Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

As you may or may not know... I'm back teaching! Like, for real. I'm working part time-- a five day fortnight, sharing a year 1/2 composite class with my sister! How cool is that! Seriously it's a dream come true and I'm loving everything about it. 

Possibly the only bummer to being back teaching is report cards, and we are in the thick of that fantastic season right now. Working at school.... looking after my three crazy and wonderful children.... making sure Reuben has the food he needs.... and then reports. You won't fully understand the craziness of writing report cards unless you've been there yourself, but I can be sure that any teachers reading this are nodding their heads... report card season is ROUGH!

I've been pulling out the old slow cooker a bit recently, but even that requires a bit of forethought. You have to be organised enough in the mornings to get the meal ready to go. My mornings are somewhat manic; getting three kids dressed and fed and prepared for school is certainly rarely a smooth progress and it's enough getting us out the door most days! 

Enter dump bags!

I know, that sounds gross, but they're a thing- I promise! Seriously google it right now if you don't believe me. They're not at all gross in reality. 

The idea is that you put together all of the ingredients for your slow cooker meal in a ziplock bag, and chuck it in the freezer. All you need to do is remember to take the bag out of the freezer and defrost it the night before you want to use it, and dump it into the slowcooker before you walk out of the door. 

Easy peasy!

I made up four dinners in about 45 minutes last week, and haven't had to cook dinner at all this week. Now a quick disclaimer; I'm not the kind of person who pre-browns my meat before putting it in the slowcooker - ain't nobody got time for that. If that's something you like to do, I can't see why you couldn't do that before you froze it. 

Anyway, I got a lot of interest when I posted the following picture on social media, and a lot of people asked for the recipes. So here I am, deep in the throes of report procrastination, bringing my dusty old blog out of hibernation, giving you not three but four dump bag recipes that will make your week awesome. Trust me.


Yes, I know there are only three bags there, but I promised four recipes and four you shall get. Lucky for you, I ended up throwing one more together after I took this photo. So here goes. Now remember, these recipes don't need a method, because all you do is literally dump the ingredients in the bag, and then dump the whole lot in the slowcooker when you want to use it. 

1: Apricot Chicken
  • 2 chicken breasts, whole
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely (we love garlic, you can use less if you like)
  • about 1 inch of ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp of veggie stock paste (if you're a thermomixer, if not, use whichever stock you like)
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato paste
  • a can of apricot nectar (or do what I did and puree a tin of apricots)
  • frozen peas
  • Whatever extra herbs you like. Lots of people like to use french onion soup, but the one I looked at at the shops, Reuben couldn't have, so I used YIAH Baharat spice blend and Herb & Garlic spice mix. 
  • A dozen or so dried apriocts, chopped roughly.
I put it on low for the day, and when I got home from work, I pulled the chicken breasts apart with a fork and stirred it all through. Serve with rice.


2: Bolognaise Sauce
  • 500g minced beef
  • vegetables (use whatever you like. I always chop mine in the thermomix on about speed 6 for 4-5 seconds. This time I used an onion, a few garlic cloves, carrots, capsicum, zucchini, spinach, and olives)
  • 1 jar of pasata
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp veggie stock paste
  • about 1/2 cup of red wine
  • whatever herbs you like
Make sure you break the mince up when you put it into the slowcooker so you don't end up with a hunk of stuck together clumpy mince. Serve with pasta!


3: Quinoa Enchiladas

I have a link for this one! Check it out.  I used all of the same ingredients, but I didn't brown the mince first. I won't put cheese on until we eat it... because Reuben.

And your bonus recipe....

4: Butter Chicken
Now usually I don't go past the absolutely incredible Skinnymixers recipe, because it is AMAZING. But, it's reasonably time consuming, and I mentioned it's report card season, right? So I based this one on a version we invented when we went camping recently, except we cooked it over the fire in a dutch oven. It's a total cheat's version, and has nothing on the real deal, but perfect for what it is. Here's what you need:
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped into cubes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-2 inches of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 jar of pasata
  • 1-2tbsp garam masala (I also used some YIAH tandoori spice blend for some extra kick)
  • 2-3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 can of coconut cream (you can use regular cream if you're not catering for dairy free)
  • 100g coconut oil (you can use butter if you're not catering for dairy free)

So there you go guys.... give it a go! And if my recipes aren't your cup of tea, get googling. There really are zillions of ideas for these things out there on the interwebs. 

Alright.... back to the grindstone for me!

xx

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Christmas Star Pattern Freebie!

Hello friends! I have something to share with you.

I created this pattern a few years ago, and it's super cute and super simple.

You can make them as individual stars and add a loop of chains to turn them into ornaments for your tree (they look so cute on a tree!), or even make a whole bunch of them an string them together on a chain to make a garland or starry bunting.

They work up really quickly. I prefer to use a cotton yarn for these, but I'm sure they'd look great in any type of yarn! My favourite cotton ever is the Bendigo Woollen Mills cotton, and I buy 8 ply. I see that they are currently on special; $11 for a 200g ball is an awesome bargain if you ask me! You'd be able to make hundreds of stars with that much.... and all the pretty colours...... Ok so I'm going to try my very best not to put in an order right now!

