After the stillbirth of our baby boy on 20th May 2011, I have decided I will no longer be posting on this blog.

 I will leave it here as a reference, as I notice many pages, particularly recipes, are still getting hits.

You can find the story of our baby here if you wish to read it.

I will be continuing to post on my other blog, Just this side of chaos...., and would be very happy to see you there.

Best wishes, CatJB.


On Friday 20th May 2011, our baby boy was stillborn at 27 weeks.

To my followers.....I will not be posting on this blog for a while, but will be keeping up with my other blog, you can find me here.

Healthy snacks for kids - how to make fruit leather

Healthy snacks for children is something that has come up a few times lately on a forum I frequent. It seems to be an area that some parents and caregivers struggle with, trying to fill up little bellies with decent food, whilst staying within a given budget.

My kids eat A LOT. And often, it seems.

They are boys, not that that should make much difference, I'm sure there are boys that eat like birds but my two eat more like dinosaurs. Same manners sometimes, too.

So what do my kids snack on?

Here's a fairly comprehensive list:

fruit of all kinds
fruit leather, homemade
milkshakes, homemade
rice crackers with butter or cheese
ham slices
leftover roast chicken
leftover cooked sausages
homemade cookies (one at a time)
homemade fruit sorbet
homemade slushies
organic corn chips
leftover soaked brown rice, with butter and salt
dried fruit
sourdough toast with avocado

My theory with snacks for my boys, is to try and make the snack like a mini meal.
I always include some protein and try and make the snack satisfying and filling so they won't be back in an hour for more. So I pick a few things off the above list, depending what I have around at a given time, and away we go.

Happy little snackers.

The next question people tend to ask is how do you make whatever-it-is?

So I'll start with the fruit leather.

Have you ever had a fruit roll-up from the store?

I have, it was something I indulged in when I was a teenager spending my own money, not something my mother would EVER have purchased and fed to her kids. Wise woman, I can appreciate that now.

You don't need me to tell you are full of sugar and you-don't-want-to-know what else.

But, they are a convenient food, or, a convenience food I 'spose. Right.

So make your own!

Cook up a some fruit, I haven't come across a combo that hasn't worked yet.
Skins and all.
Well, not banana, orange or kiwifruit peel, of course. Ripe fruit is best.

Feel free to add some veggies to the mix. I'm still experimenting with this, so far I've added carrots and tried a bit of spinach.

Don't add sugar, fruit shouldn't need it, even with a bit of veg mixed in.

Cook it down till it's fairly thick, you don't want it too runny.

Throw it in a blender, blend it till it's as smooth as you can get it.

Then, either spread it on your dehydrator trays, or on covered oven trays. You can use baking paper or silicone baking mats to cover your trays.

Below is the cooked fruit spread on the trays that go in my dehydrator and my, er, helper...

And some finished roll ups.

Dry it out on LOW heat until it's dry, not sticky, but still flexible.

Tear into pieces, roll them up, and store in a jar.

If you want to cook the fruit in your thermomix, which it is PERFECT for as it needs no water added and blends it absolutely sooooooth....

here is link to thermomix fruit roll-ups on the thermomix forum, a delicious place to hang out.

Another quick tip: scavenge/scrounge any fruit you can off neighbourhood trees, cut up and freeze any fruit you have that's getting too ripe to eat, save the leftover bits of fruit from the kids....a half eaten apple, chopped up fruit that comes home still in the lunch box but now looking inedible.....all of that.

Chop it up and freeze it in a box. Add to it whenever you have more 'bits'.

Then cook this up with whatever other fruit you like for your next lot of fruit leather.

Waste not, want not, right?

Baby's butt on a budget

To my mind, baby's don't generally cost much, thankfully.

At least, not in the first few years, especially if you can avoid needing formula.

And using cloth nappies is a must if you're budget minded and, anywhere near calling yourself green.

Speaking of cloth, hehe, I just took receipt of some brand new fluff for our impending arrival! Ahhhh, I was so excited when they arrived, soft and squishy and looking so tiny...

Aren't they delicious?
Only 1 actual small, the other 2 are mediums, excuse the purple, I was being cheap as usual and buying seconds.

Not that I have any issues AT ALL with putting my boys in pink nappies, I have certainly done that in the past and this next lil' fella will inherit his older brother's nappy stash, including the pinks.

Now, cloth nappies can actually be pretty hard on the budget, if you let them.
$38 Aus is a fairly standard price to pay per nappy for some Australian and imported brands.
I know for a fact that my hubby would just about have a heart attack if I spent that much on a nappy and I would probably be too scared to let my kid poop in it at all.

The above nappies I actually bought from a work-at-home-mum in the US.
I found her through a forum, checked out what others have said about her work, applied the coupon code she supplied against my order, negotiated the postage rate and's my fluff.

I'm all for supporting Australian made but the bottom line is still important, and at least this way, I'm still supporting a mum somewhere to stay home with her kids.

