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Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

It makes motherhood worthwhile!

In kids, me time on May 30, 2007 at 6:03 pm

I should have known it was going to be one of those days today as soon as I woke up and realised I’d overslept. But, like any other day, I was cheerful in the hopeful anticipation of a nice, pleasant day. Little did I know what fate had in store for me…

Within an hour of waking, Little Angel had almost wrecked the place. It started with her somehow getting hold of my favorite Dior nail varnish and attempting to paint the carpet. The kids swore it must have been a ghost-no-one would ever give her my most expensive cosmetics to play with.

Apparently.

While I was cleaning up the mess, she then decided to climb up and pull the shampoo from the shelves where I’d thought it would be safe. Then she proceeded to throw toilet paper across the landing. And so on, and so forth.

Until it gets to the point where I really honestly think for a moment that I’m going to lose it completely, and she comes back in from the garden with a wilting daisy in her hand. “Sorry mummy, luv ooh!”

Sweetness personified. It’s moments like this that make being a mum worthwhile!

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Tasty Tuesdays: Easy Peasy Tunisian Salad

In tasty tuesdays on May 29, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Tunisian style salad is really easy to prepare and makes a tasty side-dish for any meal. It’s usually eaten with a spoon (as the vegetables are finely chopped for this dish), but can also be eaten with bread: a traditional Tunisian method of eating!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Half a cucumber
  • About 2 mewdium (or one large) tomatoes
  • Small red onion
  • Capsicum peppers (1/2 each red and green)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice

To decorate:

  • Black olives
  • Boiled eggs
  • Fresh parsley
  • A few lettuce leaves

Here’s how to make your Tunisian style salad:

  1. Get yourself a large mixing bowl.
  2. Finely chop the onion and add to the dish.
  3. To finely chop the cucumber, here’s a little trick: get a sharp knife and make slices about 1/2 a centimetre wide across the pale flesh of the halved cucumber (towards the base). Make sure you don’t cut theough: you want these slices to stay on for the time being! Turn the cucumber round 90 degrees and do the same again, like a cross hatch design. Then cut through the green skin as though you are making slices: the small chunks should come off perfectly! Once you’ve chopped all of the cucumber, add this to the bowl.
  4. To chop the tomatoes, cut into quarters and remove the flesh (set to one side). Then chop the more solid parts as fine as you did the cucumber. Add this and the squishy parts to the bowl.
  5. Finely chop the peppers; add these too.
  6. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the bowl. Mix well and taste. Add more seasoning/olive oil/lemon juice to suit your taste.
  7. Serve in a large salad bowl on a bed of lettuce leaves. Add black olives, slices of hard boiled eggs and sprinkle with a handful of chopped fresh parsley.
  8. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this easy recipe, which is something we enjoy regularly at home. More Tunisian recipe ideas next week!

See also:

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Little green fingers

In house and home, kids, me time on May 27, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Exactly one year ago, we moved to this “new house” and were blessed with a front door on the ground floor, lovely neighbours and most of all, a huge garden space for the kids!

For over ten years, we’d been living in a first floor flat. Sure it was roomy and in a nice part of town, but with the kids it was hardly desirable. Especially when Hubby dearest and I married and my step-children began to stay each weekend. When little Angel came along, it was almost unbearable. There was nowhere safe for the children to play; no green space to admire, and certainly no area to sit out in the sun in the summertime.

I’m so glad to be here!

Last summer was something of a frenzy and we barely had time to relax and enjoy our new home. Between decorating, clearing the jungle in the back garden and our two-month trip to Tunisia, there was barely any time to cultivate a garden. This year, we’ve had more time to enjoy the outdoor space: we had the garden turfed, created a space for plants and installed a fence to keep prying eyes away from our precious ones. We even bought a sand pit and playhouse for the kids. And for the first time in my life I’ve been able to grow things from seeds. I feel so proud of what we’ve achieved!

What I love most is the change I’ve seen in the children: they all seem so much happier, even on rainy days like today. And they’re developing a wonderful interest in plants and the environment; especially my little man, who today insisted we go to the garden centre so he could buy a plant with his pocket money!