Anyway, without any further ado, here goes: My Christmas Star Pattern

And because I love you, I've even made a video tutorial of this pattern for you, in case you aren't familiar with any of the stitches :) Check it out here!


Materials:
8ply cotton (or preferred yarn)
4mm hook (or larger hook for a larger star... experiment!)

Stitches (I use US terms):
ch=chain, sc=single crochet, dc=double crochet, hdc=half double crochet, slst=slip stitch

Special Stitches:
Bobble stitch - (yarn over, insert hook into ring, pull up loop)- do this twice. Then yarn over, pull through all five loops on your hook.

Pattern:
Begin with magic ring, chain 1.

ROUND ONE: Into the magic ring, work bobble stitch, ch2. Repeat 4 times (5 bobbles with ch2 between each), then join with slst in top of first bobble.

ROUND TWO: ch3 (acts as first dc), dc into same stitch. Ch2, work 2 more dc into same stitch. Work 2dc, ch2, 2dc into top of each remaining bobble, then join with slst into top of begch3

ROUND THREE: ch1, sc into the space between the two lots of dc that's behind your hook. Work the following around: Into ch2 space, work 1sc, 1hdc, 1dc, ch2, slst into second chain (called a picot, makes the points of the stars), 1dc, 1hdc, 1sc. Sc into the space between the next two sets of dc.
Repeat around, slst into first sc.

OPTIONAL: To make a loop for hanging, ch25, slst into the slst that ended the previous round. Finish off and weave in ends.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Christmas Crafting.

Hi again everyone! I'm not sure if anyone reads here anymore, and my blogging has become sporadic at best. Life gets crazy, huh? However, I love this little corner of the internet. It has so much of little family's history on it, and I come back here a lot to help jog my memory on things and to show the kids special moments from the past. So, even if it's not as frequent as it used to be, I'm going to keep popping back in and posting when I get the time.

Today, I wanted to share my most recent crafting adventure.

About a week ago, my mum shared an attic24 link on my facebook timeline. It was a picture of this gorgeous wreath...


Isn't it lovely? I replied to my mum that I have followed the Attic24 blog for years, and that I'm sure Lucy had made a whole bunch of wreaths for different seasons or occasions. Which of course then led to me falling down an Attic24 rabbit hole (man that girl is talented!!), and eventually landing on her Christmas wreath.


By that time I was totally itching to make one of my own. As beautiful as these wreaths are, they weren't exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to make myself though. So I did the only logical thing and headed on over to pinterest for some more inspiration.


By that evening, I had begun a little collection of christmasy crocheted creations (how's that for alliteration!) with which to embellish my wreath. (The colours came up SO WEIRD in this photo)


On the weekend I went on a wreath hunt, and found a styrofoam wreath at Spotlight for about $8.00. I had found this tutorial while browsing pinterest, and decided to use it instead of doing the stripey wreath cover from the Attic24 post. I just thought it was super cute! I chose an awesome bright pink fluffy yarn, and got to work. It really didn't take me too long. It was a little bit to get my head around at first; you have to kind of loop the yarn around with your left hand instead of picking up loops with your hook. Once I got the hang of it, it was easy peasy. I single crocheted around the whole thing, and then did a shell stitch to make the super cute scalloped border.


The lighting in these photos is completely awful, I do apologise. I was working at night, and you know, no light an all... 


I started playing with placement of my bits and pieces and quickly decided that I was going to keep to flat embellishments (ie, none of those little red balls or curls I had made, and no pompoms). 
I used the leaf pattern from here, the heart pattern from here, the mini wreath pattern from here (with little silver rings that I had stashed from my jewellery-making days), angel pattern from here (minus the tassel), and flower patterns from here and here. I only used cotton yarn, and only used what I already had at home. My husband was very proud, haha. Oh, and I also used a star pattern that I made up a few years ago, but I haven't got a link for it, I'll have to do that at some point! 

I actually ended up just pinning the pieces. I did this for a few reasons; firstly it was easier and quicker, and what's not to love about that! Also, it means that I can change them easily if I want to go for a different colour scheme or something another year. I made some simple little white single-crocheted strips to turn into curly swirls for my finishing touches. Annnnd..... voila!


I chained a loop which I pinned to the back for hanging, and today, I hung it! Yes, we have already decorated our house for christmas. Because, we are awesome like that, and we LOOOOOVE CHRISTMAS! I'll share some more photos of that sometime soon.

So here it is, my beautiful new Christmas wreath; in situ:


Go on, get crocheting! You know you want to!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

When Reuben Turned THREE!


This absolutely gorgeous boy turned three back in April! Three! Can you believe it? He is growing into such a beautiful little fella. He still owns the cheekiest smile ever, with a contagious laugh to match. He is just so much fun to be around. He has a great sense of humour and the biggest heart. He's loud and loves all the boy things. Dinosaurs, trucks, trains, planes, cars, superheroes. All the boy stuff.

