Thursday, August 23, 2007

Being Gentle on the Planet

For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with cause and effect. I have always innately understood that my body will be as healthy as the way I treat it. Likewise the concept of adapting my lifestyle to lessen my impact on the environment came quite naturally as the world woke up to what we have been doing to the planet.

Now that Susan has opened the door I would like to share a few of the things I do. It’s nothing radical, but hopefully it will help open your eyes to the possibilities that are out there for all of us to make a difference. Like Susan said, “If we all do just one thing different we could make a difference.”

Before I start please remember I’m not an expert, just a girl with a few ideas. To me it’s all about getting back to basics. I think about what my nanna would have done and my challenge is often answered in a second. I’m sure many of you can relate to this!!!

Here are a few ideas to start with!

Plastic Wrap - Don’t use plastic wrap to cover dishes in the refrigerator. I can generally find a plate that will sit nicely on top of the dish and serve the same purpose minus that use of plastic…and we all know how nasty that is. I use the same method when warming something up in the microwave, not only is this environmentally hazardous there are numerous reports about the health issues relating to this usage. One more thing, I like making pizza dough and I use the plate to cover as it raises as well you could also use a clean dish clothe. The ideas and options are endless.

Allow me to interrupt myself here. I am no angel. I do use plastic wrap however I try to find ways to avoid is use if the opportunity arrives.

Plastic pouches/lunch bags - If you use plastic pouches in your children’s lunch box, train them not to throw them out. They are generally good for a few uses. If you are really committed you can even wash them! Little plastic boxes are also a great alternative.

Snack Packs - Rather than buying little packets of snacks for my children I buy one large packet (eg: of crackers) and divide them up myself. Or make my own popcorn (healthier) and package it myself. This results in much less disposal of plastic packaging.

The end result the more we can eliminate the usage of packaging in our homes the better for the environment, also seek out a biodegradable option…. our children and our children’s children will thank us.

If you have any great ideas and tips that you use in your home please share them with us.

Happy recycling ☺

Annie x

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Environment..... What Can We Do?

Over the past few years we have all been provided with so much information about the environment and the pain we are causing due to our ‘disposable’ lifestyle. As the information has been increasing my feeling of understanding and guilt have increased and sadly only 2 years ago I decided that we would endeavour to make a few changes in our home and try to a difference. I truly believe that if each one of us did ONE thing different each month collectively we could make a huge difference. Good Old Mother Earth would benefit greatly.

With all the information in hand and in I (probably like some of you) had absolutely NO idea where to start. Although the information and ‘what was happening’ was great, the information on what my family could do in our little patch of heaven was desperately lacking. I did what comes most naturally to me…. I started to talk to my friends and people who I thought were ‘greenies’ to obtain some kind of information. I also did my research and before long my little family was making a difference and it felt great.

Here are some of the very simple things we’ve done:

Drink Bottles – when the kids or yourself come home with a drink bottle with left over water don’t tip it down the drain, use it to water your indoor plants. Use left over water from dinner water glasses, anything just don’t tip it out.

Bucket in the Shower – place a bucket in your shower and collect water. Again, use this to water indoor plants or do some of your cleaning.

Composting – we had a compost bin in our backyard so I jumped online and became a composting queen. The kids got involved and we really began to understand what was happening, not to mention the incredible decrease in our rubbish each week. It’s super simple and all it requires is an inexpensive bin that you can buy at your hardware store and off you go. For more information check out This comes naturally to me, as some of you know I grew up on a farm in Canada so our composting came in the form of a few very large pigs and another cute Vietnamese pig…..we never wasted a drop!

Potty Training – This is a funny one but one that makes a difference. I wasn’t good with fabric nappies/diapers…yes I used disposable however I made it my mission to get my children potty trained sooner rather than later ~ I couldn’t stand seeing the week’s nappies in the bin.

Household Cleaning Products – I went back to the basics here and used some good old fashion tips here. I used vinegar on my mirrors and bi-carb soda to clean the sinks and baths. This not only helps the environment but also helped my children who are eczema sufferers as well. Sometimes simple is best.

These are just a few of the simple things I started doing in our home to make a difference. I know that some of my friends were inspired (as I was by some of my ‘greenie’ friends who were already doing things) by what our family was doing and they then made small changes in their home as well. I’m no expert on any of this I’m just someone who decided to do a little research and see what we could do to play our part. These changes were made slowly and not all at once, and strangely enough they have become habits.

