

My thinking....I think it's our responsibility, in the midst of the bad stuff, to look for the good. I'm raising my kids in this world and I'm choosing to create a great environment for them and others. I'm choosing to see the sunny side, I'm choosing to smile at the future, I'm choosing to uncover the good which is there for us to enjoy. I'm not ignoring or pretending the other doesn't exist I'm simply daring to be different.

I think it's time for all of us to stand up a little taller, to speak a little louder and for goodness to drown out or at least dampen that which is not good.

Just my thought du jour.

Recipe of the Day.... This one's for you Robert!

Mild Chicken Curry (for young and old to enjoy!)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes (give or take a few ~ I usually give a few :)

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp Oil
1.5 Kilos chicken pieces (thighs are the best but wings and drumsticks are yummy too)
2 medium onions sliced
3 stalks celery sliced
2 Tbsp curry powder (you can adjust this to your families liking)
2 cloves garlic (I’m generous here and add more...)
2 Tbsp flour
11/2- 2 cups chicken stock
2 green apples peeled and cubed
1/2-1 cup sultanas (raisins)

Method:
1) Heat oil in pan, cook chicken in batches until well browned; drain on paper towel.
2) In the same pan add onion, celery and cook until soft. Add curry powder, garlic and flour; stir over heat until mixture becomes dry and grainy. Remove from heat.
3) Add stock gradually, stirring until mixture is smooth. Return pan to heat, stir until sauce boils and thickens. Add chicken, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
4) Add apple and sultanas/raisins, simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until chicken is tender.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wonder Woman


This is one of my nicknames. Why? Can I leap tall buildings in a single bound…no! Or maybe stop a locomotive with my little finger…not. I am able to multitask which makes me look like Wonder woman. I am in the middle of baking 60 cupcakes for pink ribbon day. Doing the ironing, supervising homework and making dinner. And I’m smiling as I write this!

My husband Richard is up at the local pool getting in some training for his next triathlon, so I’m doing it solo this evening.

Now, for the efficiency thing:

It is family night so we are having homemade pizza; the dough is resting at the moment. I have the timer on the oven so I can’t ruin the cakes and I come and go from the ironing as I check on the children’s progress.

It’s not brain surgery, I know. I have learnt to use my time wisely and approach things calmly. Think about what it is you need to do. Tell the children ahead of time what it is they will be required to do and when they need to start. I am extremely goal oriented so I have had to learn to relax if it doesn’t all get done (sometimes I manage it!).

I feel so thankful each morning that I have been given another day to enjoy life and I approach each and every day with the intention to get the most out of every moment and do it well.

Annie

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tick Tock, Tick Tock


Today is our ‘Current Affairs’ day on the familyroom blog and I’ve decided to look at something that is always current and involves all our our affairs. It’s a four letter word (yikes!!) that seems to escape most of us and sadly I’m not sure if anyone really understand what it means anymore. The four letter word I’m referring to is TIME.

So friends here is my thought de jour......

Is time speeding up or are we just trying to do too much in the time we've been given? Are we operating at break neck speeds leaving behind only a light track and in many cases far too much dust? Is it all meant to be so high pressured, biggest, best, high speed, high intensity, do this, do that? Or, are we meant to do one thing really well and stay steady, focused, consistent, confident, reliable, happy?

My mind went here this week because I have been in email contact with a friend.....no, not phone communication (that takes up too much time) we've been exchanging emails ~ you know because we are such high tech individuals who care about humanity so much that a voice-to-voice would be stretching even the most seemingly caring person. Anyway I found humor in the fact that we are unable to 'connect' until December.

Now I know everyone's schedule is different and we all place importance on different things and people and perhaps I'm just not high on this friends list of important ~ which is totally fine by me.

What I found funny was that we seem to get consumed doing and trying and seem to forget about caring and sharing and simply BEing. Being in the moment and remaining alert to what is happening around us, being available to make a difference in the everyday-ness of life. I wonder, what would life look like if we all slowed down by one week? How much happier would we be as individuals and how much happier could we make others simply by taking time, to make time to have time.

I will leave you with something that came to mind whilst writing this:

T alking
I ntimacy
M emories
E ternity

Just my thought de jour......

