Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Taking The Hassle Out Of Christmas - Part Three - Planning For The Big Day

Christmas is a time to create memories and family traditions, we have a few.

Everyone must stir the Christmas Cake
The tree gets decorated with more than just Mums input.
Streamers everywhere are a must.

I am a hoarder, I still have Christmas decorations that the children made me in kindergarten, and ones they had given me for Christmas itself, and even ones, my nieces and nephews made me, every year I still put them up, it gives the house a real warm feeling.

It doesn't have to cost the earth, Christmas is about togetherness and the joy of Creation.

I always start planning about October, as we normally have 20-25 people here for Christmas Dinner alone with people coming and going all day long, some Christmases are quiet and there may be 8-10 but that happens very rarely.

At the supermarket 

Start getting dinner bargains

I'm  always on the look out for specials

Party Drinks
Paper Tablecloths
Disposable Plates
Cheeses ( dates have to last till Xmas )
Pates ( again dates have to last well after Xmas)
Xmas Biscuits
Presents Ideas

Anything that you see, that will save you on the big day is a massive savings, keeps lists of what you have pre brought so you do not double up.

Decorating the house the family way

Decorations made with love are the best kind, sure we can go to the shop and spend $100.00 on decorations if we chose too, or if we could, but there is nothing nicer than knowing that all the decorations were made with love.

Making  Your Own Christmas Decorations

Pretty Pinecones


Dip pinecones in gold paint (either partially or all of the way) or use a mixture of water, glue, and glitter for a sparkling effect.
Place on side tables or use to fill baskets and bowls.
The little baby pinecones look really sweet in baskets around the house as well.

Dream of Sugarplums

For a fast, sweet decoration, put out bowls of holiday candy in pretty, stemmed glassware.
Look around the Salvation Army shops of 2nd hand shops and find some really pretty display glasses
if you want to leave them out for longer than one day get sweets that are wrapped.

Homemade Doorknobs

Deck the doorknobs with jolly kid-made bells.

It's a great activity for days when it's too wet or chilly to play outside and -- between your craft bin and the refrigerator -- you probably have all the supplies on hand:an egg carton, paint, glitter, glue, and yarn.

Egg carton
Acrylic poster paint
Embroidery needle
Jingle bells

Step 1
Cut the cone-shape pieces that separate the eggs out of a cardboard carton (one egg carton will produce five bells). 

Step 2
Paint each divider, using acrylic or poster paint. Let dry; apply glue along the edge of the divider, all over the outside, or wherever you like, and sprinkle with glitter. 
Step 3 
Thread an embroidery needle with yarn, poke a hole through a bell's crown, and pull yarn through partway. For a clapper, slip a jingle bell onto the end of the yarn; tie a knot above the jingle bell. Tie several bells around a doorknob, staggering the lengths of the yarn. 

Salt Dough Initials

Salt Dough Trees:

Using the same salt dough as above, but colour it green, then roll out make tree shapes and poke a hole for the ribbon then bake following instructions above.

The recipe involves lots of gloopy (PVA) glue drizzled over the cooked, cooled shapes, then smothered in glitter, sequins, pom poms and any other small paraphernalia you can find!
Shake off any excess glitter 

The finished, delightful, ornaments!
Hanging up by their strings, waiting for the tree!

Crepe Paper Streamers

Now days you can get all different colours of crepe paper and balloons so you can theme your lounge into wonderful colours and really give it that festive feel..
Just cut  the crepe paper wad into about 8 pieces lengthwise,and then sellotape one end to the wall or ceiling and twist and unwind then once you get to the other end of the room sellotape that to the wall or ceiling and secure it

Fruit Pomanders

Although these are very time consuming to make the smell they give off is amazing

You will need

Whole Cloves

Decide on a pattern and work the cloves into the skin of the orange  do it over a plate or towels as the juice may leak out.

Once you have your clove design tie a ribbon around the orange and either hang it someone to permeate or place in bowls somewhere close to where people sit, so they get that Christmas feel.

Pre Planning Who Will Be There
It always good to know ahead of time how many you will be expecting, so try emailing or phoning and get numbers in, not just for the food side of it, but everyone at my place on Christmas Day gets a gift, so I can be on top of the list rather than get a surprise on the day
If you have a Christmas Dinner where family and friends bring a plate, co-ordinate it so that you can phone ahead and ask if they have a preference for what the bring, that way your full menu can be planned just from making a few calls and it spreads the costs evenly and doesn't just let one person cover the bill.