I thought he would have chosen a Venus fly trap, which he could feed with the ever increasing number of huge spiders that plague our lounge. Luckily, the garden centre didn’t have any in stock. I say “lucky” because I can’t stand that he picks them up and lets them run all over him! It’s not that I’m scared of spiders: I just have a strange fear of them crawling on my feet…

Anyway, he settles on a seedling cucumber plant, and little Angel insisted she got in on the action by nursing a cherry tomato plant back to the car. It was so sweet watching them water their little seedlings, and give them pride of place on the kitchen windowsill “because mummy, it’s too wet for them to be outside just now!”

In this last year, I’ve seen my little seedlings blossom and flourish. I love to watch them grow…

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"Green" cleaning can really save you money!

In house and home on May 26, 2007 at 6:00 pm

These days we’re bombarded with advertisements for the latest (and supposedly, greatest) cleaning products on the market: washing up liquids, laminate floor cleaner, toilet limescale remover… The list is endless!

What such adverts fail to tell you is that there are essentially five natural ingredients you can use to keep you entire home clean and bright. Much better for your purse strings, and better for the environment too! So I present to you my list of five essential natural cleaning products, which can save you pounds on your monthly cleaning bill, and make you feel so much better that you’re helping to save the planet by using them:

  1. White vinegar: a natural disinfectant and cleaner; can be used to make windows and glass shine! Reduces mineral and lime deposits, and can be used to treat stains.
  2. Lemons: traditionally used for cutting through grease; also great as a deodoriser and fragrancer.
  3. Olive oil: a wonderful alternative to furniture polish (see Tracy’s post for a great example).
  4. Bicarbonate of soda: when mixed with water, this forms an alkaline solution which is great for all round cleaning (such as surfaces, fridges, floors, etc). Use neat as a scourer with a kitchen sponge, or form a thick paste for stubborn stains. Combine with vinegar for an extra strength cleaning solution.
  5. Borax: a great disinfectant. Dilute in water to replace your usual disinfectant for mopping or cleaning nasty messes. Can also be used to clean toilets, clear drains and as an insecticide.

And here’s some examples of how these essential ingredients can be used for all your cleaning needs:

All purpose cleaners:

  • Dissolve 4 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda in 1 litre of water for an all purpose cleaning fluid.
  • Add a few slices of lemon for a pleasantly fragranced washing-up solution
  • Mix to a paste with water and a few drops of vinegar for really stubborn stains or burnt pans.

Disinfectants:

  • Mix half a cup of borax with five litres of hot water and clean with this solution (be sure to wear rubber gloves as borax is quite strong and can harm your delicate hands!). For a fragranced disinfectant, add some of your favorite herbs, steep for five minutes and strain; alternatively fragrance with a few drops of your favorite essential oils.
  • 2 tablespoons of borax, lemon juice and 2 cups of hot water can be combined to make a great antibacterial surface cleaner; decant into a spray bottle and use like a regular disinfectant spray (much cheaper than branded chemical solutions!

Glass cleaning:

  • Equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle make a great window cleaning solution (use more vinegar if your windows are really dirty). Buff to a shine with crumpled newspaper.
  • Alternatively, use 1/2 a cup of lemon juice and two cups of water, and apply as before.

Toilet cleaner:

  • Flush the toilet to wet the bowl, and sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda. Spray on vinegar and leave overnight for best results and scrub with a toilet brush to clean and deodorise your loo. For stubborn stains, leave the solution overnight before scrubbing, to make it gleam!

Drain cleaner:

  • Pour 1/2 to 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Leave to foam for a few minutes, then flush with boiling hot water. Does exactly the same as expensive drain cleaning solutions!

These are just a few of the ways you can clean your home using inexpensive, natural products. For more ideas, take a look at these hints and recipes.

All of these ingredients are cheap to buy, and could be purchased from your local supermarket (try a hardware store if you have trouble sourcing borax). You can also purchase great value natural cleaning products online from Soap Kitchen Online.

Related posts:

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Do it yourself day!

In house and home, me time on May 25, 2007 at 12:16 am

I’m feeling rather proud of myself tonight; albeit exhausted, with hands that ache so much I’m barely able to type!