And oooh, that blue nappy really is so cute and tiny, are babies butts really that small?!
I think I've forgotten......

A new family member on the way...

Baby boy #3 will join our family sometime in August, so please 'scuse the extended hiatus I've been on. Just getting my head space together.

Time to get into all things frugal and baby! Oooh, cloth nappies here I come! The stash does need updating, of course, it's not that I'm addicted to new fluff or anything like that.....

Making the most of summer mangoes

A local high end store that I occasionally frequent has been having great deals on tropical fruits. It is summer after all so these are in season, though they aren't usually grown at this end of the country.

These have been trucked down from Queensland, but I comfort myself with the thought that at least they are not imported.

I bought two trays of mangoes, so 24 altogether, and 6 rather giant pineapples.

There is no way the four of us can eat this much fresh fruit before it over ripens so I kicked the dehydrator into use and have stocked the freezer well too.

Mangoes freeze well and are great added in frozen form to smoothies, sorbets and ice-creams.

To freeze the mangoes, I peeled them with a veggie peeler, cut the cheeks off, laid them on a silicone baking mat, scored the last bits of flesh off from the sides, lumped that on the tray too and put the whole thing in the deep freeze.
Then I bagged them up once frozen.

The pineapple I skinned, cored and chopped into sections, then packed that into food safe plastic boxes and into the freezer. Frozen pineapple is a tasty treat on a hot day, I chop it {frozen) into smaller chunks and the kids eat it just like that. Or that can go in a smoothie also.

The dehydrating I wasn't so sure of, I haven't really perfected dehydrating fruit yet, I mostly use the machine for drying soaked nuts or making soaked granola.

AND, Ive just bought a new one! Woohoo!! A new dehydrator that is.

I'm still waiting for it to arrive though so had to use my old one.

My old one (a gift last Christmas but it has not lasted well) has no temperature control and it runs at about 63c, which is hotter than recommended for most, if not all, things.
The problem with using too hot a temperature is you can destroy nutrition in the food and in the case of fruit, you can crisp the outside before the inside is dry, so by the time the inside is dry, the outside is way over done.

And one tray is broken because a small child STOOD on it.
And another tray is rather cracked.
And the lid is nearly broken in half, due to cracks radiating almost to the center.
AND, perhaps worst of all, it is made with no' 6 plastic.

I think it is the high heat that has made it crack. Apart from that one tray of course.

So, my advice if you're in the market for a dehydrator, is DO NOT buy a cheap one, you will probably regret it.

Well, I got round the thought of laying wet fruit on nasty plastic by lining the trays with baking paper. The lesser of two evils in my mind.

No need to dip the fruits as they doesn't discolour like apples do.

Here is the was just a case of slicing it into even-ish sized strips and checking it every now and then.

You want to take it out when it's flexible but not sticky.
I won't dictate a time, because I leave the dehydrator lid partly off to try and off-set the too-high temperature. I found some bits were ready before others, so I took those out and cooled them on a tray. When it was all done and cool, I stored it in a recycled honey jar and I am currently keeping it in the fridge.

And this is the pineapple.

It is rather different than dried pineapple from the store, it is much thinner, but then that could be the way I sliced it.
It looks crispy, although it isn't, it is flexible, but dry and not sticky on the outside.
Very sweet and tasty, rather moreish in fact.

Now I need to find a way of storing it that doesn't require the fridge.
I'm concerned that it may go mouldy eventually, if left out, hence keeping it refrigerated.

Gotta look into that, because my deep freeze is packed and my new dehydrator is on it's way.


How to make an earwig trap

I seem to be getting a lot of earwigs in what passes for my garden, and while I wasn't aware they caused damage, I've since learned that they chew leaves, and can also be a problem on citrus trees.

My lemon tree is looking a bit battle scarred, partly because of a hail storm we had a while back that gave it a pummeling, but I have a feeling there's some new scarring too, and I've seen earwigs on the tree.

And some flowers I planted with the boys have also been given the once over by a chewing insect, some leaves are down to the midribs, and I have seen earwigs sometimes when I move potted plants.

A remedy for earwigs was presented to me when I was watching Gavin from The Greening Of Gavin.
Gavin was giving a tour of his garden for a local gardening show, when he mentioned his home made earwig traps.

After leaving Gavin a comment and getting the info straight from the man himself, I set to and made a few traps myself.

How to make an earwig trap

Take a small glass jar and pour about an inch of water in the bottom.

Next, pour about a bit less than an inch of olive oil on top of the water.

Like so:

The theory is they are attracted to the olive oil, then they get coated in it and drown

This is an old baby food jar, back from the days of my first babe before I knew better. These work perfectly, salsa jars or small jam jars would work well too.

Bury your jar so that the top lip is level with the ground and leave it alone.

Send the kids to check it every couple of days, mine love to do it.

There ya go, easy.

