New Year's Eve

This is what we are doing tonight!

We also tried making ice cream in ziploc bags. It turned out runny but tasty.

Christmas Preparations

We took advantage of being "home" this Christmas to make and/or finish some Christmas crafts. Here are my two olders` Christmas stockings. I bought the kits for these WAYYYYY back in 1999 or 2000, and it`s taken me this long to finally finish them.

This is another old kit which dates back to 1978! I have 3 wise men too, but only got Mary, Joseph and Jesus finished.

Christmas Cookies....

This year the children decorated all the cookies all by themselves!

Here is something else Lulu9 and Joman8 put together:

Lulu9 is learning to sew. She made a whole package of presents for Joe. In the package was a bird mask, a paper snake, a pop-up card, and these fantastic finger puppets -- made all by her, by hand. Great going Lulu! Joman loves them.

And, here is my best Christmas present. It is so wonderful and meaningful to have a little baby at Christmas time!

What's For Lunch?

Oh my. I've been thinking. A lot. About a lot. Mostly old thoughts that I'm cycling through again. Must be a sign that things are getting back to normal after the baby. One of the things I've been thinking a great deal about is the frugality of our lifestyle. Meaning, it's not frugal enough. I got pretty slack with the arrival of the new baby. He's still in disposable diapers (and so is the 2-yr old Jr Spragus), until he stops pooping every 15 minutes . I've gotten lazy with the laundry -- it's going straight in the dryer because I don't want to take the time to hang it out and get it down again. Apart from the OAMC, I've only been preparing the easiest of meals and throwing out whatever's left in the fridge that I just can't be bothered with.

Really, in my defense, the little one isn't on any kind of schedule yet, and he prefers to eat every 1 - 2 hours. He naps at various times, or sometimes not at all; and he's notorious for being up every hour during the night. So I've been trying to manage everything with a major sleep (and time) deficit.

Nevertheless, I am trying to get back to frugal habits. I recommitted myself today to NOT throwing out any more food. Period. NOT letting stuff sit in the fridge until it's unusable. So, for lunch today, I did a little fridge shopping. I knew I had a half-lettuce in there that was a couple weeks old (it's a Romaine and they do last longer...) and some tomatoes of similar vintage; leftover Dominoes pizza from Friday night; sorta past-it cheese slices; and maybe a couple other things.

Well, the lettuce was unusable, even for lettuce soup (okay, I don't know what lettuce soup would taste like, but I was going to give it a try ). It was only good for the worm buckets. Black. Slimy. Nuh-Uh.

However, I did find the following ingredients to be unappetizing, but usable. 3-day old dried out pizza, 3-week old tomato, and kinda ugly old cheese slices.

Well, I've had worse to work with. Sooooo....what sounds good? How about THIS?:

Yes folks; that's Italian Pizza Egg Casserole. Here's how it works:

Start your oven heating; grease your casserole dish; chop up the pizza into small pieces and chuck them in the dish. In this case there was not enough pizza so I used a few slices of stale hard bread and chucked them in there too. Sprinkle with salt to taste, and about 1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning. Top with cheese slices.

Get out your powdered milk (yep, I know the kids won't drink it, but it's perfect for this recipe!) Use about 1/2 cup milk and mix it with 2 cups water. Stir in 4 beaten eggs, and pour it over the top of the cheese slices and bread mixture.

Now top it all with your yummy (old) tomato slices. Voila, now you have a yummy looking casserole. Well, it even looks like you planned it!

Bake it in a medium-temp oven until it's done (stick a knife into it to test -- the knife should come out clean, except for a little cheese maybe). This was delicious. The older kids ate more than half of it themselves, and Daddy has lunch for tomorrow. (Incidentally, he took a couple of pieces of this same pizza to work with him today and ended up throwing them out. We'll see if he likes the new improved version tomorrow!)

Since I had some stale bread still left over and a hot oven, I made the kids a cheapo treat.

Cinnamon Toast. They gobbled this up too. Oh, and we ate some delicious first-of-the-season plums along with our delicious old lunch.

Bon Appetit!

Baby Wrangling

Thanks to the MOMYS, I was introduced to this great site:

I bought this for $15 (Actually, it was a full-width piece of cotton/lycra t-shirt fabric, 5 meters for $30, which I split lengthwise for 2 long thinner pieces). And the 2-year-old is optional .

Following the instructions for the front cross carry on

we went from this:

To This:

in 2 minutes flat.

Here is another pic of Toby in the wrap:

Happy 1 month birthday, TOBY!

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Since I now have 2 hands free I can now get back to cooking. I bet I could even attempt a OAMC session with this really great cool baby wrap thing! Wow!