Everyone has different skills, so utilise those skills

My teenage nieces love doing the desserts, so that's cool, it saves me having to do them, so I can focus on something else, they purchase the ingredients and make them up, and that is their families contribution.
My sister cooks the chicken  so once again she buys the chicken and cooks them, and brings them down covered in tinfoil, ready to go in the warmer drawer.
We do have some booze, but mostly you bring what you drink, so that way, you don't have to buy stuff you may never touch again till next year, and believe me even beer has an expiry date, so I found out.

With lots of people come the seating woo's, so when you know your numbers add 4 ( for just in cases) and then go about hiring chairs or borrowing off friends and family, so you can make sure everyone has a seat at the table.

Christmas Day is not always fine, so always have a backup plan.

Depending on numbers attending it may be beneficial to host Christmas somewhere people friendly than the average house, you may chose to go to a restaurant or another venue that totally caters for Christmas Dinner, I guess it all depends on your budget.
Maybe hiring a big tent or marque is the way to go.

Of course with lots of people comes the use of the very important room, so pre plan it may be beneficial to hire some portable toilets, and showers if people are staying over, and also gather bedding from friends and family, or request those that are staying over bring there own bedding

Lots of people
Lots of people, means lots of people to keep occupied, and you do not want them inside, so keep them occupied we have a Christmas Day Sports bag, it has softball bat, tennis balls, cricket bat, softball mitts, rugby ball, woosh ball, and lots of  old family board games and cards.
Of course after Christmas this bag needs to be checked to make sure nothing needs replacing, and that games have been put back together properly and I normally rubber band them so no parts can escape.

Rubbish Bins
Plenty of rubbish bins and rubbish bags need to be scattered around as there is one you can guarantee with a lot of people there will always be rubbish.
And the less you have to pick up the better.

Glad wrap & Serviettes, Plastic Knifes , Spoons and Forks
Make sure you have plenty of these items, we have a family kit, that has loads of real knifes, forks and spoons and also a plastic tub with tea towels, so that dishes can be done outside, and after each meal all utensils go in there and they can get dealt too outside away from the house.
Paper plates get chucked so it a minimal clean up mess.

Have you noticed that everything now days needs a battery, so look clearly at labels and see what you will need on hand on Christmas Day, and always keep some spare, for those children visiting that open a toy and then are upset because it can't be played with.


Although it is only one day it is a very special day and by being orginised it makes it a lot easier to manage.




Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Value Of Adding Spices To A Dish

Imagine your food without any spices or flavourings, it is unimaginable, isn't it.

Right from the kitchen spices have an important role to play in different areas.

Apart from adding colour, flavour and taste, consumption of spices provide infinite health benefits. 
You can be more creative in use of spices if you know its uses better. 
Some may be a substitute for your costly beauty products and even medicines. 
Check out the list below and see their uses and benefits.

Though these spices provide innumerable benefits they should be used sparingly. 
The excessive use of spices in food can cause harm to the health. 

Try to make specific use of these spices. 
This will help you to make optimal use of the resources provided by nature. 

Strike the right balance and add some spice to your life.