Susan xoxo

Monday, October 29, 2007

Health...... It's a Mind Thing

So today is HEALTH day and I've decided to talk about something other than Fitness, Healthy eating or the like. I would like to talk about Mental Health. I think it's extremely important to keep our minds healthy and by that I mean we need to make sure we think positively, think on good things (think happy thoughts), we need to challenge our mind by exercising it like any other muscle in our body.

For myself I know when my mind isn't being exercised or used correctly. I think most of you probably do too. Just a few tell-tale signs of a mind that requires strengthening are:

Continual thought patterns that are in the wrong place
Sadness for long periods of time
Negative thinking
Loss of memory (that can also be from being too busy as well)

There are so many more but these are just a few that will get you thinking about your own mind and where you currently are mentally. There are simple things we can all do to keep our mind strong, positive and working for us. A few techniques I use are as follows:

I wake before anyone in the house and find time to quiet my mind and for me prayer is how I quiet and focus myself.
I choose not to listen to negative talk or enter into negative conversations.
I CHOOSE to look for the positive or the silver lining in every situation.
I read great, inspiring stories (Reader’s Digest is great for quick uplifting articles).
I dream about what could be, even if it’s not in the realm of possibility, I dream about things and talk to my girlfriends about the dreams.
I talk to my mum and my sister (and a few good friends) about ‘issues’ or ‘concerns’ in life that I may have.
I smile A LOT.
I try and learn a new word every day or week.
Something I need to work on is memory ~ I have so much going on that I don’t seem to remember like I once did (maybe it was babies who knows but I do know that many of us share this weakness). I practice remembering things and challenge myself all the time.

I could go on and on but I think you get what I’m talking about. Make sure you take time in your everyday to quiet your mind and exercise it. Good mental health can been seen in every area of our lives. It’s worth working on. If you have concerns or things you need to talk to someone and you don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone in your world then please do so ~ there are incredible experts who are able to help all of us make sense out of any situation.

Take care be well, remember to smile and keep it simple but keep it real.

Susan xoxo

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Great Day At The Fair


Yesterday was a great day. The children had their annual school fair. It was a hot, humid Spring day. The community turned out in record numbers as did the flies!

What was great about this fair was that it was all about the children and the community. The kids got to see all the parents volunteering and raising money for their school. Mum's were face painting, hair spraying, getting caught up in fairy floss and guzzling water like crazy. Dad's were running after miss-hit golf balls, madly selling raffle tickets and sweating like they had just run a marathon.

The "Golfarama" was a popular game for the boys. If you got a ball in the hole, your prize was a "fart bag". Yes you read it right. A fart bag. It was a small silver pack which, when stomped on, caused the bag to expand and then "POP" - instant fart complete with horrible stench. Needless to say the "fart in a bag" was going off - all day!

Watching the boys let one off and run away in fits of laughter was a hoot!. I know it's gross but I love to see boys being boys.

After the fair was over we invited some friends over for afternoon tea. The children swam, watched High School Musical and played for hours. We drank numerous cups of tea and coffee, indulged in some Italian Cannoli and before we knew it, afternoon tea had turned into dinner.

It was then I realised how much more I enjoy having people over when it is unplanned. There are no expectations - no frantic cleaning and preparation of food before they arrive. Just "hey, why don't you stay for dinner". Thankfully, I had some pasta sauce made, but cheese on toast would have been just as good.

We all had a fun day and I know it will be a lasting memory for me and my children.
Sam

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Zorba the Greek and Many Other Memorable Moments



Gathering information for yet another school project, my daughter was recently grilling me for details of my childhood. She wanted to know what we ate, how we got around and how we could possibly find out anything useful without Google.

After reassuring her that we did not travel by horse and cart or forage for food on the forest floor – she seemed to nurture the general belief that we were raised in Medieval England – I got to thinking about the memories which have stuck with me over the years. And it surprised me that it wasn’t the major events that came so easily to mind, but the mundane, everyday moments that returned with a ray of sunshine and a fond recollection of a loving family home.

It’s still a mystery to me how she did it, but my mum had a way of keeping things sweet on the home front while working full-time in the family business. I can only conclude that she cunningly had us helping out with the household chores without us really noticing. For example, Saturday morning was set aside for cleaning the house. I have little recollection of the dusting and polishing, but one of my jobs was to choose the soundtrack to which we worked – thumbing through the family music collection to find songs that would inspire us to new heights of cleanliness. I can clearly remember waltzing around the lounge room wafting a feather duster as the frantic strains of Zorba the Greek reached fever pitch.

