Pickling Jalapenos

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I’m joining the “Our Growing Edge” link up for March.  It’s an initiative from Bunny.Eats.Design to connect foodies and inspire one another to try something new.  This month Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys is hosting. 

My hubby loves jalapenos.  I usually buy the Old El Paso brand from our supermarket.  But at $4.25 a jar , we’re pretty much paying $17/kg for those little chillies, considering that the ingredients used in the pickling liquid are inexpensive – just water, vinegar and salt!  My local grocer occasionally gets in fresh jalapenos, and this week I picked up four small trays for a total of $7.14.  (I’m kicking myself for not weighing them when I got home, because I can’t do a price comparison for you.  Next time, hey?)  It’s easy peasy to pickle jalapenos yourself.

I’ve tried this recipe before from The Purple Foodie.  It was a hit with my man, but the flavour combinations weren’t exactly what I was looking for.  I wanted some flavours that I associate with Mexican cooking.  I was looking for a recipe that included coriander, cumin and oregano.  Seeing as I couldn’t find one, I decided to make up my very own pickling liquid recipe.

Here it is:

2 cups apple cider vinegar

2 cups water

2 tbs salt

1 tbs sugar

5 cloves of garlic (don’t bother peeling, just crush slightly.  I use the flat side of my big sharp knife)

1 tbs whole peppercorns

2 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

A few sprigs of oregano from my garden

Put all the pickling liquid ingredients into a big saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil.  I like to add my chopped jalapenos to the liquid and give it all a big stir to mix through all the spices.  Spoon the jalapenos into a sterilised jar (I boil my glass jars for 10 mins on the stove, but there are other ways to do it if this doesn’t appeal to you), and pour the liquid over, making sure that the chillies are covered.  I had enough jalapenos left over to fill a few smaller containers, and thought they’d make nice little gifts for friends, teachers, etc. with the addition of some pretty fabric and a ribbon.

pickled jalapenos

Do you have a favourite fruit or vegetable you like to pickle?  What about a favourite recipe?

I’d love to hear from you.

M.xx

Upcycling: Wall Hooks

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I found this sad little thing at one of my local Salvos stores.  I imagine in her previous life she graced the walls of a little old lady’s home, maybe by the front door, to hold her bag, coat and hat.  Because of her dated pattern, she sat unloved on a shelf, marked $8.   I saw her potential, and brought her home for a face lift.

Sad, old wall hooks.

First, I had to pull her apart.

sad, old wall hooks 2

I used the old fabric and wadding as templates to cut new ones.  After scraping off all the old glue on the board, I attached both fabric and wadding to the backing board.  The fabric is a Joel Dewberry, in the Avery range.

Luc Preschool 023

A few white coats of paint to the frame, a little distressing and some new draw handles for hooks completed her new look. Her new home will be in my laundry, and she’ll have the honor of holding my broom, dustpan and fly swat.  Not an overly glamorous life, but at least she’ll look good doing it!

Finished Wall Hooks

I love giving things others throw away a second chance at life.   Do you?

Talk soon,

M.xx

THRIVE Goal: Towards Spiritual Maturity

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I guess sooner or later you’ll discover that you can pigeonhole me as a “Christian.”  I struggle with you knowing this, because I’m afraid you’ll judge me as out of touch, religious and boring.

Maybe I am.

The truth is I’m not happy sitting in Church.  Part of me desperately wants to fit in, please the others and go along with the crowd.  But I can’t.  I see horrific financial waste, where money given weekly is largely spent on a massive mortgage for an out-of-date building the now shrinking congregation can’t afford.  I see people being paid as ministers, and I can’t help but feel their 9 to 5 week would be better spent working out in the world, connecting with the so-called “lost”, rather than patting the hands of the spiritually immature who refuse to grow up.  I see the lyrics of worship songs projected up on the big screen, and I wonder if anyone else can see that we’ve swallowed the “i-culture” of our day, and are bopping along worshiping ourselves rather than outpouring our adoration and reverence to God in song.  Ideally, I’m supposed to be in a Bible Study group to grow spiritually, most of which (more often that not) follow some sort of programmed material.  I’d much rather use this time to get to know about what’s going on in the lives of the people I’m there to support.  To use that time to build relationships and give them courage to press on with their spiritual journey, as they live out a life of worshipful service to Jesus.  I’d love to see my brothers and sisters as agents of social change, advocating for justice, out in the world actually reaching the people Jesus told us to love – rather paying someone else to do it, or worse, sitting in judgement sneering down their noses at those sinful “heathens.”  Ugh.  The use of that label sickens me.

