Thursday, September 30, 2010

Entertaining the Kids

It goes without saying, I love my kids. I love being with my kids. I love hanging out with my kids. But, dare I say it? It can get boring.

Some days I take the easy way out and I'm guilty of letting my kids watch too much TV. Yes, these times are handy for getting a bit of cleaning done, dinner prepared, writing finished or just taking a breather, but I would much rather be spending quality, one on one time with the kids doing something that we ALL enjoy.

This is where a weekly plan will come in handy. I suspect most of my boredom is the result of not having a plan. It can be hard to be exciting and creative when put on the spot. I certainly would want (or need) a lesson plan if I was a teacher, shouldn't I have something similar with my own children?

It doesn't need to be anything too complex, too educational or too strict. My weekly plan will have a simple mission: To help me be a better, more attentive & hands on mummy. I'll start by focusing on which 'lessons' I want my children to learn. I want to foster a love for reading, I want to encourage them to continually learn, I want them to learn nutrition, I want them to be polite, but most of all I want them to be happy and have fun. 

So, this will be one (among many) of my missions to complete in the coming days: To create a Weekly 'Lesson' plan for my children with the goals I mentioned above included. This schedule will be pretty comprehensive once household chores, appointments and even meal times will all be taken into consideration, but as the Manager of Household Operations, I want my 'workplace' to run more efficiently.
I want these short years before my children start school to be as stress free as possible and I want to look back on these as some of the best years of my life.

For some extra tips on managing your household, check out this site:

And I'll hopefully be sharing my plan with you soon!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dealing with Stressful Situations

More of a personal one for me. This week has been a wee bit more stressful than usual. Yesterday marked the nineth anniversary of my grandfather's death (who I love and miss dearly), which was on top of a crappy weekend. You know the kind. Where nothing goes to plan, recipes fail, kids are sick, the washing doesn't get done and things break. Sometimes because they are thrown in anger and sometimes because it's just one of 'those' weekends.

Straight up. I'm not good in stressful situations. I panic, I cry and I cannot see past that immediate moment. I criticise myself and fall straight back into the arms of depression.

Why is it that I'm a much better friend to others than I am to myself? I would never call my friends an idiot. I would never ask why they even bothered trying in the first place. I wouldn't call my loved ones a failure. Yet I don't seem to hesitate in dishing out the insults to myself.

So, how does one become a calmer person? How do I re-train myself to be less emotional when something doesn't go right? More importantly, how do I not sweat the small stuff?

Here's a collection of tips that I'll be taking on board to handle tricky situations with a little more tact:
* Before I react, before I can let a few expletives out, just take a moment to breathe. Take some nice deep breaths, keep the oxygen flowing and keep a level head.
* Count to ten. Assuming no one is in any immediate danger, close your eyes and count. Then assess the situation and make your move.
* Ask yourself: Will this matter in one year? One month? Or even next week? Granted that running around for 45 minutes trying to fix a deflated pram tyre so I could take my son for an early morning walk was frustrating. But after I asked myself the question of 'does it matter?' and realised the answer was a definate 'NO', I quickly appreciated that I had quite happily spent the last 45 minutes hanging out with my little man regardless of whether our adventures had been fruitful or not.
* Realising that ultimately, the way I react and behave is a choice I make. I can choose to throw a tanty that rivals my two year olds or I can accept the situation and deal with it. My call.
* Give yourself a brief moment to have a pity party. Yes, life can be unfair. Allow yourself a quick cry or foot stomp, then move on.
* Focus on the solution and not the problem. How can the problem be resolved as quickly and effectively as possible? Get a plan of attack happening and take back some of the power.
* Call a friend and vent. Sometimes just being heard is enough to make you feel better. If not, you might just receive some solid words of advice instead.
* Remind yourself what you are grateful for. For example, a big electricity bill is never welcome, but that's what comes with having a roof over your head and being able to enjoy some creature comforts. Things could always be worse.

Dealing with my anger and being a calmer person is a high priority for me. Seeing my own children's quick tempers when things don't go their own way is a nasty reminder of how easily they pick up our habits. While daddy may be the cool, calm and collected one, they'll invariably learn quicker from the parent they spend the most time with. Me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finding Time to Exercise

Ask most mothers about their fitness routine and they'll tell you it's non-existant (unless you count running after the kids as exercise).