Asafoetida (Hing)It is used for seasoning food especially snacks and has medicinal uses.A good remedy for whooping cough and stomach ache caused due to gas.
Bay leaf (Tez Patta)It is used in cooking to add a specific flavour to food.
It also has some medicinal properties.
Bay leaf oil possesses antifungal and anti bacterial
Cardamom (Elaichi)It is used in most of the Indian and other sweet dishes to give a good flavour and smell.
It is also used widely in pharmaceutical sector.
Helps to control bad breath and digestive disorder.
A whole cardamom chewed is good for coping with diabetes.
Chilli (Lal Mirch)It is a main ingredient used for adding hot flavour to the food.The antioxidants present in chilli help to cope with cholesterol.
It also helps burning calories
Cinnamon (Dalchini)It is used for mainly for seasoning food and preparing masalas It has medicinal uses too.It supports natural production of insulin and reduces blood cholesterol, it also lower blood sugar levels and triglycerides 
Clove (Laung)It is used as a cooking ingredient mainly for seasoning or preparing Masalas.Clove oil is beneficial for coping with tooth ache and sore gums. It is also beneficial remedy for chest pains, fever, digestive problems, cough and cold.
Coriander (Dhaniya)Coriander leaves as well as coriander seeds are used in cooking.
It also has some medicinal uses.
It can be used externally on aching joints and rheumatism.
It is also good for coping with soar throat, allergies, digestion problems, hay fever etc.
Cumin (Zeera)It is used for cooking and it also possesses medicinal properties.It is a good source or iron and keeps immune system healthy.
Water boiled with cumin seeds is good for coping with dysentery.
Curry leaves(Curry Patta)It is used as a main ingredient for seasoning in some countries.
It has many medicinal uses.
These leaves are beneficial for reducing blood sugar.
Each part of the plant provides some benefit or the other.
The dried leaves are extensively used in herbal medicines.
Fenugreek (Methi)It is mainly used as a green leafy vegetable and seeds are used for seasoning and preparing Masalas. It also has medicinal uses.Fenugreek seed tea or sweet fudge is good for increasing breast milk.
It also helpful for treating diabetes and lowering cholesterol
Garlic (Lassan)It is used for cooking as well as for the medicinal purpose.It is useful for coping with cough and cold.
It also has antibiotic properties.
Ginger (Adrak)It is used for giving a specific flavour to food and has many medicinal uses. Helps to avoid digestive problems. It is beneficial for coping with cough and cold.
Mustard (Rye) It is used for seasoning as well as green leafy vegetable.
The use of mustard oil is extensive in India but it is banned in some countries.
Mustard oil is good for body massage and even for getting good hair.
It consists of omega-3 fatty acids. It is an excellent source of iron, zinc, manganese, calcium, protein etc.
Nutmeg (Jaiphal)It is used in powdered form for garnishing and also for masala preparation.
It is used in soaps, perfumes and shampoos.
It can also be used for medicinal purpose.
It is beneficial for the treatments of asthma, heart disorder and bad breath.
Pepper (Kaali Mirch)It is extensively used in cooking, especially for garnishing.
It is has many medicinal uses too.
It helps coping with cold, cough, infections etc.
It helps to deal with muscle pains and digestive problems
Cayenne pepper may reduce cholesterol levels 
Saffron (Zaffran/Kesar)It is used for cooking as well as in beauty products.
It is mainly used in sweet dishes.
It has good medicinal properties.
It helps to cope with skin diseases.
It is a good remedy for cough, cold and asthma.
Star anise (Chakra Phool)It is used in cooking and for medicinal purposeStar anise oil is beneficial for rheumatism.
It is helpful for digestion and avoiding bad breath
Turmeric (Haldi)It is used in cooking and skin care products.
It has wide range medicinal uses.
It helps deal with skin problems. Turmeric powder can be used for healing cuts and wounds and may also reduce inflammation in people with arthritis. 
It also makes coping with diabetes easier.

Benefits for your children.

Many parents are surprised to find out that spices and herbs can be a great source of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. 
This can be very helpful information especially if your little one is a picky eater. By adding a little flavor, you can also add healthy nutrition to the foods your family eats. 
Here is a brief list of some of the nutrients in a few common herbs and spices:

Basil: Magnesium and vitamin K

Cayenne Pepper: Vitamin A

Cilantro: Fiber, iron and vitamin K

Cinnamon: Fiber, calcium, vitamin K and iron

Dill: Iron and calcium

Paprika: Vitamin A

Parsley: Vitamin C, K and A

Rosemary: Fiber, iron and calcium

Thyme: Vitamin K

Turmeric: Iron, potassium and vitamin B6

Sage: Vitamin K

Make preparing foods interactive.

Preparing foods with your little one can be a great way to engage their sense of smell. 
For infants, take different bottles of spices that you have in your pantry and you and your little one can take turns smelling them. 
Try taking several exaggerated sniffs from the bottles and then put the bottle below their nose to smell. 
For toddlers, take out a small bit of the spice or herb and place it in from of them to smell and play with. 
Then let them try to choose which spice it is by letting them smell each bottle.
This can be a fun way to introduce spices and herbs to your children.
Spices and herbs are also a great way to open your little one’s eyes to a variety of new flavors and tastes

Try some of these pairings to create a new tasty treat for your family
  • Corn with chives or sweet paprika
  • Tomato with basil
  • Avocado with cilantro
  • Roasted potatoes with rosemary
  • Green beans with garlic
  • Cinnamon with apples, oatmeal or yogurt
  • Nutmeg with butternut squash or sweet potatoes
  • Garlic in tomato sauces
  • Thyme with cooked veggies and soups

Preparation and storage tips.

Spices and herbs are full of flavor, so a little can go a long way – start small and add more as needed.

Spices can stay fresh for up to a year – try using permanent marker to write the date opened on each spice container so you’ll know when it is time to buy new ones.

Don't be afraid to experiment – try different spices with foods you already love for a new taste, or experiment with foods that are not so popular in your household to create a tasty treat everyone will enjoy.

