Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Such A Change...

There has been so many changes for our little family since we have moved down south... most of them the kids have handled like pro's, we are exceptionally proud of them. I need to do another post on why this has been the best thing to have happened to us as a family, but for now I just want to focus on one area of change, that has for me, been the biggest thing to come to terms with.

We have had a minimise our food budget, quite considerably (by nearly $100 a fortnight in fact), and I have discovered that a lot of things are slightly more expensive down here - there is no PaknSave; so we're trying to find the cheapest possible options between Countdown and New World! My friend Rachel wrote a post recently on how she feeds her family of 6 on $120 per week, and gave me some great idea's that I can try here as well! However, we are dealing with allergies on top of it all; so things are always going to cost us a little bit more...

One of the things I have discovered that help make up for this discrepancy, is the community... yep, our local community! We have a weekly Farmers Market, which I try to pop down to every week and limit myself to $20 worth of fruit and veggies; there is also a Community Garden (which I have yet to take advantage of, but I know the prices are considerably cheaper than the Supermarkets), and there are neighbours! We are SO blessed, as one of our neighbours is a prolific gardener, and not only has he supplied us with almost all of the plants in our little veggie patch; but he also will often offer us fresh produce from his own HUGE garden! This is what we got tonight:

Fresh Beetroot, Corn on the Cob, Apple Cucumbers and normal cucumbers!

On top of that, another family within the church, and all our own families down here, have also been blessing us with fruit and veggies. This has meant I haven't had to buy more than a bag or two of carrots and one broccoli for the past month, and fruit has been keep in good supply as well.

This has also meant I have had to learn to cook veggies (and fruit) that I have never tried cooking before, quite often not even eaten much of myself in the past - things such as red cabbages, marrow, apple cucumbers etc. We don't want anything to go to waste (although unfortunately a few things have), so Google has become my best friend for inspiration and new recipes!

Another thing we have been doing to try and minimise the grocery bill, is minimise our meat-eating! In Auckland we were HUGE meat-eaters, it was an every night staple, and while we talked about how we should cut it down - the walk never followed the talk! But it has now... and let me say, my children are AMAZING! 

Mini Roast Vegetables (potato and carrot), Slow-Cooked Lemon Courgette and Buttered Balsamic Lentils (and chickpeas in this case)!

Crispy Polenta Chippies, Sautéed Red Cabbage and Buttered Balsamic Lentils (they were such a hit the first time I made them, hubby asked for them again)!

My son, just 3-4 months ago, was still the fussiest child I had ever met... seriously, his most common dinner was porridge with peaches and milk. I stopped catering for him and his minimal palate, and started cooking more adventurously, making him taste everything - but always offering porridge as the back-up when he refused it; and slowly over time (I had thought it would never happen), he has now started eating with us! I can't remember the last time I had to make him porridge for dinner, I am SO proud of him! Sometimes it takes a good dose of tomato sauce to convince him to eat it, and most times it takes a bit of bribery - but almost every single night, his plate is now empty!

Proof - the kids plates tonight, 3-4 mouthfuls left each and that was it!
Everything else was eaten...

But not only have I been adventuring into changing things up at the dinner table, but trying other things as well:

Black Bean and Date Chocolate Brownie
Cooked to celebrate a good friends birthday...

Gluten-Free ad Dairy-Free Carrot Cake; 
full of carrot, marrow, apple and raisins!
Cooked to celebrate my Mother-In-Laws birthday, 
she is very health-concious, so I knew she'd appreciate this!

Apple and Buckwheat Fritters
GREAT for breakfast, snacks and even dinner!

Homemade Soup with gorgeous green silverbeet fritters!

Quinoa Tabbouleh and Mini Meat Loaves...
(I don't know how to move the photo around, so you can see the smiley face!) 

Click the link above to go direct to the recipe.
SO DAMN GOOD!

There are a number of other things I have implemented, or want to implement, as a way of saving money on the grocery bill - menu planning, estimating grocery lists before going, using all the stuff in our cupboard and fridge, taking cash only to the supermarket, taking a 'minimal spending challenge' etc. Some of these I want to elaborate on in other posts, some are just idea's buzzing around in my head still.