Previously, I had some good excuses for not exercising. I had the kids with me through the day, dinner needs to be started when hubby gets home and well, I'm just too bloody tired once the kids are in bed. Excuses. If you wanted one, I'd find one.

I knew that I could no longer rely on my youth and fast metabolism to keep my weight in check. Eating well is a great start, but there's no denying our bodies need physical movement for a healthy heart, increased flexibility and strong bones.

If you need a little help finding time to exercise, here's some tips to get you started.

* Have your workout clothes and joggers ready to go. This way, you can simply wake up, get dressed and get going.
* Do as much incidental exercise as you can. Find a car park a little further away. Take the stairs. Carry a shopping basket instead of pushing a trolley. Look for ways to burn the calories.
* Include the kids. Go for a walk. Put bubs in the pram or baby carrier or use your growing toddler as your weights. Raise them above your head or do some leg curls. The kids will have a ball, they'll learn another healthy habit from you and is a great way to hang out together.
* Come up with a plan of attack in your very own Health Journal. Define your workout goals and work out the steps you'll take to get there. Your goals should be specific, realistic and measurable. Write down why exercise is important to you. Keep all this information in a little book to track your progress, record your food intake and log your exercise time. Include your own before shot and if it'll help, include some images of people with a healthy body image to keep you inspired.
* Try doing bursts of exercise. Haven't got 30 minutes or an hour to spare? Try breaking the workout into 10 minute lots. Do what you can, move on and come back for more later.
* Join a team sports or organise a meet up with friends. If you don't want to let people down, working out with other people is a great way to stick to your exercise appointments.
* Re-evaluate your daily schedule. I found by going to bed at a decent time, I could wake earlier and do any exercise before the kids got up. It's also a great mood lifter to know my workout has already been done for the day.
* Find what exercise appeals to you. Love stretching? Then look into Yoga or Pilates. Love team sports? Then call your local sports club and sign up.
* Workout at home. Do some star jumps, grab a skipping rope, do some lunges, run up and down your stairs, do some sit ups, dance. Whatever you can, whenever you can.
* Trade exercise time with your partner, a neighbour or a friend. One looks after the kids, the other does their thing and then the next time, you swap. Simple.

Some movement is better than none and it helps to remember that this is a long term committment. The healthier you are, the happier you are and that can only be a good thing for your whole family.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Toy Box Organisation

When organisation and de-cluttering king Peter Walsh talks, I most definately listen!

I recently saw a mini video presented by Peter on the Oprah website outlining three steps to tackling the toy box. You can watch the video here, but I have basically summarised it for you below:

1. Establish limits on the number of toys your children can have - You may decide to limit this to two baskets or one big tub. This is definately one rule I will be enforcing a little more since we currently have numerous baskets and tubs both in their rooms and their loungeroom.

2. Teach children where their toys belong - This means helping your children understand that when they're finished playing with their toys, that those toys have their own special 'home' that they must be put away in.

3. Before they add a new toy, they have to take out a toy - The 'one in, one out' rule is a great idea to ensure you don't end up with the problem of your toys breeding! It's also a nice way to teach your children about giving away to those less fortunate and teaching them responsibilty for their own belongings.

Here's some extra tips regarding toy box management (courtesy of The Creative Mama):
  • Prior to birthdays and Christmas (or even on a regular basis) sift through your child's toys and remove any toys that are broken, have been outgrown or just aren't played with any more. 
  • Get rid of the traditional bulky toy box. My children rarely play with the toys tucked away in the big tub, probably because it's a little overwhelming for them and they can barely reach all the toys in them. A smaller storage system for toys is probably a better idea and allows kids to find toys more easily and 'try' keep the mess to one basket at a time. 
Monkeysee also has some great mini videos on organising your children's toys.

So, in the coming weeks I will be making some major changes to my kid's playroom including (hopefully) a bigger toy storage area. Here's some ideas that I love.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fruit & Vegetable Preparation

In one of my previous posts regarding the weekly shop (read here), I mentioned how I wash and cut most of my fruits and vegetables before I put them away.

This not only helps reduce food wastage, it also makes eating healthy easier and for the most part prolongs the life of your fresh produce.

Below is an A - Z list of the most popular fruits and vegetables that you can cut and store in the fridge ready for eating or cooking.

A -
Apples. Most apples will brown fairly quickly when cut, so leave these in their original package. Simply give them a good wash and store wherever you like. (Tip: leave them in a prominent place to encourage you and the kids to eat a healthy, nutritious snack!).
Avocado. Leave as is, but once open store in an airtight container. (Tip: Include the stone when storing. Not sure how, but it slows down the browning process. You can also add a little lemon juice over the fruit).