It is recommended that spices should be introduced after eight months in age. 
Try introducing one spice at a time in small amounts. 
Wait about five days before introducing a new spice to make sure that your baby does not have any allergic reactions.

The Value Of Adding Herbs To A Dish

Whether you plant them or pick them up at the grocery store or farmers’ market, adding fresh herbs is a quick way to transform ordinary meals into extraordinary meals.

Besides helping flavor foods when cutting back on salt, fat and sugar, herbs may offer additional benefits of their own.

Researchers are finding many culinary herbs (both fresh and dried) have antioxidants that may help protect against such diseases as cancer and heart disease.

A snip of a fresh herb into a dish instantly kicks up the appearance a notch!
Unless directed otherwise by your recipe, add the more delicate herbs — basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley, and mint — a minute or two before the end of cooking or sprinkle them on the food before it’s served.

The less delicate herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, and thyme, can be added about the last 20 minutes of cooking

When to Pick or Purchase Herbs

Purchase herbs close to the time you plan to use them.

When growing herbs in your own garden, the ideal time for picking is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot.
This helps ensure the best flavor and storage quality.


How to Store Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs can be stored in an open or a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer for a few days.

If you don’t have access to commercial perforated bags, use a sharp object to make several small holes in a regular plastic bag.

If you have more herbs than you can eat, enjoy herbal bouquets throughout your house.

You can use either single herbs, combinations of herbs, or you can use the herbs as greenery mixed in with other flowers.
To help preserve the aroma and color of your herb bouquets, place them out of direct sunlight.

Substituting Fresh Herbs for Dried Herbs

A general guideline when using fresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 times as much as you would use of a dried herb.

When substituting, you’ll often be more successful substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs, rather than the other way around.
For example, think potato salad with fresh versus dried parsley!
Fresh Herb Garnishes
Edible fresh herb garnishes add appealing color, plus flavor and added nutrients to foods. Here are some foods that pair well with herb garnishes
  •   Soups
  •   Salads
  •   Vegetables
  •   Desserts
  •   Beverages
  •   Protein dishes
  •   Fruits
  •   Grains



Best used with
A natural snipped in with tomatoes; terrific in fresh pesto; other possibilities include pasta sauce, peas, zucchini
A technique called "chiffonade" can be used:

Stack 5 or 6 leaves, and roll tightlyCut crosswise
This method cuts herbs into narrow ribbons

Making Your Own Infused Oils Using Fresh Herbs- Great For Gifts

Herb-infused olive oil is a light, tasty way to add flavor to many types of meals.
It can be used in cooking or as a dressing on your food. 
Or given as a gift at Christmas/Birthdays

Making infused olive oil with herbs at home is simple, but there are safety concerns that must be addressed when preparing your oil for storage. 

The following steps will guide you in how to safely infuse olive oil.

Choose a bottle to use for your infused oil.

Find a bottle with a tight cover.
Bottles with a cork stopper work best. 
Metal lids can rust over time and can even affect the taste of the olive oil.
Wash your bottles with soap and hot water and allow them to dry completely before use by placing them in the sun or leaving them out overnight. 
This allows all of the water to evaporate.

Decide which herbs you want to use.

Choose herbs based on your preference and how you plan to use the oil. 
Suggestions include: thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and oregano.
You can use dried or fresh herbs, but you will need to take the extra step of drying fresh herbs to prevent bacteria growth in the olive oil.
Oils are usually infused with one type of herb, but flavors can be blended to your own preference.

A Gardening Gift Basket For Someone Special In Your Life

Do you sometimes struggle for ideas of what to get people when they are celebrating, well this Gift Basket is designed solely for the Gardener - if you have a gardening enthusiast on your gift list, you can put together an adorable, yet functional gift basket containing everything they need to enjoy their hobby!

Fill a Large Terra Cotta Plant Pot or other unique planting container or basket with:

Gardening gloves

Hand trowel & rake 

A few packets of vegetable or flower seeds (go for something unusual in terms of seeds )

Bottle of liquid fertilizer 

A gardening book 

A subscription for a gardening magazine (obviously it would depend on how much you were wanting to spend)

Seed packets can frequently be found at the supermarket or $2 dollar stores 

Hand trowels and mini rakes are available in packages of 2-4 items at K mart,The Warehouse, Any home depot and other big box stores for under $5. 

For a little bit of fun, add some gummy worms to the basket as well.

Be Creative !!!!!

The Basics Of Starting A Vegetable Garden

My  Personal Tip's That I Have Learnt Along The Way

Although giving the excess vegetables away is an option and I have mentioned it in my bartering thread, the perfect situation for your household, would be a time advantage, so this would my advice to make that happen.