So what now then?  Do I still go to Church?  Yes, I do.  Until there is an alternative, I’ll be sitting there.  Praying.  Hoping.  For more like-minded people who sit on the edges of Church culture to find each other, to ask intelligent questions and to fumble forward as we try together to grasp how to live the revolutionary, counter-cultural lifestyle modeled by our gracious Jesus.

As it happens, God has drawn a little group of us together already.  Tonight we start a Book Club.  No edgy name.  No misspelling in the title.  Just a plain old Book Club.  We’re going to eat a lovely meal, and we’ll chat about this month’s book “Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality” by Donald Miller.  We’re going to talk about what in the book inspired us, what challenged us and what we disagreed with.  No judgement, just listening to one another and questioning to promote deeper reflection.  And hopefully spiritual growth.

My dream is that others who are disconnected from today’s Church might find their way to a place where their dissent is understood, and that they feel affirmed that their relationship with God is one that is valuable and real.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

M.xx

THRIVE Goal – Moving Towards Positive Body Image

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My “style” for the last seven years has involved maternity wear, breastfeeding tees, comfortable jeans and what ever hand-me-downs the beautiful women in my life would graciously pass on to me.  I was blessed to receive those garments because during those years I was not in a position where I could purchase new clothes.  But even if I could have, I did not want to buy clothes that would fit the way I currently looked.  So, my wardrobe was a mishmash of roomy garments, completely unreflective of my personality and tastes.   Somewhere along the line, I reluctantly accepted this new “look” as my own – a factor I believe contributed to my loss of identity during motherhood.

Now that I’m moving on from my childbearing years, there have been a few occasions recently where I have needed to dress up a bit.  I have had to borrow clothing from family and friends.  My entire wardrobe is casual.  And that’s probably talking it up a bit.  How did this happen?  When did I become another one of those mothers I used to see at the shopping centre and feel sorry for because they had given up on themselves and their appearance?  So often while getting ready in the morning the phrase “that’ll do” has zipped through my mind.  I say “zipped”, because 0.5 of a second is all the time available to me to think about my appearance before an argument breaks out, a baby begins crying or a smashing sound can be heard from somewhere within the house…

I have often thought that how we present ourselves to the world is not that important.  It’s what’s inside that really counts, right?  Now I realise that I’ve been wrong.  How we look is important.  But NOT because of what other people will think of us, but how we feel about ourselves.  I will admit that the idea of dressing up to go out had me in tears, sure I had nothing to wear, but it actually revealed a deeper issue below the surface.  My desire to disappear into the background at social events or when photos are taken pointed to one thing – I felt awful about my post-baby body, and in turn, myself.

I am not overweight, I am in the healthy weight range according to my BMI, but carrying 4 babies has taken it’s toll on my body and my body-image.   My hubby helped me to realise that my thinking was the problem.   I had gotten myself stuck in a cycle of thinking that went something like this:  I have nothing nice to wear… I feel so frumpy and ugly…but I don’t want to buy anything that will fit me as I look now because I don’t like how I look now…so I’ll wait until I look the way I want to… in the meantime, I have nothing nice to wear…

My hubby went on to say “Surely you’re not the first woman in the world to ever want to dress to down play a post baby body?  What do other women wear? ”

Do you ever get so caught up in your own thinking (or in my case, wallowing) that you practically refuse to try to find a solution?  Looks like I do!  Basically my hubby suggested to go buy something flattering that will accentuate the aspects of my figure that I do like, and downplay those features I don’t like so much.  Sounded simple enough.

Then my wonderful sister sent me a link to shopyourshape.  It’s a website that helps you to determine your body shape using the Body Shape Calculator, and then explains in very clear, simple language the styles of garments that suit your shape best.  There are hints and tips on when to use patterns, block colours as well as light and dark shades.  There are diagrams to illustrate the garment styles that will look best on you.