I am devouring 'Frugal Living' and 'Wholefood' Blogs at the moment, trying to source tips that could help me - I still don't always manage to stay in budget (this past week was a prime example); but hopefully, we might be able to encourage each other along the way, if you're walking the same journey as me!

What are your best tips for minimising the grocery bills?




Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Cheap As You Chose (Homemade) Gluten-Free Cereal!

Cheap-As-You-Chose Gluten-Free Cereal!

I promised you our Cereal recipe, and I have finally set aside some time to share it with you... despite the fact it is after 10pm already (seriously, I don't know where this evening has gone), it IS going to happen!

Have you heard of, used, bought or know of Rice Flakes? These are the little life savers in this cereal... they are as cheap as anything (e.g. we just bought a whole kilogram for little more than $5), and fairly easy to source. We get ours from Bin Inn, but I have seen them in the Supermarkets in Auckland (although not down here sadly), and most Indian Spice Stores also stock them.

Lots of people already use them for a type of breakfast, but they boil them in water or milk, and turn them into a mush-like consistency (much like wet weetbix or porridge). However, we didn't want that... so have been playing around with them a bit; and here is what we have come up with; feel free to play around with this yourself, and come up with something that suits you and your family.

Dry fry your rice flakes - use as many as you want to, we started off fairly small, as we didn't know whether or not it would work, and if we'd even like it. So in a frying pan, on low heat, add your rice flakes - no oil, and keep a fairly close eye on them; they can burn quite easily if left unattended. We also throw in pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds at this stage... be creative and use your imagination! Sesame and poppy seeds, linseeds / flaxseeds; pretty much anything seed-like, or nuts, would work I imagine.


Once your rice flakes are nice and golden, take them off the heat and then go crazy to your hearts content. We add cinnamon, ground linseed, raisins, gluten-free cornflakes and keep it fairly simple. This is mainly for my husbands sake - he is gluten and dairy free, and he also can't stomach much dried fruit, raisins are about his limit. It also helps keep the cost low, which was the whole point of this exercise for us.

But there is so much potential, and so much more you can add - sliced nuts, chia seeds, quinoa flakes, millet puffs, dried fruit to your hearts content, other spices (nutmeg etc)!

Seriously - it is like a match made in heaven; the kids eat it, I enjoy it and hubby often has it for lunch as well, if we're running low on gluten-free bread! Throw your favourite milk or yoghurt in, add some fresh fruit on top - and eat away, knowing it is not only good on your wallet, but good in your tummy!

Be warned, the rice flakes still turn to mush fairly quickly - but then so do most other cereals!

Please let me know if you try this, and how you like it - might give us some inspiration for trying out new flavours with it! Would love your feedback...


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

PS - Have I told you...

* I was going to do a 'proper' blog post tonight; but my silly computer decided to freeze up (probably because it got such a fright when I started it up); and there went thirty minutes as I tried sorting it all out *sigh*!

Silly Selfies

* I am SO busy, I don't even know how I will ever fit in a full-time job... nor how I did it 'alone' 10 hours a day, 5 days a week in our previous life!

Picnic by the lake.

* I have another job interview this Thursday...

* Looks like I may have to go back to my teaching roots after all; ah well, would be good to make use of that degree at some stage!

Bush walk...

* I am doing an 8 week course on Nutrition, online... very basic, a bit scary for me; but none-the-less it is good to try and revitilise that gray matter, and do something outside my comfort zone again!

* On that note - I might be even quieter on here for the next 5-6 weeks as I complete this! I have just started week 3 tonight, so still in the early stages!

Feeding the ducks...

* While I am not actually complaining that summer has finally arrived; lets just say that I got MORE accomplished today than I have for the past fortnight. Today the temp was under 28oC, rather than over 30oC like it has been for over two weeks!

More ducks, more lake, more feeding, more cuteness!

* I have got idea's for blog posts coming out my ears, I still think in blog posts; but as usual, time just isn't in my favour! I am hoping going back to full-time work might help me to learn to be more organised, but I am not holding my breath!

* I have got at least two more recipes to share with you; but probably MORE in reality, it is just that all I can remember is two this late at night!

