Wishing you a Merry and organised Christmas.

Season’s Greetings to all of my readers and followers on Facebook and twitter.
This time of year brings with it a pause for me to reflect on the year and plan towards next year. At this time last year, I was in the midst of a frenzy of baking, wrapping presents and entertaining LT as he had started holidays. This year I decided to take a calmer, more organised approach to the season. I did this by planning well ahead of time the baking I wanted to complete and began to use my freezer to support the baking I like to do at this time of year. I baked Almond Bread loaves and stowed them in the freezer to be cut and baked only a couple of days ago. Next year I will make the cookie dough ahead of time and freeze this too. I also broke up the cooking over a couple of days, so I have time each day to spend with my family and relax too. This has worked pretty well, especially when on the last day I couldn’t store any more food in the fridge/freezer and so I cancelled the last day of baking!

Another thing I did to improve my use of time was to get photo cards printed to use as Christmas cards (I use http://daisydesigns.com.au/ , they have a 24 hour turn around and email the card to you to approve. These would also be great for invitations.) A couple of years ago I set up an excel spreadsheet with my address list for Christmas cards, and after a quick update for people who have moved, I printed off the labels. This made the Christmas card process more streamlined this year.

Christmas shopping was a combination of online and ‘real’ shopping, and I had a list on Evernote to track my ideas for different people we buy for.  This, I am happy to say, meant that I have bought less impulse presents, and so don’t feel that I have wasted money this year.

So, I am much calmer and looking forward to a busy but fun Christmas Season with my family and friends.

All the best for the holidays and happy New Year. I hope to see you all again in 2013, the year of full time work and part time ‘paperless’ PhD.

Fiona T

Making room to study: creating space and time

This semester I have taken on some part time work. It has, once again, made me look at the time I have and how to balance it best. Over the last 5 weeks I feel like I have been in a whirlwind, and while I have been meeting most of my targets for each week, some have been sliding. For example, menu planning has saved my sanity and allowed me a little snippet of time while dinner is cooking/heating to get food and clothes organised for the next day. However, this brief time in the evening is where I used to check emails and sort my reading for the next day of study. I found in the first 3 weeks that my reading time was not as productive, and it took a while to realise that my pattern that had worked for last Semester had been lost.

So this week, as my work slowed down a little, I took the time to stop and reflect on my study priorities and how I can best work the time I do have, to get my reading done. I had a meeting with BB and, once again, she was a wonderful support and has given me practical advice to shape my thinking and action on this.  I have come up with two seemingly small changes: 1. My reading in the evening before bed is now an article (20 mins x 6 days = 2hrs extra reading time), and 2. I am walking to the school to pick up LT on at least 3 days of the week, which means I get an extra 10 minutes to work on something at home, eg: setting up my reading list, as I am not driving and fighting for a park at the school (10 mins x 3 days = 30minutes).  Looking over previous entries on this blog, I can see my routine ‘evolves’ and morphs every few months, as the demands of study and life change.  I need to make sure I am periodically reviewing my time and goals to make sure I am using time effectively.  With the couple of small changes above I have ‘found’ an ‘extra’ 2.5 hours, and I no longer feel like I am in a whirlwind, I feel in control again.

As these times are smaller blocks, with a clear focus I think they will work well for me. I also tried to use ‘pomodoro’ time blocks last week for my writing time, but did find it hard to shift tasks at the end of the block. It is something I will have to work on, before judging if it works well for me.

What suggestions do you have for squeezing the most out of your study time?

Until next week

Fiona T

 

Happy Easter and a Recipe.

Happy Easter! I am glad we have some holidays at the moment, it has given me a time to catch my breath and get organised again, with a view for a smoother term 2. In today’s blog I wanted to share a recipe I have adapted and my first photo tutorial to show the steps to make it.

I originally got this recipe from the Coles online blog. It was made with honey and dried fruit. Here is the link to the original recipe, it is nut free and egg free, and could easily be adjusted to be gluten free too. I find the ‘muesli’ slice idea a great one, and often have a slice of this in a container in my bag  in case I am caught out somewhere without a snack.