Family shopping days were another delight. These grand occasions happened once or twice a year, when both parents planned a day off work and gave me permission to skip school (gasps of horror from any teachers reading this!). We would drive an hour or so to a nearby city, start the day with morning tea then browse the shops to our heart’s content, stopping to linger over lunch before driving home happy but exhausted late in the afternoon. These days were more about pleasure than purpose although there would often be a present to buy or an outfit to purchase. We were just taking time out as a family to have fun and see something new.

Now, I can’t say I have started this tradition in my own family yet. Shopping with three children is still more trauma than treat right now. However, one thing which began by accident but is fast becoming a fixture is the pre-birthday, late-night shopping trip. This involves me taking only the birthday girl or boy to the shops on an evening close to the big day, sharing giggles and secrets over supper then picking out a small gift. I’m amazed how much they love this one-on-one time – the dynamics are so different when there’s no need to compete for attention.

Thinking back to these childhood moments has reminded me how important it is to make memories for our kids. Sometimes life is so busy that the fun gets squeezed out. Too often, I dash around focused on getting the job done instead of slowing down and including the little people.

Note to self: make time to dance with the duster!

Deborah

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To Balski


I’ve heard it said that you can take a girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. Today I know that’s true.

As some of you already know I am a small town girl (I think the population of our town is approximately 998 ~ give or take a few) and today, as with most days, I am proud to be a small town girl. There’s something magical about a small town and the people in it, we have a ‘connection’ that I believe is unique. There is a line in a song by John Mellencamp that resonates with all small town people regardless of where life has lead us, the line goes like this “I was born in a small town, gonna die in that same small town, it’s probably where they’ll bury me.” We all sing that song with vigour.

The other night as I was preparing to go out with my husband and a message came up on Facebook. The message was from and old friend from our small town and the subject simply said ‘Balski’ (the nickname of one of our childhood friends). I immediately knew something wasn’t right ~ isn’t it funny how our spirit just knows when things just aren’t as they should be.

I opened the message to find that my childhood friend had sadly died. His life had been cut short far too soon. I began to think about my small town and the great relationships I have with so many and thought about how important it is to take and make time in order to have time for the things that matter. Our relationships are truly a gift from God. Today, as I mourn the death of a friend, I want to encourage you to manage your time in such away that you have and make time for the things in life that truly matter.

My heart has been sad all week. I have thought back to the days of old and I know all my small town friends are doing the same. Through his death I’m amazed at how both young and old from our small town have communicated ~ all feeling the same sense of loss. Balski will be remembered forever. When we get together we will remember his smile, his crazy jokes and his wicked sense of humour. He will be forever in our hearts.

So my friend today I say farewell. I have said a prayer for you and for your family, you will remembered forever and I count an honour to have known you all my life. Enjoy this journey that you are now on and say hello to those who have gone before.

Good-bye my friend.

Susan

Monday, October 22, 2007

Loving Our Friends' Kids

Hey friends,

There’s never really much great news on tv, but lately it feels like we’ve been hearing some awful things, particularly about children and young people. This has caused me think about how important it is not to live isolated lives, and to create community around us. It’s also made me think about how devastated I would be to hear of anything happening to my friends’ kids - I love them so dearly (alas some of them from afar!) and truly believe in them.

So very simply, I want to encourage you today, don't hold back in loving the other kids in your world, s peak words of life over them and create community and extended family around you ~ where ever you find yourself in this big ole world.

The fact is, parenting is just not meant to be done alone. We need others to love our kids and be there when sometimes we can’t be. We need to create safe places where our kids and their friends can grow and be loved and where they know they’ll be cheered on in life. Some of my happiest memories include times like getting together with my favourite gals and their families while our kids had an impromptu talent quest. There was clapping and rap beats and laughter and we just enjoyed and cheered on our various offspring…it was great fun!

I also love hearing the funny things these kids say (I recall a blonde ringlet-ed little 4 year old dropping the F-bomb at kindy!) and how they’re going in school and where their personalities lead them. I also seem to find myself cheering my friends’ kids on at games and during concerts and yelling silliness out the car window as they walk past to school. I’m the doofussy mum yelling happy birthday songs over the phone and, on the flip side, because I love them I’m not afraid to call them on the dumb stuff they do in my home or while in my care.