B -
Bananas. Bananas will brown when peeled, so leave them as is. (Tip - for a delicious banana icecream using ONE ingredient, check this site out!).
Broccoli. Wash. (Tip: Cut into florets and place in a container ready to be cooked). 
Berries. Raspberries, blueberries and other berries can be rinsed and stored in a small container.

C -
Capsicum. Rinse well. Either leave whole or cut into strips and store in an airtight container. 
Carrots. I store my carrots in the original bag, in the crisper. However if you enjoy munching on carrot sticks as much as my daughter does, you could peel a couple of carrots, cut into small sticks and store in a sealed container. (Tip: Try dipping in peanut butter. This was a great way to introduce my kids onto carrot sticks).
Cauliflower. Wash. (Tip: Cut into florets and place in a container ready to be cooked).  
Celery. Cut off base to seperate stalks. Take each stalk and remove the leaves. Cut into snack size sticks and wash well. Place in an airtight container. (Tip: The moisture from washing the celery will keep them firmer for longer).
Cherries - Rinse and store in an open container lined with paper towel. 
Cucumbers. If your fridge is too cold, these will freeze easily. I leave my cucumbers whole to make them last a little longer and keep them crisper.

G -
Grapes. Wash well and place in a container lined with paper towel. (Tip: Plucking the grapes from the vine will make an easier snack, but I'm sure they last a tad longer when left on).

H -
Herbs. Rinse well and place in an airtight container lined with paper towel. 

K -
Kiwifruit. Peel, cut into cubes and store in an airtight container.

L -
Leeks. If you know you will be using your leeks in an upcoming soup or casserole, cut the base and remove the tops. Cut the stem lengthways and slice into desired thickness. Make sure you rinse well as leeks can store a lot of dirt between layers.

M -
Melons. Cut open and then into bite size cubes with the skin removed. Store in an airtight container.
Mushrooms. The exception to the rule. Rinsing mushrooms before storing can make them yucky, so simply fold the bag over and store in the fridge not the crisper. Alternatively, store in a glass container and place a tea towel or moist paper towel over the top to allow air circulation.

O -
Oranges. Either leave whole in your fruit bowl or cut into small wedges with skin still intact. Store in an airtight container.

P -
Pineapple. Cut the top off and the base so that it sits evenly on a bench. Remove the hard outer skin. Lie the pineapple on its side and slice. Cut out the hard inner core and store in an airtight container.

Pears - Another fruit that will brown once open. Simply wash and store in a spot where they will not be bruised by other fruits. 

S -
Strawberries. Rinse and remove leaves. I don't hull until prior to eating to ensure they stay a little fresher. Place in an open container lined with paper towel.
Stonefruit - Peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots can all be washed and cut into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Sprouts - Rinse and store in a container lined with paper towel.
Spring Onions/Shallots - Rinse and remove any ends or limp bits. Either leave whole or cut to size and store in a container.

T -
Tomatoes. Rinse well and store in a fruit bowl. (Tip: I once heard a tomato farmer say the biggest mistake people make with their tomatoes is storing them in the fridge. In my humble opinion, tomatoes taste better and ripen better when left out of the fridge).

W -
Watermelon. Slice and cut into triangles or into small cubes. Store in an airtight container.

As a general rule, I leave my fresh produce to last when putting all the groceries away. Place the various fruits and vegetables in a strainer and rinse as many as you can together.

While some of the suggestions above will extend the life of your fruits and vegetables, I would still recommend using any cut produce within 3 - 4 days.


Thursday, September 16, 2010


If you've ever had difficulties getting your toddlers ready for anything, you'll appreciate the importance of a good routine.

You've probably seen various routine charts before and available for sale.  These might work for some people, but I wanted something that would be easy to understand and could be personalised for our family.

I created two routines, one for the morning and one for the evening. Our routine charts use pictures, since my kids can't read... yet.

Our morning routine is pretty self explanatory. It explains all the activites needed to be done to get out the door or simply ready for the day.  


Our evening routine basically starts from just before dinner is served and also lets my littlies know what each step is before bed. I made these original charts back in May and some things have changed slightly, so I will be updating both charts soonish.

These charts live in a plastic sleeve on our fridge.  It simply gets turned around depending on what chart we need to use.