The reality when baking it was a little different. While it was easy to throw together, it was very crumbly when cut (we used a spoon to eat the first batch!) so I decided to adjust the recipe a bit. Over the last few months I have made this recipe almost every 2 weeks, adjusting it a little each time. I have changed this recipe so much, I now think I can call it my own.

This term I am also trialling a different way of organising my baking. As there are really 2 steps to mixing this recipe (1. Mix dry ingredients, 2. Add wet ingredients) I decided to make one batch, and premix the dry ingredients for another 2 batches (doesn’t take that much longer…I guess about 6 minutes). These extra batches are stored in airtight containers (or large snap lock bags) in the pantry, and when I need to make the next batch I can just add the wet ingredients and bake.

A production line of dry mixes:

Dry mixes: one ready to make and two to store in the pantry: 

 

Fi’s Honey & Nut Slice (Fi’s Honey and Nut Slice link to PDF version for easy printing)

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup nut mix (can be whole nuts, I do like to chop mine though. Dried fruit can be used instead)

½ cup Wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon of Baking Powder

¼ cup raw sugar

½ cup coconut

125g Butter

1 tablespoon Honey

2 eggs

Method:

  1. Melt butter and honey. I do this in a pyrex jug in the microwave. Once melted, allow to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 150 C-160 C (fan forced), and line a slice tin (approx 28cm x 18cm) with baking paper or greased foil.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. That’s your oats, nuts, sugar, flour, baking powder and coconut. Mix together.  
  4. Add the cooled butter and honey  then mix.  Add the 2 eggs. Mix thoroughly.

5. Press into prepared tin.

6. Bake for approx 20 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool.

7. Cut into slices, and store in an airtight container. Keeps well for a couple of weeks. Great for snack and treats. Make a fruit only (nut free) version if sending for school lunches.

 

I really like the honey flavour in this recipe, especially for having only one tablespoon of honey in it.

Enjoy!

Fiona T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!  All the best for the New Year ahead. It promises to hold much adventure, and I hope you enjoy sharing the official beginning of my PhD journey with me.

Here is a recipe for a quick and fun cake to make on the holidays with kids…chat about what might be making this rise with your kids when you make it as it has no eggs or dairy in this chocolate wacky cake.  It is believed to have been created during the depression/war when eggs and dairy items were rationed.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water

Preparation:

In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour the cold water over the mixture and stir until moistened. Pour into 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 350°F (200 degrees C should do it) oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

 

sourced from: http://southernfood.about.com/od/chocolatecakes/r/bl01018c.htm

I first read about this cake in ‘Apple turnover murder’ , by Joanne Fluke., I quite enjoy reading these mystery books…have a look for then at your local library for some light (and yummy) holiday reading.

All the best

Fiona T

 

Recipes- Maple Date Loaf

In the lead up to Christmas I am working on conference papers for next year and my Ethics applications. Here is another recipe you may like to try. This recipe has been requested each time I have made it for others, so here it is. Quite quick to throw together and very filling and yummy. Enjoy!

Maple date loaf

(Super food ideas, August 2010 page 78 and http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/25390/maple+date+loaf)

(serves 6-8)

1 cup dried pitted dates, chopped

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

60g butter, chopped

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 cup cold water

2 cups Self-raising flour

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice (or ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg)

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 170oC/150oC fan-forced. Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 10cm x 20cm (base) loaf pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing 2cm overhang at long ends.
2. Place dates, sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda and 1 cup of cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring for 6-8 minutes or until butter has melted. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes.
3. Sift flour and mixed spice into a bowl. Add egg and date mixture. Fold into flour mixture. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth surface.
4. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Prick top of loaf all over with a skewer. Drizzle with maple syrup. Stand in pan for 10 mins or until syrup has absorbed. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. Serve.