My shape is “pear shape,” and while reading through the information on how to dress my shape I had an epiphany.  This sentence was the trigger:

The key to dressing a pear body type is to enhance and add volume (or the illusion of volume) to your upper body while emphasizing your waist and de-emphasizing your lower body to create a balanced, hourglass appearance.

I suddenly realised that I have had the same “pear” body shape since I was a teenager.   I have struggled to accept and love this shape.  I have operated under the misconception since my teens that I could change my body shape if only I’d loose more weight, or put some on.  But 20 years later I can see that it won’t work for me.  Whether I’ve been size 16 or size 10 (and I’ve been those and everything in between), I remain the same shape, just a larger or smaller, flabbier or more toned version of it.

This year – in my year to thrive – I am going to grow in loving my body shape.  I am going to accept that I am pear shaped.  The idea of being pear shaped has always sounded a bit frumpy-dumpy to me.  So I’m going to change my thinking from sneering at the soggy, easily bruised notion of being pear shaped.  I’ll embrace the sweetness of having a curvy lower half and highlight the crisp, neatness of a small waist.  Seeing as there’s plenty of easy ways to “add volume” to my upper body with clothing, I am beginning to see how I can use clothing to dress to flatter my body type.  I want this year to have lots of days when I look in the mirror and feel good about the reflection I see – not by dramatically changing anything but my own perception of my body.

Maybe you’re willing to come along on the journey with me?  Do you know your body shape and how to dress to flatter it?  Do you have any websites that have helped you love the skin you’re in?

I’d love to hear from you.

M.xx

Happy New Year

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I’m one of those people who see life as a journey.  The last seven years have been pretty rough terrain for my family.  We chose to leave the smooth freeway of life to pave our way forward with our own business – and failed.  We’ve welcome 4 precious little ones into the world (we had 4 under 6 years at one stage).  We’ve scrimped and saved so that I could remain home with my children and not go back to work.  We’ve lived a life that seems completely out of step with the world around us.   There’s been heart ache in that, but also great joy.  I feel like I’ve been smashed into a million pieces and then slowly reformed.  When I reflect over the past years I can honestly say that the fiery challenges have forged me into someone who is more resilient,  patient, loving, and who has a greater capacity to endure than ever before.

This New Year marks a new phase of the journey for my family.  We move beyond the survival years of babyhood and away from the instability of contract work.  With full time employment secured and our last baby fast becoming a toddler, I can see 2013 as a year to thrive.  I want to grow well – spiritually, emotionally and physically.  This year I am challenging myself to grow in my relationship with God, to be able to engage at a deeper level emotionally with those I love, and to strengthen my post-baby body and improve my overall health.

My word for the year is THRIVE.

Do you have a word for the year?  Or specific goals you hope to achieve?  I’d love to hear about it.

Happy New Year!

M.xx

Reward Chart

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We want to reward our children for helping around the home and for developing the skills to care for themselves.  In a big family, systems and routine are necessary to keep home running smoothly.  The fact that my home doesn’t run smoothly points a big finger at me, namely my extreme dislike of maintaining systems.  So, I put my thinking cap on and came up with a system the children can manage – all on their own.  Hooray!

 

Here’s how the reward chart works.  My children can earn 5 stars a day by completing tasks around the home.  5 stars in one day earns you a point – and 5 points in a week earns you a prize from the prize bag.  Because we do expect a lot of our older children, the prizes are things they think are super cool like DVDs, colouring books, picture books, small Star Wars lego sets etc.  Basically if we’re out shopping and we see something they’d like, it goes in the prize bag and it can be earned.

 

Reward Charts

Here’s how I made them.

My inspiration came from a key holder I saw in the craft section at Bunnings.  A bit of paint, and some fabric stuck down (with watered down PVA glue – as good as Mod Podge) makes it pretty.

 

Next I drew a picture of the tasks I’d like my children to do for me. I really tried to find what I wanted online, but the images weren’t exactly what I wanted.  I’m not the best at drawing, but these are good enough for me.

 

 

I cut them up and glued them to cardstock.  One side has the task, the other has a star.  I laminated them, punched a hole in them and attached a key ring.

 

 

 

Here’s a box full of different tasks.  Mostly it’s tidying different areas of the house.  The areas they use and mess up!