Anyhoo, this morning I realized I have a LOT of apples and they aren't getting any fresher. My sister and I go every two weeks to a local farmers market. Everything is super fresh, but because it's locally grown (not grown under conditions for a supermarket shelf -- a lot closer to organic -- and a lot cheaper) it goes stale more quickly. We get great bargains every trip. Last Saturday I bought 3 kgs of Granny Smith apples and 3 kgs of Lady William apples for $4. (That's over 13lbs of apples for $4. We can fill up a shopping cart of locally grown, fresh fruit and veg for under $40. LOOOOOVE it!)

Since this Saturday coming up is Fruit and Veg day again, it was high time to use up these apples. Slow Cooker applesauce is the way to go. The slow cooking helps retain the nutrients, and the kids will eat about 5 apples-worth each in a sitting.

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Peel and cut apples into chunks. Fill up the slow cooker with them -- they cook down.

Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Add 1/2 cup water

Add 1/2 cup sugar (since I am a sugar-holic trying to quit, I left it out this time. We'll see how it goes).

Stir it up, put on the lid and cook. If you like the applesauce chunky, stop cooking when you give it a good stir and there's some sauce and some chunks.

Another hour's cooking, and all the apples will disintegrate into sauce. No mill necessary.


I'll post a picture of the finished product, when it's finished. Before it gets eaten. I'll have to be quick, LOL -- it's one of the kids' favorites.

Here's the finished product. I did add a spoonful of brown sugar, by the way. All those Granny Smith apples -- oooooh, sooo tart!

Now -- which would you prefer -- some of that tasty, cinnamony, fresh-apple applesauce, or some of that puny pale version from the jar?

NOTE: Don't waste the scraps! Next Post!

City Dweller Easy Worm Compost

We're outlying city dwellers. We live in a largish house on a tinyish bit of land. Our whole backyard measures about 18'x66', which isn't much room for the kids to play plus a garden. We've opted for a flower/shrub garden (using water-conserving native plants) since we will have to re-sell the house within a year or so, and most people around here don't appreciate fruit and veg gardens in tiny yards. Especially when you can buy it so cheap from the markets (see previous post).

What we have found, to our shock and horror (being from the ultra-fertile midwest USA, where you stick it in the ground, forget it, and it grows), is that NOTHING grows here. NOTHING. Here's proof:

This is a picture of the unimproved "soil" alongside our house. We have lived here for 3 years. This is what grows here. Nothing. Actually, during the winter months, weeds will establish in this section, but they die off in summer. No water, no nutrients -- it's just sand.

So over the past 3 years we have planted, watered, re-planted, watered, put in irrigation, re-planted, fertilized, watered and replanted. We are unsuccessful. Totally. Our grass is tan, our plants die or barely hang on to life.

Trying to remedy this naturally, we discovered worm farms. But decided that lack of space and lack of time and really, not wanting to mess with it, was going to nix that idea. Until we discovered THESE:

It's just a big mayonnaise bucket (think Sams Club size) buried in the ground. Here's what's inside:

Under the scraps in the bucket are worms. We had to buy the worms -- there were NONE in our sandy soil. It's a covered, perpetual worm farm.

To make one, you drill large holes with a circle drill bit (like door-knob size) into the bottom half of the bucket. This is for the worms to go in and out of the bucket. Add some dirt, some kitchen scraps (no citrus, meat or onions) and the worms. Add some more dirt. If you live in super dry conditions as we do, add some water too. Put the lid on firmly.

Wow -- no rats, no flies, no smell. The worms come and go as they please in the bottom half of the bucket, and as they come and go, they leave their castings in the soil to enrich it. You just take out your kitchen scraps, top up the bucket and put the lid back on.

I guess there's more to it if you want to get technical, but that's what we do . We've planted a whole new garden, again, and I'll let you know if the perpetual covered no-work worm farms help.

Excitement Today!!

Baby Toby is well (he's 4 weeks old today!)

(just look at that belly! He's gained 2lbs already!)

We had some excitement here today. Our house is in a small suburb completely surrounded by bushland/plantation/farmlets. There are several big fires raging at the moment, all around our little suburb. One was big enough and close enough that neighbors on the outskirts of the suburb were evacuated! I think we are out of danger now, but, there was some excitement in the neighborhood when the water-carrying helicopters flew in!

I've seen them on the news before, but never up close. Well, these ones flew in right over the houses, spectators and all, and dropped their hoses right in the lake across from our house! The round trip from the fire/water drop to the lake/water pickup was about 3 minutes, and there were 3 different copters. So about every 60 seconds we had a copter fly in, fill up and fly out. Sometimes there were two at once -- one in the upper part of the lake and one in the lower.

ALL the neighborhood came out to see -- it was the "talk of the town", for sure! Here are some photos:

Smoke from the fire

Maverick helicopter flying in over the houses and spectators

Picking up water from the lake

More water pickups

Now I can tell you that the kids were EXTREMELY excited by this, and 2yo JrSpragus can't stop talking about the helicopters.

I guess it's not something you see every day.

Neither is this.

Yes, that is a 2yo Jr Spragus sleeping at McDonalds and NOT eating his cookies. This has never happened before and probably never will again.

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