This loaf will also freeze well. Slice and wrap slices to freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipes- Crumble Topping

Well, I am waiting for my paperwork to go through for my candidature and am working on Ethics Applications, and papers for conferences next year. So in the lead up to Christmas I will be putting up some recipes we like. I hope you enjoy them.

Here is a recipe that is yummy for either hot or cold weather.

Topping for Fruit Crumble

(for apple/fruit crumble. From Super food Ideas, July 2002 Page 27)

Ingredients:

½ cup plain flour

30gm low fat margarine or butter

½ cup rolled oats

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon mixed spice

What to do:

1.     Combine flour and butter in bowl, mixing with fingertips until breadcrumb consistency.

2.     Add remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well.

3.     Sprinkle over chopped fruit

4.     Bake at 1800 for 15-20 minutes. This will cook fruit too (don’t need to stew first!!)

I sometimes make a big batch of this topping and have found I can use half straight away, and freeze the other half in a freezer bag.  It makes a really quick dessert for another night.  Can use almost any chopped fresh fruit (apple, pear, nectarines etc) or frozen berries.

Expecting the unexpected.

The last ten days have been a bit of a roller-coaster. The passing of WH’s Grandma, influx of interstate relatives and funeral were the focus of this weeks energy. The strategies I have in place (frozen meals, cleaner and emergency takeaway phone numbers) were all relied upon to make this week go as smoothly as possible.

So it is  a short post today, as I sit with a coffee and ruminate on the week past (while avoiding washing the sheets and towels). I am so thankful for my wonderful family and extended family/friends (you know who you are), for their understanding, support and wishes (this week especially).

This week is planned to be a busy one, catching up on the work I ignored last week and starting to get sorted for Christmas. I have my Christmas cards organised, printed and ready to pop in envelopes and send (BIG thanks to Maria at http://daisydesigns.com.au/  for clear, easy, quick and friendly service), and so hope to get them sent this week. Then it’s the weekly juggle of work and study and LT’s school and sports. I am really hoping I can get to see him at swimming this week when he goes with school, he only has 2 weeks of swimming classes left and I am eager to see what he has learned.

Right, now on to deflating beds and getting that washing out!

Fiona T

 

Bulk Meals and Freezing: some links and tips

My menu planner has served us well this year. The post linked here is a little updated with a new link or two to online versions of the recipes I have used. The Spinach impossible pie is fabulous, and fits into my allocated 1 hour of preparation and cooking time. Ditto for the Devilled Sausage Casserole from Liss at Frills in the Hills, I won’t be buying the packet one again.

Something I also referred to in the above post was cooking bulk meals and freezing them for later dinners. I have been a fan of freezing for many years and when we moved and acquired a deep freezer, well I was in heaven! I have many old and new books on freezer friendly meals, but in discussions with some of my Mum friends it seems many are not so confident. So here are two things I have found to help those who are presently ‘uninitiated’ into the fun of freezing meals.

  1. Super Food Ideas is a magazine I have been buying every month since around 2000. The recipes are easy to follow, use pantry/easy to obtain ingredients and they WORK. They also have great tips and features, here is a link to their info on freezing: http://www.taste.com.au/super+food+ideas/blog/super+food+ideas/freezer+tips,900
  2. This week while on Facebook I saw a post from ‘stay at home mum‘  who has written a book promoting bulk cooking and freezing called “Once A Month Cooking“. For under $10 it is a great read and resource. It is well structured to support the freezer shy to begin to save time and sanity, and has some yummy recipes for those who maybe don’t want to do the full months cooking in one day. It is Australian, using healthier ingredients in recipes that families will enjoy.

So as I trudge back to do my marking, I am wondering what your families favourite quick meals are, please comment below and let’s see how many we can get!

Fiona T

A quick sweet recipe- Caramel Slice

Welcome to my new subscribers and followers via Facebook. Today is a break from methodology, with a recipe to fill those sweet slice tins. Yes, it’s my famous Caramel Slice recipe, it must be one of my most requested recipes from friends. I first made it for my WH not ling after we were married…it was also one of the first reasons I bought SFI (Super Food Ideas magazine) as it had this recipe in it.