I want to remember the stuff that’s important to them and be a part of their memories as they think back on their mum’s friends and what growing up was like in a community of people who believed in them and made them feel at home in their world. As our kids grow, we will have so many little (and gangly teen) people in and out of our homes and cars and we have a fantastic opportunity to create laughter, joy and life around us and for our home to be ‘the’ place to hang out.

I can’t WAIT to see who these kids are going to become and as they walk through life along side mine and all the great stuff they will do in the world. I look forward the 18th’s and 21st’s (where I can embarrass them further) and hearing them on the phone while they’re with my kids in other parts of the world as they have their adventures…then the inevitable engagements and weddings. Sigh…

Let’s think outside our own families and always have an open home for other kids. The house is never going to be spotlessly clean whilst we have kids living at home! Let’s learn to love the chaos and the noise and get used to making an extra batch of muffins of whatever is on the go!

I love the fact that there are a number of homes where my kids are valued, safe, cared for and encouraged....I want my home to be that place too, for my kids memories and who knows, maybe to help that one young person for whom home wasn’t or hasn't been such a great place...

Lv Jane

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My thoughts on Health.....by Belinda


HEALTH: the dictionary defines it as “Freedom from disease or ailment, the general condition of the body or mind”
Many of you have heard/read some of my story, when Susan and I were regularly blogging about our exercise regime, however I thought I would share a little more with you today. So, here goes…

Over the last 12 to 13 years sadly I have put what I have wanted into my mouth, unfortunately this has resulted in my beautiful, but small frame becoming over weight. The result I have found and clearly see is that my body is not in the state of health that I know it can be in.

In my younger years I was always fit and healthy, however along the path of babies, etc., things seemed to slip. But things are changing now. I have made the decision to continue making my way back to health and well-being because I believe that HEALTH is a life style, it’s about how good you feel both body, mind and spirit when you are living right.

This journey takes time but it’s so worth it. Life is so busy these days that finding the time to exercise and be concerned about what we are consuming is an effort. Today I would like to tell you (out loud) that the effort is so worth it. I really started looking after myself about 8 months ago, I mean really exercising and trying to watch what I put through my lovely lips. This has definitely been a challenge for me, as I love junk. Everyday I am making wiser, stronger choices that I know in the long run will benefit every part of me.

Exercise for me is a vital part of becoming healthy. I encourage you to take just a ½ hour to 1 hour each day to exercise. Create a habit and after a short while you will really begin to feel and see (yahoo) the difference. When I say exercise I mean start by walking and then progress, your goal is to increase your heart rate so you can start burning some unwanted ‘bits’. After 8 months I’m finding that my exercise routine is no longer a chore for me, I am back to enjoying exercising, it gives me time to gather my thoughts all the while puffing like a steam engine!

Being healthy is not just a want it’s a need and every single women, man and child, regardless of age, needs to be active and work towards living a full and healthy life.
Cheers,
Belinda

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wicked Apple Crumble


My work colleague Julie is as skinny as a rake. She is one of those lucky people who seems to be able to eat what she pleases without putting on a pound. The fat fairy has passed her by and thanks to this she has, without even a twinge of guilt, built up a repertoire of naughty-but-nice desserts which she is happy to share with her friends.

And these decadent dishes are no shrinking violets. They are wicked puddings with gutsy flavours and rich textures but, because Julie is not one to linger longer than necessary in the kitchen, she has fine-tuned them to new heights of speed and simplicity. Case in point is her delicious apple crumble. I used to make crumble the old-fashioned way – peeling and stewing the Granny Smiths then carefully combining the butter and flour until it resembled fine breadcrumbs. Well, there’s none of that here. This is a store-cupboard pud that’s a cinch to make and tastes just as good as its complicated counterparts.

This wicked apple crumble is perfect comfort food for those in the northern hemisphere welcoming winter frosts and warm evenings by the fire, but it’s equally good with a dollop of ice-cream for those of us looking forward to lazy summer days.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 large tins of apple pie fruit – sliced ones work best
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats
Approx 200g butter (or margarine)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200C
2. Melt the butter
3. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and mix
4. Put the tinned apple in the bottom of a casserole dish
5. Cover the apple evenly with the crumble mixture
6. Cook for 25-35 minutes until golden brown on top

From Deborah!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Time Management......What does it mean?

I have been trying to get around to writing this post for the past 2 days...such is my time management!!

Time Management was never something I struggled with, I have always been particularly good with managing my time and abilities, being an on time and reliable person....and then I had kids!  Have they even heard of time management?? Why is their agenda always different to mine?