We had a lot of silverbeet, hubby told me I should make silverbeet fritters - I laughed!
It turns out my sis-in-law has a recipe for silverbeet fritter; so I made them & he loved them!

* 'lil M, my baby, officially starts Kindy next week... *sigh*!

* My big girl, Button, starts school in three months - eeeeek, where has the time gone!?!

More bush walking...

* We are LOVING it down here, and we love our house... I am planning on doing a blog photo-tour of our house, one day! I have taken some video, but still not taken any photos - shame on me, that is SO unusual!

Now, THIS is how you eat chocolate!

* I want to also write a blog post on why we're loving it down here so much now, and what good it has done all of us... seriously; so much good! But not necessarily in the ways you'd be expecting (nor was I expecting)!

Another selfie - if I don't take 'em, don't nobody take 'em!!!!

* I am trying SO very hard to come up with some more points... but am failing miserably; think it is time to hit the sack, and call it a blog post!

Last selfie - promise!



Thursday, 15 January 2015

Morning Routines...

Life these days is a whole lot slower than it has ever been before... as of next week, once Button returns to Kindy; it will hit full force again. But these past few weeks have been exactly what the Doctor ordered, after a rather busy and very stressful 2-3 months. We are still suffering from sleep deprivation, but we just sleep during the day as we need too - loving it!

So, we have managed to get into a kind of rhythm in the mornings though... and it has been working well to set our day up in the right way.

'lil M gets up anywhere between 4:30am and 6am (yes, you read that right, but generally it is between 5:30am and 6am), we are slowly training him to go back to his bed until after 6am, even if he and us get no further sleep. He then comes into bed with us, after 6am, and will watch some cartoons on YouTube until Button wakes up... once she wakes up she'll stop in with us and snuggle for a little while, before we head out into the kitchen.

Then it is all about feeding hungry mouths... followed by dressing them, putting sunscreen on them, brushing teeth and doing dishes.


Once we are all 'socially acceptable', we head out for a family walk... most of the time we stay local, and are generally gone anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. Now and then, like today - we jump in the car and head over to a different part of town, and have a wonder around there!


We generally get home between 9-9:30am, at which time we sit the kids down and read two stories from one of Button's bibles (she owns three already, in fact I think there are four bibles now that belong to her), and ask her a few questions to make sure she understood what we were reading.

After this it is morning tea for the kidlets, and a coffee and our own bible reading for us...

And then the day begins in earnest with housework, or trips out for groceries, computer work for hubby, visits etc. There are days when this does not work at all - such as our trip to the Hamilton Zoo on Tuesday; we are flexible! But most mornings start in this slower manner these days, and I am loving it!


It is but a season, and things will change again soon - so I am holding onto these slower starts for as long as I can!

How has your summer been? Have you been able to instil and enjoy a slower pace of life?


Sunday, 11 January 2015

Life is Fragile...

I can't sleep tonight...

We got the news early this morning that my cousins son is in Wellington Hospital; he was set upon and beaten, totally unprovoked, in his home town on Saturday night. He is listed as critical, and is literally in the fight of his life right now; just trying to stay alive.

It has sucked the breathe right out of me - I don't know this young man very well, I last saw him at my Grandparents funeral back in 1997... but he is family, and we hear of his accomplishments semi-regularly via his proud Grandparents (my Uncle and Aunt), and via some of his own Aunts (my cousins I have stayed in touch with). But it doesn't matter how tenuous the connection is, he is family. It doesn't matter how far away they live, he is family. It doesn't matter - because when it is family, you feel the pain and the anguish; you go into battle with them, you wait by the phone hardly daring to breath - waiting for the next update. You join them in spirit and in prayer, you stand beside them, you fight the battle with them. He is family, he is blood. And I will stand alongside these people, and will battle with them as long as it takes, whatever it takes - sleepless nights spent praying, I'll do it; asking others to pray, I'll do it; keeping the updates flowing, I'll do it.

I might not be able to be there in flesh; but by God, I'll be there in spirit, battling with them on the frontlines. He is family.