Whenever Hubby Dearest goes abroad without me, I set myself a plan of household tasks to do before his return. Often it’s something simple, like painting the windowsills and hanging new curtains (my initial plan for this week). Other times, I get some mammoth task in my head that I simply have to do. Like today, for example…

Quite unexpectedly, our new kitchen table arrived. We hadn’t even got rid of the old one to make room for it. Darned delivery men, they should have called to let me know. And unloading great ugly boxes into my freshly cleaned kitchen was like waving a red flag to a bull!

So, I dismantled the old table and chairs, fixed up the new ones, stepped back and admired the view. But then I remembered the other box lurking in the shed: the cabinet for the lounge that Hubby dearest has been planning to build for nigh on six months, “as soon as I can find someone to take the fish tank off our hands” (which is another great ugly unwanted piece of furniture, taking up space in the house).

Of course, I checked the instructions first. And you know what I found? A great big picture of a woman symbol (the kind you’d find on a lavatory door to discern the ladies’ from the gents’) WITH A LINE THROUGH IT! As though it were trying to say that a woman should not try to assemble this alone! Beneath was a picture of two women symbols and an “okay” tick. But really! Do the manufacturers seriously think that women can’t assemble flat-pack alone?

I was planning to scan that manual to show the world that chauvinistic imagery, but unfortunately little angel spilled juice all over it. All that work, and kids/cooking/cleaning/washing/bath time/story/etc done too.

Hope hubby feels sufficiently guilty when he arrives back to see my efforts!

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Now what..?

In kids, observations on May 23, 2007 at 12:14 pm

My little man’s not quite so little anymore… In July he’ll be eleven. Almost a teenager! As much as I love to watch his development, I often wish children would stay children forever. Like yesterday, for instance.

Here’s the gist of the conversation we had:

“Tidy your room up please; it’s bedtime soon.”

“I’ll do it in a bit.”

“No, tidy it now. It’s bedtime soon!”

“No, I’ll do it later. You can’t control me…”

Meanwhile, he was in the process of tidying up his awful boy-mess. But for the first time, he had me stumped! I sense the approach of difficult teenage-hood approaching. Does that mean “you can’t control me” will become a regular saying?

Oh dear. And I’d hoped that the threat of being grounded/losing pocket money/confiscating the computer would suffice until he was much, much older. Don’t misunderstand me: he’s a great kid, and I’m quite proud of how well-behaved he is compared to other kids I know.

My old neighbour’s son, for instance. He’s a couple of years older than my son, and it seems his mum has simply lost control. He doesn’t go to school, because he simply walks out; he swears at everyone; he smokes… When the lack of parental respect breaks down, what methods of discipline can you employ, except to bind and gag them? (only joking, of course!)

At the end of the day, he’ll always be my “little man”. I only hope I will always be the “Mum” he respects.

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Tasty Tuesday Recipe: Tunisian Tagine

In tasty tuesdays on May 22, 2007 at 9:03 pm

So, here’s my first recipe of the “Tasty Tuesdays” series: Tunisian tagine with tuna, parsley and cheese. This is a really simple dish which you could use as a starter or accompaniment to a main meal. It’s also nice for the kids to snack on!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Six medium eggs
  • A small can of tuna chunks, drained
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Grated mild cheese (enough to fill a small teacup)
  • A medium sized potato, peeled and cut into small squares (about 1.5 cm wide)
  • One small onion, finely chopped
  • A drop of milk
  • Oil for greasing
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Small ceramic/earthenware roasting tray (or a casserole dish, if you don’t have the roasting dish).
  • (Optional): a lemon to garnish

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Heat your oven to a high temperature (about 220 degrees centigrade)
  2. Boil the potato in salted water for a few minutes until they’re almost cooked. Drain and cool.
  3. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat together. Add the drained tuna, cooled potatoes, parsley, cheese, chopped onion, a drop of milk (to make sure the mixture isn’t too thick!) and seasonings to suit your taste.
  4. Grease the roasting dish with the oil, then pour in the mixture ensuring everything is evenly spaced.
  5. When the oven gets hot (it really does need to be hot for the tagine to rise!), put the roaster/dish into the oven on the top shelf. Cook for around 20-25 minutes until the eggs are set and the top is slightly golden.
  6. Remove from the oven, cut into squares and serve with slices of lemon. Yum!