I hope this helps you on your path to making your home a little more environmentally friendly. I know some of thefamilyroom girls will jump on and share some of their ideas. Also, we plan to make this segment a regular, similar to Jane’s nutrition segments so enjoy and join us as we endeavour to make the world a better place.

Take care, keep smiling and please keep in touch ~ please share any of your tips on saving the environment.

Susan xoxo

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dinner!!?? Dinner's a Thing of the Past! Forget Dinner!!!

I caught up with a friend recently who has four kids, and having not seen her for a while, we were talking about family and she began to list off the various after school activities that she spends her life ferry-ing her offpring around to each day.

I felt tired after about 30 seconds and when she was telling me that some of these activities can take her up to 8.30 at night (!!), I asked her when she has time to make dinner. The title of this little blurb was her response.

Well, I became hysterical, for some reason I got the giggles and kept laughing for the rest of the day at the thought…”Don’t be ridiculous child, what do you mean you want to be fed? We’ve got to get to soccer practise!”

She saw the humour in it too and went on to tell me that one night of the week is Maccas in between games and the rest of the time she just throws something together and hopes for the best.

So I got to thinking, how can we make dinner actually work in this hectic day and age? (Over-scheduling our kids is a whole other post, see the archives for some previous discussions)

We have 1 or 2 nights a week that are pretty crazy and so on those nights we either do take away (Thai or some sort of Asian can be good for veggies) or I make the meal during the day. When I have to work or study and don’t have a chance, I try to make a big batch of something the day before and keep or freeze extra portions.

I am actually a big fan of dinner after school if you can make it work. You get a good meal into the kids when they’re hungry and then they can have milk or fruit afterwards for a snack before bed.
Often dads don’t get home in time to eat dinner with the fam and on those nights I try to get the kids to have a snack or a hot drink with dad when he’s having his meal so we can sit around the table and chat.

Because this is all about logistics we make sure that Friday nights are family nights eating together as well as most meals over the weekend.
You have to do what works for your family, but can I encourage you to think it all through and do what you can to get control. Don’t just let the schedule happen to you and your family….make it work for you!

If you have done this and you’ve got a plan, tell us! Share your secrets!

On the topic of easier dinner times…this is what we had last night and it took no time at all.

You’ll need brown or basmati rice, 2 tins tuna in brine, a tin of brown lentils, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some garlic and onion to taste.

Chop up and sauté the garlic and onion, pop the rice on, then throw the rest in the pan with the garlic and onion. Let it simmer till the rice is cooked, add some salt and pepper to taste and off you go!
Easy and really nutritious and the kids won’t even notice the lentils!

Have a great day,
Lv Jane

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Hi everyone! I just have to let you all know about my recent success. I don’t know about you but it is only the rare occasions in parenting when I feel that things turn out just the way I imagined. This was one of those times.

The note came home from school. SCHOOL DISCO - COME AS YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE CHARACTER. It was my 6 year old daughters first school disco, she was excited. “What can I go as Mum”? I jokingly suggested she go as Spongebob Squarepants. “YES” she screamed “I want to be Spongebob”. What had I done? How do I make a Spongebob? I tried to talk her out of it but it was to no use.

How do I go about this? Ok. What about some yellow foam? That would be easy. Or so I thought. Do you know how expensive a piece of foam is? It was going to cost me around $100 so I had to weigh up my options - those cute new flats in David Jones v’s Spongebob. Shoes won - hands down. Back to the drawing board.

Maybe a trip to Bunnings (hardware store) would inspire me. Off I went. To my surprise I found a perfectly sized cardboard box and better still it was free (I love Bunnings). Then I found the perfect “Spongebob yellow” spray paint. I only had a few hours before the disco started so home I went to create the masterpiece.

In a few short hours me and the garage were covered in yellow paint, I stood back and laughed as Spongebob Squarepants smiled back at me. (Though, in all honesty it could have been paint fumes that were making me laugh).

My daughter loved it! She was the hit of the school disco and she won best dressed.

So that’s one for me. Till next time. Here’s a snapshot for you!