And with that in mind - for Jordan's sake, please hold your children a little bit closer tomorrow; cuddle them a little bit longer; show them a bit extra love and a bit extra grace. If you can't do it for them, nor for me - do it for Jordan. 

BECAUSE LIFE IS FRAGILE.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Confession...

My name is Elizabeth; and I am addicted to junk food, in particular, anything with sugar in it.

I had this sneaking suspicion this was the case, but as we limit the amount of refined sugar in our home for the kids, I hadn't really come clean with myself...

But we have just had the silly season, and boy; did I go silly. Turns out one bite is never enough:


I NEED more, and more:


If it is in front of me, I literally HAVE to eat it; and heaven help you if you attempt to stop me before I am ready:


Please note - none of these images are of me!

I have gained 2kg since moving down, and 1 kilo has just been since moving into our own place, and negotiating the Christmas / New Year period.

Two kilo's does not sound like much, and in the big scheme of things - it really isn't; but if you let 2kg's slide, it will turn into 5kg's, and then 10kg's... and you get the picture.

We are slowly balancing things out here in the house, and if it isn't in the house - I don't tend to 'need' it the same, and I am okay not buying junk in our weekly shopping as well. The Monster only shows up when something is right there in my face... I guess that is a bonus.

These past few weeks have been hideous - we have moved into our own place, we have negotiated the holiday season, we are battling sleep-deprivation due to children and hay fever, we have had visitor after visitor, and in-between we have been unpacking and sorting and resorting, and basically we haven't stopped...

We are exhausted; right down to our very cores. The children are exhausted, and the heat has been horrendous as well (and not helping the situation).

Hence why you haven't heard from me, I just couldn't blog. I literally couldn't do anything come the evening - I would lie down, and just stare at the TV, or the tablet; but nothing computed. I would have been the same again tonight, except I managed a morning sleep today.

But as I started formulating this post in my head, wondering if I would ever get the energy to blog again - some little light switches started going off...

I can't blame the exhaustion totally on external factors, sure - we HAVE been busy, and anyone would be tired in my shoes. BUT, doesn't diet play a big part in how you do or do not cope in situations of high stress like this? Did we not cope MUCH better after the big move down here two months ago?

So as my tired mind started to slowly function again (seriously, the last time I remember fatigue this bad was when I was pregnant with the kids); it dawned on me that I have responded so badly this time due to the fact I have been poisoning myself, and I need to take control of this before it controls me.

So, the conclusion is that 2015 is going to be MY year:

- To start looking after myself better through exercise and eating; including cooking more food that I want to eat, and not just what the others need and want.
- To start learning to relax more, and do more for me; have more down-time.
- To let go of some things, and start new things.
- To start dreaming big about what I want to do in the future; everything has been about hubby's goals and dreams these past few years (which is fine, and necessary - don't get me wrong), but it is time I started to really knuckle down and make a decision about exactly what I want to achieve and how I am going to get there. 

This year is going to be one of HUGE changes for our family, but I will be bearing the brunt of these personally - so if I don't start looking after myself, my family will pay the price. So as much as all the above is about me; it is also for them in many ways as well. It will mean I will be a much happier, healthier and more balanced wife, mum and person (and much easier to have around).

So there you have it - some sort of new years resolutions I guess, I wasn't going to do those this year; however I couldn't really help myself in the end!

What are your quiet dreams for 2015? 



Saturday, 20 December 2014

So This Is (Almost) Christmas...

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
A new one just begun


Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsforsong.net/ 

And that pretty much sums it up...

2014 - I will, in some ways, be pleased to see the back of you. Here is hoping 2015 treats us a little kinder, and moves us that little bit closer to our goals and our dreams.

However, there are a few things I will be sad to see go:
* My baby girl will start school in 2015!
* My little man will start kindy, be out of nappies completely, and move into a 'big boys bed'... no little baby left at all!
* I lose the role of 'stay-at-home-Mum', and have to suddenly morph into 'the main income earner'!

Yes, 2014 wasn't all humps and bumps along the road, and 2015 see's some major family-changes taking place.


We have celebrated hubby's birthday; in small town style!
A family walk (see above), and a cake (below).
It's about all he would have got in Auckland also!