My struggle quickly became not that of being someone who had difficulty managing their time - but someone who knew what they needed to do, how they needed to do it and exactly when they needed to do it - but it just wasn't happening. When I tried to send that email, or get to the shops to buy groceries for dinner, or just even stop for five seconds, there was some urgent need that demanded my attention. So I had to learn not to try and fight it, to understand that this is a season in my life where these little people do require all of me, and all of the other things can go on hold for the time being.

I know this isn't the kind of 3-step "here's what you need to do to have great time management skills" kind of a post, personally I reckon you're either born with it or you're not, and if you're not you need to work pretty darn hard at it (but that is a whole other story and one that is open to a whole lot of debate no doubt)....anyhow where was I?? Oh yeah, this post is more for those of us who are constantly frustrated by not being able to get things done when and how you want.

As a busy mum of 2 both well under the age of 2.5 my advice is, in as much as you can, just stop and enjoy the ride, enjoy your kids, be with them completely, don't worry about the next thing like jumping to get on your computer, or getting to the dishes, or cleaning the house at the first free second you get. Yes, you probably need to work out a system to accomplish all the things you need to get done, but if you are the person I am directing this to, you are no doubt perfectly capable and will always get it done anyway. If you stress less about what needs to happen and just let a few things slide along the way, then everything will become much easier... just make sure you remember the things you've allowed to 'relax or slide' and do make them happen when it works ~ make that a priority.....everyday!

Vickie

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jumping And Getting Wet

I heard a speaker at a women’s conference once say: “Are you the kind of parent that likes to sit and watch your kids swim, or do you jump in and get wet?” …. Hmmmm.

This comment troubled me. I do like to have fun, but I also like to sit on the side and watch. Last year for instance we visited an aquatic centre in Tasmania. It was a little cold and the water was uninviting. I had a magazine to read, so I sat in the cafe, smiling and waving at the kids. Luckily Uncle Greg didn’t mind getting wet. My lack of involvement however didn’t impress my five and eight year olds.

What does impress them is me donning my swimmers and jumping in, or rolling up my jeans and splashing in the surf or swallowing my pride and climbing through a ridiculously small kids climbing maze, only to find myself getting stuck between the yellow squishy bits or better yet, taking my shoes off and bouncing with them on a Cinderella jumping castle.

Yesterday, against my better judgment, I put on my sneakers and headed to Luna Park with my five year old. As soon as we arrived, Georgia took my hand urging me to go on the merry go round with her. “Come on mummy,” she said enthusiastically. Cumbersomely I clambered on board a mermaid horse built for two. With legs dangling and handbag draped over my shoulder, I turned to look at Georgia. She gave me a big beaming, one tooth missing smile.

The more sensible parents were standing on the side taking photos of their kids. The less sensible one … me, was getting that ‘poor you look’ by parents at every turn. Even the attendant smiled at me sympathetically. Un-phased I turned to look back at Georgia who was still giving me that one tooth missing grin.

Next we headed to the Ferris wheel. Ah, this was better. At least I could see other parents getting on. But no sooner had we jumped off the Ferris wheel, when Georgia grabbed my hand and dragged me to my nightmare – the mighty mouse. I could already feel my meat pie heading up my esophagus. Again, most parents – the sensible ones, were standing in the line to wave their kids off. Not me. I am bundling myself into the crammed little red car with my bag, Georgia’s back pack and Georgia. “Here we go,” I say mustering up as much enthusiasm as I could. I think the photo taken as we hurtled down the track at 100 km’s an hour said it all.

Next it was Coney Island. “Let’s go on the big slide mummy.” “Ok, Georgia,” I looked up, grimaced, then sent an SMS to my husband: “are we having fun yet?” who promptly replied with: “not until you’ve been on the big slide” – funny that. So with a mat in one hand, Georgia’s backpack in the other and my handbag draped around my neck, we head up the big stairs to the big slide.

The young Indian man holding the mat at the top gave me that knowing glance. I stuffed my handbag into the little pouch provided, sat Georgia on my lap, then one, two, three – off we went. Whooahhhh! I’m just glad I’m not a celebrity and I don’t have paparazzi taking my photo, because the disembarking at the other end would have made the front page.