 

 

 

So, the idea is that they pick out tasks (or I can always assign some to them) and once they complete them, they turn the task to the star side.  I can check up to see what they have done by flipping the tag over.   The reward chart is self-completing, and I’m not the “self” completing it any more!  Phew!

 

 

 

Note: Special tags

I have created 2 special tags for the children.  One is a morning routine and the other is our afternoon routine.  To earn a star for those, there are a series of tasks to do.  These are all visually represented, and attached to a single key ring.  They can flip through the pictures to stay on track.  Morning jobs include: breakfast, make bed, get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, pack school bag.  Afternoon jobs include: School bag away, lunchbox on kitchen bench, uniform away, put on play clothes, homework.

This morning the girl’s morning jobs were done in record timing.  They were outside playing in the rock pit at 7:20am.  Certainly record timing for getting ready!

Now to find a place to put them up!

 

What kind of reward, chore or job chart do you use?  How does it work?

 

 

 

Homemade Laundry Liquid

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After trialling a friend’s batch of homemade laundry liquid in my front loader, I decided it was worth making some.  I wash AT LEAST two loads per day, and I’d never really given much thought to how much I was spending on laundry liquid.   Based on the brand I was using before, I was forking out $72.50 for 10L.  Making it myself, 10L now costs me $3.57!

My initial hesitations were whether it would clean as well as commercial brands, and if it would be safe for use in a front loader.  I can happily say yes and yes!  I washed my daughter’s white dress with pen marks on it (she’s not meant to use pens, but…) I didn’t pre-treat it – I just threw it in with a regular load.  It came out white, pen marks gone!   I attribute this to using Sard Wonder Soap in the recipe.  It’s a great stain remover.  This recipe does not create a lot of suds, so it is safe to use in a front loader.

I got my recipe from Rhonda at Down to Earth.  Here’s the process I used:

Homemade Laundry Liquid

1/2 bar of Sard Wonder Soap (bought from Woolworths)

1/2 bar of another soap (I used a soap I was given as a gift a few years ago)

1/2 cup of washing soda (bought from Woolworths)

1/2 cup of borax (bought from Coles)

10 Simple Steps 

1.  Grate soaps in a food processor.  Or by hand.  (If you can avoid grating by hand, do it!)

2.  Put 1L of water in a saucepan on a medium heat (1L = 4cups)

3.  Add soap, soda & borax.

4. Stir until dissolved.

5.  Fill a big nappy bucket with 9L of water.

6.  Add contents from saucepan.

7.  Stir until you’re happy it’s combined.

8.  Using a funnel, fill containers with the mix.  Leave 3 – 4 cm gap at the top.

9.  The mix will separate (don’t be alarmed, it’s normal), and you’ll need to give it a really vigorous shake before using.

10.  Pour 1/4 of a cup (or about 60mls) into your washing machine dispenser.

It’s that simple!

A few notes.

Don’t leave it in the bucket overnight – it will gel up and be a pain to put in bottles.  Once it’s cooled down and you’re satisfied it’s mixed thoroughly, fill your containers while the mix is in a liquid state.  I used a cup measure and a funnel to fill mine up.

It’s up to you what kind of containers you use to store your laundry liquid.  I have used 2L white vinegar bottles, soft drink bottles, old laundry detergent bottles – basically bits and bobs I collected in readiness for the project.  The vinegar bottles are my favourite because they have a handle which make shaking really easy. I’m going to collect 6 of these all up, and use them each time I make a new batch.  I’ll probably go OTT and make a cute label for them too.  I’m like that…

Your containers will end up with 2 layers once left overnight.  There will be a creamy white gel-like layer at the top, and a clear layer at the bottom.  Give a vigorous shake before each use to recombine all ingredients.   You must leave room in each container to be able to shake it up!

This laundry liquid is not overly fragrant.  If your second soap was highly perfumed, maybe that would make a difference.  I found that the smell of the Sard soap overpowered the other one I used.  So, the laundry liquid has a light ecualyptus scent.

Using  2L or 3L bottles allows you to experiment with adding different fragrances until you stumble on a mix that you like.  I have tried adding Lavender essential oil in one bottle and Eucalyptus in another.   I’m uncertain how much you’d need to use to get a strong fragrance.  I’ll update this down the track once I have finished experimenting.

Are the savings you can make using homemade laundry liquid worth giving it a try?  Let me know how you go!