There have been interviews, and rejections, and no-communication, and frustrations, and houses, and swallowing of pride, and Christmas shopping.

But no Christmas spirit this year - the focus has been on finding a house and applying for jobs.

We're getting there, we - theoretically, should be in our 'own' place by Christmas; and I am still waiting on two jobs... both of which were supposed to have got back to me by now; not sure if the slowness is a good sign or a bad sign, or just a sign of a busy Christmas season!


But through it all, there have been these two precious people that remind us of why we made these life-changers, and what we're heading for. Their smiles, their hugs and their unwavering love are what continues to keep us marching forward!


And why my photos are such bad quality when uploaded is anyone's guess...

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL!

May 2015 be a gentle year; 
one that gives grace and breathing space!


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Things Are A-Happening...

This is a short and sweet post as it is almost 10pm; and we just can't seem to get a good night sleep yet (our day started at 5:30am this morning, and that was a GOOD night!), so we'll be heading off to bed soon!

But before we do, I just wanted to pop in and give you our latest news... it's ALL good, although not quite as good as I would like JUST yet, but it's coming together!

We have a house,
We have a house,
We have a house,
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

So hopefully we will get in before Christmas - but the current tenant is only moving out next weekend, so it depends on a few different things going to plan, and it all coming together nicely for this to happen! But we are praying for, and hanging out for, Tuesday 23rd being MOVING DAY; as are Mum and Dad I might add!

Once we're in, I will share some photos!

AND

I have TWO job interviews this week!

Yes, TWO interviews, and I am waiting to hear back about a third job this week (and hoping I can get, at least, an interview for this one also)!

So I am hoping by Christmas we will be in our new house, and I will have a job ready and waiting for the New Year; what a Christmas it will be!

On top of that we have chosen a church to attend, and today was our first 'official' morning in attendance! We had been twice before, along with attending a couple of other churches before making the decision! The children went happily off to Sunday School, and we got to sit together during the service for the first time in months - it was lovely! Then tonight they put on a 'Community Dinner', which we chose to pop along too; such a good meal, so yummy! Hubby has already clicked with one of the guys there his age, and I got to spend the evening with his wife; suffice to say we are invited over this week for an afternoon.

Right now I am starting to relax, and I can seriously see God's hand in the timing of things... it has been a long couple of months, but a good couple of months. Once we are in our new home, and I have been working for 2-3 months - I can so totally see us putting roots down and finally breathing, and 'just being' for a while; it's a good feeling seeing the light at the end of this tunnel!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Unrealness Of Our Reality...

I am on a roll, now that the words have started - they are spilling out all over the place!

It has been the oddest four to five weeks ever - it feels like we are living in a third dimension, another world! 

We have come 'home', for me quite literally, as we're still currently living with my parents! So, I don't feel like I have moved per say... a BIG move like this takes time to settle, yet it feels like we have been here forever.

Driving around streets we are familiar with, and catching up with friends we have stayed in touch with over the years; just adds a touch of surrealness (is that actually a word) to this!

I don't feel either here or there - I am not missing Auckland at all (other than our church *sob*), but I don't feel connected or rooted here either; with no home of our own, nor a job and stability, it feels like we are on a LONG vacation.

A long challenging vacation, that is taking it's toll on everyone.

Lets be honest - living in someone else's home is not ideal, for us or them. We will be forever grateful to Mum and Dad for their hospitality, but it is time to find a home of our own. So the frustration at how long this process is taking is doing my head in; there is still no word from either of the agencies, and no contact made with the Referees we have supplied (except maybe our previous landlord, I have not asked him if he has heard from anyone yet). I want to be in our own place by Christmas... I NEED a home to call my own; I want our own space and the chance to start putting our own routines in place, our own roots down, and living our own life again.

My brother and his wife never had this problem, they were picked up and taken through six houses after just a phone call; no paperwork required until they were prepared to sign up for a house.

The difference is work v benefit...

I understand (I don't agree with it, don't get me wrong), but oh how I hate that we have been tarred with that brush. Maybe, this will come back to 'haunt' me in the future - a reminder to show compassion, and be a little less judgemental when we meet others in the same situation. Everyone has a story, a reason they need help - sometimes we need to show a little more respect, and take a little more time to 'hear' their story, rather than jumping to conclusions. 