So after 6 rides, one ice-cream, 2 coffees and a stick of fairy floss we were done. Georgia took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said: “I love you mummy.” In this moment, I realized it was worth it all. To get in and get wet, although uncomfortable for me, meant the world to her.

Nicki

Monday, October 15, 2007

Know Your Body

Hi Friends,

The older I get, the more obvious it is to me that my body is going to make or break the way I spend the next 40 years! That in mind I have a new found fervour when it comes to the way I treat myself!
Practically speaking our body will be as good to us as we are to it. Put good food in and it will convert it to stuff that is good for you. It will fight cancer causing free radicals, tend to areas that need to repair and support the general functioning of our systems. Put bad stuff in and we operate more sluggishly, get sick more frequently, take longer to mend and don’t look quite as good.
I can hear you all screaming as you head to the cupboard to dust off your bottle of vitamin pills! It’s never too late to make a change. Amazingly our bodies have been created with the capacity to constantly repair. For instance, in between cigarettes a smokers lungs actually are in the process of repairing the damage cause by the last smoke. So, even if you have smoked a packet a day for twenty years if you quit today your body will do its best to repair itself. The same goes if you know you are carrying extra weight. Get started and your body will rise to the challenge (even if it doesn’t always feel like it!). Read Susan and Belinda’s posts on their journey, no excuses!
More later, but for now make a decision to undertake change today, put it into action and be proud of you. You deserve it!

Annie x

Friday, October 05, 2007

Posh Spice vs Your Children


Now I’m the first the admit to the occasional Who magazine purchase, but I personally find it disturbing that I seem to know all the names and birth places of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s children yet I couldn’t honestly tell you what some of my cousin’s kids are called or even how many they have. A certain amount of grace needs to be granted here since our tribe well into the hundreds!

Here’s a few questions for you:
• How well do we know celebrities?
• How many times do you pick up a magazine, newspaper or watch the television to read or listen to an interview with a celebrity?
• Name an actress, famous current or historic figure or even a fictional character and think of how many personal facts you know about them.
• Do you find yourself talking about them and their love lives and state of affairs as if they are in your circle of friends?
• Do you find yourself wondering about how long they have left in rehab, if they’ve gone ahead with buying that glamorous pad in the Hollywood hills or if they’ve had their baby yet?
• Do you find yourself influenced by celebrities and/or their characters on TV even if miniscule? e.g. On the famously successful sitcom Friends, the character Rachel Green played by Jennifer Aniston gave birth to a baby girl and named her Emma. Not only was the name copied by thousands of women due to give birth shortly after the high rating episode, but in the lead up, opinion polls guessing the yet to be revealed name appeared on chat shows, in newspapers and radio shows.

If you sheepishly answered yes to most of these it shows that we not only know much about fictional television characters, but we know way too much about their off screen lives than we ought to. For instance, what stage of the rehab program they’re up to, how much they paid for their house, what rifts are hurting their family members, what state their relationships are in, the secret demons they struggle with, when their first baby is due, if they’re hoping for a boy or a girl, what names they are thinking of choosing, what hospital they are delivering at, who visits them, what gifts the baby received, etc. The list could go on.

I made a video a few years ago of my daughter and asked her a stack of questions. She answered most of them exactly how I assumed she would, but with a few of them she really surprised me. I realised that I actually didn’t know as much as I could have about my own daughter.

Think of all the members of your family. How well do you really know them? How often do you sit down and have a real conversation with them? Most conversations can be reduced to a pile of questions about the day and orders before bedtime if we’re not careful.

I would hate to think that I am closer to Posh Spice or Jude Law (hold that thought…) than I am with my own extended family just because I pay more attention to what magazines write about them.

Here are some suggestions for finding out more about those in your world. I am sure there are a million other ways, but try these if you like:

• Interview your children and record it. Write down your questions before hand.
• Get your kids to interview you. This in itself will be interesting as most children only ask questions that directly impact them.
• Write a questionnaire as part of a family night activity. Most kids love talking about themselves. Throw in some funny questions to keep it light and less like filling out a visa application.
• Try going around the dinner table and pose scenarios to everyone. This gives you insight into how your children think and what their true gauge on life is. e.g. What would you do in such and such situation?
• Email everyone in your extended family and fun questionnaire and ask them to respond within a certain time frame. Date, copy and bind them all and send everyone a copy. Not only will you know much more about each other and have printed family tree history, you might even find you have more in common with each other than just a last name.

Let us know how you go.

Michaela.

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