Friday, August 10, 2007


Ok so you may have already worked out that I have a fascination with food. Hence this post. Sharing food satisfies my need to cook, to bless and say, “I care”. My familyroom friends have taught me to look for opportunities to help out in practical ways.

Recently my neighbour mentioned that she has a huge workload with the current contract she is working on. I see her study light on late at night. She has two children and a husband who works long hours. Whilst I can’t write for her I can help to lighten the load. Every few days I cook an extra batch of whatever is for dinner and pop it across on her kitchen bench. This small gesture speaks volumes. It is as easy as a bigger pot of minestrone or another tray of lasagne. A small gesture but food for the soul and a kind gesture that I know will be passed on.

I thought this a good familyroom ‘tip’ to share. I am continually amazed at how we are able to make such a huge difference simply using what is in our hands and in this case it’s my love for food and my ability to pull it together.

Take care everyone and have a FANTASTIC weekend.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Chocolate Swirl Cookies.....Yum

Hey all it’s me again (Annie). Susan has been asking us for recipes so I thought I would pull this one together and post it for you. This is far and away my favourite cookie recipe. It is great treat for the kids as it is full of oatmeal.

I love serving these to my friends; they look great and taste amazing. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Happy baking!!

Annie x


250g butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups plain flour

2.5 cups oatmeal (processed in food processor)
A pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb soda
2 cups good quality dark cooking chocolate

Preheat oven to 180 C
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy add eggs and vanilla mix to combine. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Melt the chocolate in a double saucepan over simmering water and set aside. Combine the wet and dry ingredients then pour the chocolate over the cookie mixture and fold gently (do not over mix you want a marbled effect). Roll into walnut sized balls and put on baking tray about 4cm apart
Bake 10 minutes, allow them to cool (if you can) then pour the kids a glass of milk and yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Simple Things that make a Huge Difference

Hi friends,

As you know thefamilyroom is all about building, developing and strengthening relationships in our families and our community. With this in mind I offer my latest gem for you to read, enjoy and hopefully be inspired to step out or continue on.

Recently I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, that life is so busy. The days just seem to rush by at times without us even knowing it ~ I’m always amazed to find myself at the end of the week wondering where the days have gone. This rushing by has caused what I like to call ‘The impromptu’ to almost be a thing of the past.

It became obvious to me that the gold that comes from regular contact with friends was missing from our lives. Being me I made a decision not to be deterred by our busy schedules and I purposed to make a change. You see I believe that sharing a meal opens doors that would otherwise stay shut. I purposed to open doors.

Here is my story:

There are three couples in our world that are just like family to us. At least one Thursday (sometimes more) we gather at our place for a casual meal. I plan the menu and allocate who is bringing what via email. Menu wise we try to make it easy healthy and fun. My beloved kitchen table seats ten, this allows all of the adults to sit and enjoy dinner and a glass of wine and catch up on what’s happening in each others world. The children congregate in another room or outside and eat and play. We start at 6pm and finish at 8pm. This means it doesn’t end up a long late night, or disrupt routines ~ it’s that simple.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it has been to open our home to our friends and their families. Susan often talks about “it takes a village to raise a child”; this to me is part of belonging to and nourishing our village. I encourage you to take the plunge and try it; you and your family will be richer for it.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

SURVIVING THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS.....a few tips to help you get through the next block of holidays.

Ah, School holidays. The mere thought of it conjures up images of exhausted mothers trying desperately to appease over-indulged kids, whose mantra is chanted the western world over: ‘I’m bored’ …

“Bored”!! - “You’re not bored,” I say to my 8 and 6 year olds. “Go and climb a tree. Jump on the trampoline. Play in the cubby house. Read a book or draw a picture. Unfortunately, they don’t get it. After ‘what seems like hours’ of incessant winging, I concede defeat, waving my white flag and shuffling them into the car to see Shrek 3 for the third time.

“Kids in Africa don’t get bored,” I tell my 8 year old. “They play with sticks and old cans and pieces of wire.” “Yes mummy” she replies in her cynical, ‘I’ve heard it all before voice.’ “Send me to Africa and I won’t get bored” – Hey, now that’s an idea!

My challenge during this past school holidays was to keep the kids from being bored and keep me from going insane. I did this by having a plan.