But this being said - I don't want to live 'this' life any more, I want a home and a job; stability and routine, a budget and a knowing! Having us both home all the time is not a 'normal' reality for most families, and it's not something the kids were used to either - they are lapping it up, and loving aspects of it; but the longer it goes on for, the harder it will be to adjust.

If you are praying people, please pray for a job and a place to call our own by Christmas (oh - and grace, patience, compassion etc etc etc).

Thank you!


Monday, 1 December 2014

Nobody Ever Promised It Would Be Easy...

Everything about this move has been a struggle... at least it feels like it! I know, in reality, it hasn't been - but right now, it is!

There is still no job BUT, there is an interview on the horizon... so Tuesday week I'll be donning the good clothes and the make up, turning the charm on and oozing confidence! Probably everything I won't be feeling inside; but sometimes you just got to 'fake it until you make it'! This job has been tailor-made for me, using all the skills I currently have; it would be the perfect 'get me back into the workforce' job, challenging but not too stressful (I think)!

Then there is the house... what house? The house that does not yet exist house; oh yeah, THAT house!

That sign should read 'Property, Not People'!

The Silver Lining:

I had an appointment with WINZ the other day; 7 weeks with no income was becoming a little too stressful for me! What a blessing - my Case Manager ended up being a guy I went to school with! He is awesome, and I am SO super grateful for his willingness to listen and encourage! We have got some temporary help now, and can start down the track of setting up our own life here.

Silver Lining OVER!

Over the weekend we did our homework - we collected the list of rentals from the TWO Real Estate Agents within the town, and set about culling houses... going for a drive by those we were interested in, checking them out by night and by day (well, not so much checking out the houses by night, rather checking out the neighbourhoods)! By Saturday night I was in tears of frustration, the general standard of rentals in this town is hideous - run-down, dirty and quite often somewhere I wouldn't even leave my cat, let alone my children! Anyway, somewhere along the way we did find two that we both agreed on as possibilities - however, we have had to up the amount of rent we are willing to pay (there is always a catch, huh)!

So this morning we trundled down to the Agents - both houses are still available, we have got an amazing reference from our previous landlord and we have now got a regular income (but oh my gosh - it was HARD admitting to anyone that it was a benefit only; my pride has taken a bit of a battering today)! BUT the rigmarole we had to go through before we can even view these freaken houses...

THREE to FOUR pages of information, police checks, ID checks... and we HAVEN'T EVEN VIEWED THE HOUSES YET! Now I totally understand going through this process, ONCE you have viewed the house and have made a decision to rent it - but we don't even know if we actually want either of these places yet, AS WE HAVEN'T EVEN SEEN THEM! Seriously, by the time they have made an effort to go through our applications and followed up on all the referees they asked for (one Agency asked for FIVE character references for each of us - not that they got five, we offered two each; and the other one asked for your Facebook Profile, again I did not disclose this information), the houses will have most likely have gone to someone else, and we'll have to start again *sigh*! I know they haven't bothered to follow up yet, because our local 'landlord' (my parents) have not been contacted! I have never had to deal with so much c*** just to LOOK at a house. 

I had thought this would be the easy, and maybe even 'fun' bit - looking through houses and making a decision where we should live! We are the type of tenants you want; we always pay our rent, we're not party-people, our children are well behaved (most of the time) and we're tidy! We have never had a problem getting rentals before... but I guess, in a small town like this, as soon as you see the word 'benefit' the alarm bells start ringing. Neither of the agencies were especially friendly, so I didn't feel like I could explain our situation to them; I am guessing assumptions and judgements abounded as they read through the information we provided. 

I guess I have been living in 'La-La Land' a bit, expecting everything to just fall into place - we know this is the right thing to do, at the right time. We're sure of it. But being sure doesn't mean there aren't going to be obstacles or roadblocks in the way... as hubby reminded me today 'Nobody Promised Us It Was Going To Be Easy'! 

Ain't that the truth!

Sorry for the CAPS; it is just a very frustrating time right now, and they're the easiest way to express it to you!