So far, we've caught earwigs, cockroaches (YUCK, my least favourite bug, so I'm pretty happy to be snaring them, that means there's less to come inside), a few millipedes, the odd slater and what looked like a couple of house flies.

We reset the traps today, after a weekends worth of rain overflowed one of them and put a new one right underneath the lemon tree.

Can't wait to see what we catch.

Zero Food Waste Challenge: soaked granola

Over at Penniless Parenting, Penny has set a Zero Food Waste Challenge and has given out an invite to everyone to join in.

She recently made a good looking banana peel to me is the epitome of non-wastage of food.

It made me think about what I do with leftovers and the throw away bits, apart from feed them to my worm farm of course.

One thing I have figured out what to with is left-over breakfasts.

I don't give my kids processed breakfast cereals, I'm more of a give 'em eggs, fruit, nuts, smoothies, yoghurt type of gal.

BUT, they do like cereal, in a bowl, covered with milk (because I did used to give them this sometimes....the less sugared varieties...but you'd be darn surprised to find out how much sugar the less-sugared varieties actually contain, among other undesirable things. Or maybe not so surprised).

So now, when they want cereal, I've got them used to eating plain oats.
Well, soaked oats actually, as per Weston A. Price. Sometimes they eat them soaked and cold, sometimes they request porridge.

Now, I'm not such a fan of eating cold soaked oats, or porridge for that matter but the kids think they're just fine, and that's what matters at breakfast time here.

As for the leftovers, I'm loath to throw them out as I buy organic oats in bulk and organic raw milk, and those little suckers are just a wee bit exxcy. To make myself feel like I'm getting the most bang from my buck, I scrap any left over porridge and pour any left over oats-in-milk into small containers and stash them in the freezer.

Like this.

Looks good, right? Kinda like pre-digested, um, oats. Erk.

When I have a decent amount (or when I need to free up some freezer space or containers) I make this soaked granola. I won't write it out here, because CheeseSlave has written it up beautifully, instructions and all.

I do make a couple of changes though and over all, the recipe is very forgiving with exact quantities.

One change is the amount of sweetener.....1/4 cup honey or maple syrup PLUS 1/4 cup rapadura is rather sweet. But folks have different levels of enjoyment when it comes to sweetening, so go with what you prefer. I use the honey/maple syrup with maybe a tablespoon or so of rapadura, and really only because I enjoy the brown sugar taste of rapadura.

I don't usually have that much in the way of soaked seeds and nuts so I never put in two cups, I just up the amount of oats and maybe throw in some flax seeds.

Also, because of the fact I'm using un-measured left over amounts of oats (and milk, which is not in the recipe) mine is sometimes wetter so I'll stir in more coconut or oats. I did say the recipe is forgiving of changes, right?

Mmm mmmm, here it is, the picture courtesy of CheeseSlave:

It's good for snacking on, as well as dousing in milk and scooping up with a spoon.

Yum yum!

Another free cycle score

Say hello to our swing set, courtesy of a lovely family in our 'burb who no longer wanted it.

My boys are more than happy to give it some love!

Summer's nearly here

And that brings its own set of challenges, living with a hubby and two small energetic boys in a small house on a small peice of land in the middle of the 'burbs.
No creeks to paddle in and they're not allowed to run through sprinklers in these days of water restrictions.

What to do to keep us (me and the kids really as hubby gets the luxury of working in an airconditioned office, well, it's a luxury when it's stinking hot outside, otherwise not perhaps) coolish and entertained-ish? I'm all for the boys entertaining themselves but for the sake of sanity, I sometimes need an activity that doesn't involve the words "it's MINE!/I had it!/I want it/he did it first/go away!/RRRAAAAHHHH!". (I'm hoping that's just a stage)

So, yesterday afternoon....hottest day so far..... saw us having a water fight.
Not a really wet and annoying type of water fight, but an everyone-has-a-squirty-bottle type water fight. The kids stripped down to as little as I'd let them get away with (considering we're playing out the front so passers-by are inadvertently entertained) and we all ran round like mad, hot things.

This is an ideal type of water fight as the possibility to get really drenched is very slim, the bottles don't shoot all that far, they don't fire a lot of water at once and even my 2 yr old could join air-pump action required.
And they don't break down.
And they're cheap to purchase.

In my books, squirty bottles (do they have an official name?) are an essential part of your thrifty, summer, keep-the-kids-out-of-mischief outdoor equipment stash.

The other thing that I plan to do a lot of this summer is make...and eat...lots of healthy-ish, home made icypoles/popsicles.

I started off with a mango sorbet made in my beloved thermomix the day before...

And the leftovers went into the molds I purchased last summer for this express purpose.

Ahh, what more could you ask for on a hot day?

Well, apart from a creek to splash in or a sprinkler to run through perhaps, but we're making sure to love what we DO have, not pine for what what we don't.

Roll on summer!