You can change some of the ingredients to suit your tastes. For example, you could replace the tuna with cooked chicken; use spring onions, or replace the meat with small pieces of char grilled red and green peppers for a vegetarian treat!

Hope you enjoy this recipe! More from Tunisia next week…

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Tasty Tuesdays!

In tasty tuesdays on May 22, 2007 at 10:50 am

When I cook (which is virtually everyday!), I like things to be simple, and still taste delicious! I learnt the hard way that food cooked from fresh ingredients tastes so much better than frozen/prepacked/convenience foods from the supermarket. And I say “the hard way” because I truly didn’t know how to cook when I first set up home!

With the help of my husband (who incidentally was a restaurant chef for some years!), various magazine recipes and books, I finally learnt how to prepare something tasty from scratch, often with very cheap ingredients too!

So, I present to you “Tasty Tuesdays”: my weekly recipe section where you needn’t worry too much about having weighing scales, measuring jugs, or the expertise of Delia Smith! My recipes are tried and tested on the most discerning palates (hubby darling and fussy kids), but have always come up trumps!

In honour of my Tunisian husband, I’ll begin with a series of tasty Tunisian recipes, which are really delicious and can be adapted to suit any taste. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do at home!

More on this subject later…

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Is this going to be a problem..?

In kids on May 21, 2007 at 10:20 pm

Adorable as she is, my little angel seems to be quite addicted to her soothers (or “do-do’s”, as they are called in our house!).

I’m dreading the day she has to give them up and become a “big girl”… Which may not be too far away now as she really needs to give them up before she begins nursery school. This wasn’t an issue with my son: he never took a liking to them, and so I was never faced with that awful parent guilt of having to take them away!

Ah well, there’s still time for her to give them up willingly…

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Store cupboard staples: a list of essentials you should never be without

In house and home, tasty tuesdays on May 20, 2007 at 12:04 pm

After reading Tracy’s article about the freedom of household routines, I remembered a great tip from Marguerite Duras: keeping a list of store cupboard essentials.

This is something I’ve done for a while now. On our fridge we stuck a list of all the kitchen essentials we can’t do without, and tick things off as they need replenishing. That way we never run out of household essentials. There are loads of meals and uses for these items, so even if an unexpected guest arrives, we always have something to cook for them, and have the essentials for keeping things clean.

Here are the basics we list:

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Harrisa (Tunisian chili paste)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Milk
  • Tea and coffee
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Hard cheese
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tomato puree
  • Tinned tuna
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Flour
  • Bread
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Lemons
  • Vinegar
  • Good quality chocolate
  • Wine
  • Toilet paper
  • Light bulbs
  • Washing powder
  • Kitchen sponges with scouring pads (Spontex)
  • Fuses
  • Heavy duty tape (gaffer tape)

With these things kept in stock, we’re never caught out. These pantry essentials are also very cheap to buy in bulk, which is great for households on a budget! Lemons, vinegar and cheap washing powder suffice for most household cleaning tasks: vinegar and soapy water for windows, powder and lemons for cleaning dishes, surfaces and floors; lemons for chopping boards (see this post for more ideas). With the food I’ve listed, it’s even possible to create an impromptu three course meal for unexpected guests:

  1. For starters, spoon some harrissa and mayonnaise on a plate; drizzle in olive oil and serve with flakes of tuna, olives and slices of french bread for dipping.
  2. For the main course, a dish of pasta and home made tomato sauce sprinkled with grated cheese, or an omelet served with potato wedges and flavored with the cheese.
  3. Chocolate and coffee for desserts, or if you have the time you can make a cake with these basic ingredients, flavored with the zest of a lemon.

The good quality chocolate and wine can also be gifts for your guests. Toilet paper is undoubtedly essential for any household, and you’d be surprised how useful strong tape can be!

Of course, our list won’t suit every household, but you can always adapt your list to your personal needs. It’s a very useful thing to do, and with such basic store cupboard essentials you know you’ll never be thrown off guard again! In the near future, I’ll also be posting some tasty Tunisian recipes, many of which use these store cupboard essentials with only a few other ingredients.

Please leave your comments if you have useful lists you use for better organisation in your home: I love to read hints and tips about better organising my home.

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