It is quite quick, in fact I usually do it in short bursts, first I mix and cook the base. While it is in the oven I ‘whip up’ the caramel on the stove. By the time the caramel is ready (just combined, so no butter is sitting on top of the Condensed milk), the base is cooked and it all goes back in the oven. Then I wash up (admittedly after licking the warm caramel from the saucepan, but I digress). Once the washing up is done and put away the slice is usually ready to come out of the oven. It needs to cool, so is left on the stove top covered by an immaculately clean tea towel. An hour or so later I melt the chocolate and butter for the topping (in the microwave) then spread it over the top and pop it in the fridge, setting the timer for half an hour. I used to leave it overnight in the fridge, but it would always shatter the chocolate in the morning…still tasted fab, but didn’t look as appealing for sharing (for some reason WH never seemed to mind).

So enjoy…I have listed the original recipe (and my alterations are in brackets)…enjoy 🙂

Chocolate Caramel Slice (super food ideas Oct/Nov 2000. Pg 92)

Makes 24 slices

Ingredients

Base:

1 cup plain flour, sifted

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup desiccated coconut

125g butter (or margarine), melted

Caramel:

60g butter or margarine

1 x 400g tin sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons golden syrup

Topping:

60g of copha (or butter or cream)

200g milk or dark chocolate melts

What to do:

  1. Combine flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Stir through butter.
  2. Press mixture into a lined 18 x 28cm lamington tin. Bake in a moderate (180 o) oven for 15-20 minutes, until slightly golden.
  3. Melt extra butter in a saucepan. Mix in condensed milk and golden syrup. Stir over very low heat until well combined. (don’t boil..I find the caramel burns really quickly)
  4. Pour over base. Bake at 160o for 10-15 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.
  5. Melt copha in a saucepan over low heat. (Alternatively you can melt chocolate and butter/cream in microwave proof bowl in a microwave, for 30 second bursts on medium. Stir at each 30 second interval. Will take 2-3 minutes in total.)  Add chocolate melts. Stir until melted and well combined. Spread evenly over slice. Refrigerate until set. Approx 20mins. (If you leave it overnight the chocolate will crack instead of cutting straight)
  6. Cut into squares. These will keep well in an airtight container.

One Hectic Week

Hi everyone, and welcome to my new subscribers. The guest post last week for Organised Housewife has helped generate more traffic to this blog and has doubled the number of wonderful people who want to follow this journey. Thanks so much for following 🙂

This week has been hectic to say the least. My LT has been unwell for the past 10 days, with a range of illnesses, including Gastro and a skin allergy (though we have no idea what caused it). It has led to lack of sleep for all of us and an emergency trip to the doctors. Add to that it is the first week where I have picked up an extra day of work for the rest of this term. I feel a bit snowed under and am glad we have had a really quiet weekend, especially as I have little voice left. Ok…pity party over 🙂

There were good things this week too, like my LT’s first Taekwondo lesson, which he enjoyed and can’t wait until next weeks session. A good friend of mine has set up a page which we hope will lead to a blog/e-zine to support women in their life journey (The Sisterhood). I got to meet another research student and see her blog used with some of my own students Molecules, minds and culture. I also got to talk with a PhD student friend about interviews and conversations, and we did some practice interviews (used Evernote to record them). I was also grateful for my forward planning of meals, was one less thing to stress about in a tiring week.

It hasn’t been a week where I got any reading done, or any craft. It was a week of scurrying and caring for others. I really need to remember to look at these busy times as the exception to the norm. I hope next week will be more balanced and that we get more sleep.

So this weeks blog entry is a bit more of a debrief of my busy week. Next week’s blog will be about one of methodology approaches I will be using : ‘positioning theory and pronoun grammars’.

Hope to see you all next week. Have a great week 🙂

Fiona

 

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