So Reuben asked for a Superhero party for his birthday, and boy did Mama deliver.



I decided to make it a party where the kids could do stuff, so we turned the party into a Superhero training boot camp!


Each guest got one of these checklists, and each party game fulfilled one "competency". (***see the end of this post for a link to the prints!!***) When they had completed the whole list, they were presented with a certificate of completion. And yeah, I may have laminated stuff. I'm so a teacher.


First up they had to look the part... they came up with names, decorated capes (really simple ones I made with pieces of white cotton with a hem sewn at one end with elastic threaded through it), and had their faces painted.


They pinned the star on the SHIELD...


Single-handedly demolished "brick walls"...


Rescued a baby from a burning building... (and yeah, my husband does own a smoke machine)


Made their way through a laser maze...



And for their final challenge, they had to work together to defeat the evil villains (played by my brother and his BFF who turned up on motorbikes just at the right moment). The kids went to town on them with silly string and foam swords and karate chops.


The food was all allergy free, and I made little labels for each thing stating which superhero power it helps to build... like 'builds muscles', 'every blast', 'increases elasticity', 'boosts invisibility' and so on.

It was so much fun. The kids had a fabulous time, and I really enjoyed putting it on.



I also took allergy free cupcakes to kindy for him to share with his friends later that week...


All in all Reuben had a VERY happy birthday.


And now he's THREE!!! My beautiful big boy.


***If you're interested in the printable I made for Reuben's party VISIT THIS LINK. You will find the training checklist, the food labels, and the certificates. Enjoy!!

Knitwit

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I am a notorious crafter. I'll give anything a go... I like to draw, and paint, and scrapbook, and sew, and cross stitch... But my craft of choice for the last few years though has been crocheting. I ALWAYS have a project on the go. I make hats, and little shoes, and cardigans, and blankets. I love it!



This is my most recent blanket, made from a beautiful pattern book I was given for Christmas. It was quite time intensive (took me months) and very challenging. I learned a new style of crocheting called Intarsia, where you work by the row, with multiple colours of yarn attached simultaneously. I think on my most difficult square (the spiral) I had about 8 balls of yarn attached at once. Definitely not one to do while the kids were around... I quite often landed myself in a tangle. I'm very proud of this blanket though, it feels like a huge accomplishment.  also learned how to crochet by reading charts while making this blanket, so that was pretty cool too!

I've also whipped up a few hats for the kids recently. The minion hats are proving quite popular and I have a long list of requests.





Recently, my Nana challenged me to have a go at knitting. Being that I'm mostly self-taught with crocheting, she thought I was up to learning a new skill. So, I did what any Y-gen gal wanting to learn a new craft would do, and got out my iPad. I spent a while on pinterest finding a pattern that a) didn't look too difficult, and b) were still cute. Then, I switched over to youtube, and found myself some tutorials. YouTube is seriously fantastic for things like this. It doesn't get cross at you for holding your crochet hook differently (I'm looking at you Nana!), or get frustrated when its student just doesn't *get* the whole tension thing... Plus it lets you stop and rewind as much as you want. I mostly learned to crochet via YouTube tutorials. I would simply search for the name of the stitch in the pattern I was using and voila, hundreds of wonderful tutorials would appear! And it's the same for knitting.



In one evening, YouTube had taught me to cast on, knit (actually those two skills were just a brush-up, my Nana taught me those when I was about 8, and I was amazed that it all came flooding back), purl, add stitches, drop stitches (like, intentionally) and cast off. And within a couple of evenings, I had made myself (well, Mayana actually) a knitted beanie! It's such a feeling of accomplishment to figure out how to do something like that, and to construct a piece of fabric from a single length of yarn is just so cool.. it never gets old for me!




So beanie done, I decided to move on to something a bit more involved. My next project was a little sleeveless cardigan, also for Mayana. I just love the way knitting looks.. and I'm really enjoying watching pieces of clothing evolve on my needles. With crochet, I have a pretty thorough understanding of how it all works, and can visualise how things are going to work or come together, adjust patterns to suit my imaginings, and quite easily create my own patterns by just looking at something. At this stage, knitting is more like a paint-by-numbers experience. Working row-by-row, unsure of what each stitch is going to achieve on the actual garment. The downside to this is that if I made a mistake I'm not sure how to un-make it, and I did have three very time-consuming false starts on my little cardi before I realised that I was misunderstanding some of the instructions on the pattern. But I got there eventually (thanks again internet!!) and there's no stopping me now.



Next up, something for my Quinny-bean. I decided to use up my left over bamboo/wool blend from the gorgeous Intarsia crochet blanket I made. I found a Patons pattern at Big W for a cute little vest, and adjusted it a little to make it striped. It worked out beautifully, though I've just realised I don't have any good photos of him modelling it!




Currently on my needles is a vest for Reuben. He asked for his to have buttons down the front, as he's just learned to use them and LOVES them. Luckily the pattern I bought has a button option, and it also has pockets! So a few new challenges ahead.



So look out world, Zoey has a new addiction.... who knows what will come of this! I'm pretty excited to find out!
 

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