Here's how to make your own chart:
1. Write down your morning and evening routines separately on a piece of paper.
2. Open Publisher or similar program. Type in each step.
3. Insert a relevant image for each step.
4. Print and place in a plastic sleeve protector or laminate.
5. Stick it up for all to see!

You could create a routine chart for just about anything or use this same idea for a chores chart. Either list any chores you expect your child to complete or use a step by step list on how to clean the bathroom, for example.

Hope this helps. Now, to get my hands on a laminator and go nuts!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Weekly Shop

I might be a bit odd, but I actually enjoy grocery shopping. Personally, I think it's the thought of eating all that food that excites me the most.

Doing your weekly shop needn't be an arduous task. With a little planning, you'll not only save yourself time and money, you'll also reduce the amount of food wasted and remove the daily stress of what to cook each night.

So here are some of my ideas to make the most out of your grocery shopping.

1. Start the night before with a fridge clean. Remove anything dead, dying or inedible from your fridge. Also use this time to do a little stocktake of what you have available in both your fridge, freezer and pantry.

2. Write a meal plan. I created a little document (shown below), which I printed off, and I write down all my meals for the week. On the back I have a shopping list (also shown below) to write down all the ingredients I need. Grab your cookbooks, jump online and write down some meal ideas. I plan 6 meals a week with Fridays being 'No Fuss Friday' where we eat something quick and easy. Allow yourself 30 minutes of planning. Concentrate first on your main meals, then work out your side dishes later.

3. Go shopping. Find a day that suits you and make that your shopping day. I make Wednesdays our shopping day since I only have one child to cart around with me. I break my shopping trip into three parts with the whole process taking 2 hours. This gives me a great chance to hang out with my little boy as well as get him excited about all the healthy food we've just bought (pictured below).

4. Now put your goodies away. Taking the time to wash, prep and put your groceries away properly is another great way to reduce your food wastage. Give all your fresh produce a good rinse and where you can, cut any fruits or vegetables into ready to eat pieces. Celery gets washed and chopped into snack size sticks, watermelon gets cut into snack size triangles and the strawberries get a wash, leaves plucked and placed in a container all ready to be eaten when hunger strikes. (An extra tip: I store any open packs of crackers and corn chips in the fridge. It will keep them fresher for much longer). In the end, my fridge looks something like this:

You can't see my top shelf and my vegie crisper is getting a wash, but that's mostly it. And yes, I label my containers. I have a labelmaker and I'm not afraid to use it.
FYI, the pull out containers on the top shelf there contain my condiments in one and spreads in the other. I got them from Howard's Storage World, but have seen them at Big W for a little cheaper. 

If you've got a handy tip when doing the groceries, please let us know!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reggie Vegie Meals

Being vegetarian is a health move I've wanted to make for a while. For one, I don't seem to digest meat that well and then there's also the whole eating animals issue. Yep, old age has changed me.

So it's now been three weeks since I've eaten red meat or chicken. A few experiments with seafood didn't go so well, so it's now been a week since I've eaten any animal and I'm feeling much better again. Phew.

When I first started my journey to becoming a full time vegetarian I was a little overwhelmed with what I would cook. When you have two toddlers, two fussy toddlers, basing an entire meal each and every day on vegetables is a hard task. But with a little persistance, I have found lots of vegetarian recipes that I'm eager to try.

Here's an example of this week's meal plan:
MON - Turkish Tofu Koftas
TUE - Vegetarian Cottage/Shepherd's Pie
WED - Zuchini & Ricotta Fritters
THUR - Spinach & Broccoli Soup
SAT - Cottage Rolls (vego sausage rolls)
SUN - Cashew Nut Roast with Apricot Stuffing

I honestly don't feel like I'm missing out on anything with dishes like these. I've found my transition to a sugar free diet a little harder. I'm currently reading 'The Sweet Poison Quit Plan' by David Gillespie. I'll keep you posted on my sugar free success.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Welcome to the Merry Mummy!

If you've ever felt overwhelmed, overworked and over life, you're not alone. I've been there. And it's not fun. Crying for no reason, yelling at the kids, snapping at my husband and dealing with anxiety attacks is not how I pictured my life. Something had to give.

This blog will follow my journey as I go from stressed mama to merry mama. Along the way I'll share hints and tips to making life easier, more enjoyable and a more positive experience in general.

So join me on my evolution to being a better, healthier & happier me.