And it worked. Monday was shopping. Tuesday was stay at home and clean day, Wednesday was exercise class and library, Thursday an outing and so on. Thrown into the mix was the occasional organized school holiday activity like horse riding.

Knowing what the week had an ahead of me was better pill to swallow. Included in our routine was a catch up with friends - those who had kids the same age as mine. That way, I got to drink coffee and talk and the kids got to play.

We also made time for serious educational fun, like visits to the local library – an inexpensive holiday activity that not only encouraged their love of books, but filled in 2 hours on a Wednesday. Other inexpensive and worthwhile activities included: going on bushwalks and to parks.

As the school holidays came to an end, I actually even felt a little sad. The positives this time seemed to outweigh the negatives. I enjoyed my well thought out plan for activities, whilst taking a break from the usual mundane routine of ironing uniforms and making lunches.

Finally, I made a choice and that was to embrace the school holidays optimistically; seizing the diminishing opportunity I have to spend time with my ‘growing up too fast’ kids, who would someday do their own thing. – Sadly, one day the tables will turn and my kids will no longer rely on me for entertainment and I’ll be the one winging … “I’m bored!”

Just a little food for thought.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Introducing Deborah Johnson... New to thefamilyroom team!

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Deborah Johnson. Deborah is a GREAT friend of mine, we have known each other for the past 14 years, we have worked in the same organisation, mixed in the same social circles and pretty much just enjoyed seeing each other's lives unfold.

Deborah is married to Brian and they have 3 beautiful children. Deborah is wife, mother, daughter, sister, business woman(works full time yet manages to keep the fires burning on all fronts), plus so much more.

Deborah is a trusted friend and someone I am happy to introduce to you. Sit back, relax and enjoy her regular blogs.

A PASSION FOR PAPER (from Deborah Johnson)

It started during a visit to the hairdressers.

We’re talking one of those marathon three-hour sessions involving colour a cut and more than one cappuccino.

Somewhere between folding the last foil and disappearing while the colour cooked to perfection, the stylist started talking about her favourite hobby – scrapbooking.

She spoke with a passion, describing a rainbow of colourful card, page design to rival Vogue and an array of ribbon and glitzy bits guaranteed to capture a girl’s imagination.

But the thing that got me interested was the idea that those neglected family photos – the ones we all have cluttering up a cupboard – could be transformed into gorgeous mementos which people would actually clamour to see.

Better still, the scrapbook albums this pastime produced could become family heirlooms – passed from one generation to another as a lasting reminder of a moment in time.

And best of all, this was a hobby which could be shared with the kids. What little girl – or boy – doesn’t love cutting and sticking, not to mention seeing their snapshots develop into a work of art.

I had never heard of scrapbooking before that day at the hairdressers, but a quick Google search showed I was seriously behind the times. There are literally thousands of web sites dedicated to it plus books, magazines and online stores. It has even grown its own language – have you heard of die-cuts, rub-ons, eyelets and embellishments. Before scrapbooking, I thought “brad” was a boy’s name and “crop” was what you used to make a horse run faster. Not anymore.

Intrigued, I found a shop 20 minutes drive away which was totally dedicated to scrapbooking. This was no ordinary craft store. It was an Aladdin’s cave of scrapping goodies. It ran classes every day, including the evenings, and most mysterious of all was the Friday night “scrapathon” for which the store stayed open until midnight. I just had to pay a visit.

The beginner’s class was my first foray into the world of scrapbooking but I was an instant convert. The two hours spent creating pretty pages which brought my pictures to life was more fun than the movies and more relaxing than the spa – honestly!

That was a year ago. A few more visits over the last 12 months have produced increasingly adventurous displays – most recently a 20-page mini album which overseas relatives love to receive. I’ve taught the kids the basic techniques and they’ve had a go at scrapbooking school projects.

As well as pictures, scrapbookers love to adorn their pages with words. The kids delight in seeing their photos accompanied by an uplifting story or an encouraging phrase. I see it as another way of speaking words of life over them.

Now, I understand this hobby is not for everyone – I love peace and quiet and sitting in the same spot for a couple of hours is a treat not a chore. But as a busy working mum, snatching a few relaxing hours of creativity is bliss, plus there’s the added bonus of cutting down on that mountain of family snaps and, hopefully, making memories that will last a lifetime.



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