Visit your local garden centre, as they can offer you the versatility of being able to buy 1 silver beet plant, 1 cabbage, and 1 cauliflower plant so that you can grow things in sequence as I often found when I was growing vegetables that everything was ready all together and it was too much for one family to be eat, so this would put a stop to that as you would plant things on a week by week basis.

When growing silverbeet it tends to go to seed very quickly and grow upwards in the middle, most people pull that plant out, but I have found if you cut that part out of the plant, the plant will continue to grow as normal.

Spring onions and Leeks if you cut them while they are growing in the garden above the root, apparently they will re grow again, I have been told this but have never actually tried it.

If you are growing cauliflower or broccoli  you can cut half a head of the plant while growing and the other half stays fresh as and continues to grow as half a head, this is a way of keeping your vegetables fresh, rather than cutting a full head and wasting it.

Potatoes in your potato bin that are starting to shoot, once you've peeled them plant the sprouted skins in a patch of your garden, they will grow into a patch of new potatoes.

If you find vegetables are not growing well in a certain patch of your garden, I have been told that by growing sunflowers in that particular patch will purify the soil and you should be right to restart planting your vegetables again,so that was a great tip to know.

If you grow rhubarb, which you should as it is such a great plant and so versatile  make sure around the base you add things like lawn clippings, egg shells, banana skins as this gives it a really good boast, and you will notice that it grows a lot better.

Tomatoes work beautifully if grown in buckets as you can move them around easily to get the benefit of the sun.

Herbs can be easily grown in pots on your window sill, easy to manage, and great for getting a better taste in your cooking as fresh herbs have much more flavour than dried herbs.

These are basic instructions, that I had been given along time ago, when I was going to endeavour to start a vegetable garden, so I hope they are helpful to you.
They are not my original ideas, but they are relevant.

The Basics To Growing A Vegetable Garden


Choosing a location for your garden is the most important step in the garden planning process. 
Vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight for best growth. 
Leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce will grow with less sunlight. 
Choose a location as far away as possible from trees and shrubs.
The roots of nearby trees and shrubs will rob your vegetables of needed nutrients and water.
Good soil with good drainage is needed. 
An option is to have your soil tested before you start gardening to determine if your soil is lacking any needed nutrients. 
Be sure your water source is close by.

What To Grow

Don't go overboard with your seed ordering after viewing all the colourful garden catalogues with their beautiful pictures of vegetables or you may be the gardener in your neighbourhood trying to give away all your hard grafted vegetables.
Grow only what your family likes to eat. 
As a first time gardener, stay away from vegetables like cauliflower or head lettuce.
Grow hybrid vegetables only.
Hybrid vegetables are usually stronger and healthier than other vegetables. 
They often have higher numbers.
Many have a built-in disease resistance and they are more likely to recover from bad weather. 
Hybrids may cost a little bit more than other types of vegetables, but the cost is worth it. 

Growing A Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet potatoes aren’t just good to eat they’re also good to make a beautiful vining house plant! The quick growing vines will have purplish green colored leaves that are very attractive. You can grow them any time of the year and it’s an excellent activity for children to try their hand at gardening.
There was a time when sweet potato plants could be found growing in many kitchen windows. They were a cheap, easy yet beautiful way to have indoor plants. Sweet potato plants are making a comeback and once again are showing up in homes everywhere.
When choosing a sweet potato, pick one that is nice and firm. You can use either the yellow or red variety and if at all possible choose one that already has buds or “eyes” to produce a faster plant to enjoy.
You can use a jar that has a wide mouth or any type of container that isn’t really large at the top. Insert toothpicks into the potato on all four sides at the center of the potato. The toothpicks are to support the potato on the jar or vase.
Sweet Potato Vine
Sweet Potato Vine
Fill a jar or vase with water and place the end of the potato that is more tapered into the water. Now all you have to do is set the potato where it will get lots of sun and wait for it to grow. Normally within just days you’ll begin to notice shoots starting to grow from the potato.
Within a week or so there should be roots growing down into the water and you should have more shoots growing up out of the potato. It’s a good idea to change the water about once per week, stale water might start attracting gnats or other insects.
You can actually just keep the vine growing in water, but if you want you can transplant it into soil after about three weeks. Just carefully remove the potato, remove the toothpicks and plant it in a pot that is large enough to completely bury the potato.
You’ll be really surprised at what a beautiful house plant a sweet potato can become. With it’s purple colored stems and leaves mixed with green it’s a really pretty vine.