*Sigh*, it's been two steps forward and three back so far this year! OK, well maybe a few more steps forward but I just wish I could get the balance right - or better still, move forward ALL the time. With me it's lack of organisation as usual. The kids have been brilliant at taking their water bottles everywhere so we don't need to buy drinks. Even though I didn't have one of my own, their dedication really strengthened my own resolve and I'm proud to say I haven't bought a SINGLE one! Until today, that is. Much as I love school holidays, in some ways they are a right pain to a disorganised soul like me. The routine goes right out the window, inadvertently dragging most of my common sense along with it. This happens most of all when other people's children come to visit. I have the unfortunate and rather expensive habit of being an over-indulgent mother when the boys' friends come over. Nothing is too much trouble and I always feel obliged to dash to Mr Patel's to stock up on 'kid food' - you know the thing, special fizzy drinks, bags of expensive chippies and bikkies with sprinkles. While I'm perfectly capable of coming up with something just as acceptable myself, this would take prior organisation - something as yet I don't seem to have been blessed with.
This week started off well enough. In fact Monday was a No Spend Day, couldn't have asked for better! Tuesday Alex came over and discovered to his delight that I had a whole stash of flavoured rice noodles in the pantry - a new, healthy gluten free snack I had found for Liam (available now from Bin Inn, yay!) While these are a real lifesaver for hungry gluten free boys, they're not cheap at $2.50 each. Alex of course was blissfully unaware of the price tag and managed to scoff as many in one day as I had hoped to keep for a fortnight! The boys both had friends over yesterday and instead of the usual 'splurging out for guests' I refused to buy anything more than a bottle of juice on special. Great progress Penny! I was feeling really happy about having such a frugal week and when this morning looked like it was going to be another scorcher I offered to take the boys for a swim at the pool. They jumped at it immediately and we were off out the door in the space of a few seconds. I amazed myself by remembering to pack my new water bottle! Unfortunately I forgot to bring one for anyone else and even worse, I forgot the sunblock. By the time the boys were ready to go home, their poor faces resembled tomatoes. I felt like one guilty, terrible mother - and immediately got my purse out. Well, the poor things were so hot and bothered and it was all my fault! The least I could do was get them a drink and an ice cream to cool down. Seventeen dollars later I was the one feeling red-faced! Noel burst out laughing at my logic when I got home and now I felt doubly guilty for forgetting the sunblock and the water bottles AND wasting so much money as a result. Still, on the positive side, it was a harsh lesson learned and I like to think that I won't allow myself to forget them again!
As you can see, I've never been an organised soul but I'm hoping to get around to it. Another thing I'm definitely going to get around to is getting a better deal for January! No rush Penny, I mean, we're only half way through the month already. It will be really interesting to see how much we can save. Off the top of my head I can already think of an easy $130 we'll be able to save on satellite TV - who knows, maybe much more. Definitely time we got around to it then! One thing's for sure, I won't let permit myself to start February's 'Find Time' month until I have got my better deals for January first. I am SO looking forward to finding more time! It's one of the things I'm worst at and I've been excited about the prospect ever since I first laid eyes on the calendar. There definitely have to be better ways of finding time than given in a magazine article I read recently. I was really keen to get a head start on February but the examples that were given were definitely more Sad Sally than Happy Hanna. They may have been good at saving time, but definitely not money, or even the planet, which to me is just as important. Examples included 'put an end to pesky ironing by simply throwing all your wrinkled clothes in the tumble dryer' or 'skip the errands, stay home and use the Internet as your personal errand boy.' By all means you can save time and petrol but what about the fact that many online prices are more expensive than in-store ones, not to mention extra fees and delivery charges? Nope, there have to be better ways of clawing back my time and I'm looking forward to finding them.
I want to be like Nigella Lawson you see - correction, I want to have TIME to be like Nigella Lawson. I got her book 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' for my birthday and for the first time in my life I actually want to chain myself to the kitchen. Only two things have stopped me so far - the fact that I can't seem to find cherry jam anywhere in NZ and the fact that the Chocolate Mousse Cake I wanted to make the other day needed a whopping 12 eggs whereas Christo's Delicious Gooey Chocolate Torte from Sophie Gray's new book 'Delicious' looks exactly the same and only uses four eggs. Noel is the undisputed Greenfingered God of our domain but my only role seems to be Goddess of Domestic Chaos at the moment. At least I'm not the only one, so it seems. We were all excited to find a cherry plum tree hanging with fruit hiding between us and the neighbours. The boys went and picked the fruit and while I have fond memories of my dad making cherry plum wine as a child I had absolutely no idea what else to do with them. I wanted to turn them into something wonderful and Googled for ages but nobody else seemed to know either. The only one who came close was this recipe for Cherry Plum Jam found on an Aussie gardening forum. Well, I THINK that's what it's supposed to be!
1. Get a 75% full 4L ice cream container full of cherry plums.
2. Rinse them in the sink.
3. Drip water on the floor as you throw them into a big old pot.
4. Put some water in the pot. Take care not to put too much in or it's sloppy. Too late. You've put too much in, didn't you? And you did not realise it at the time. Silly billy.
5. Put it on the stove to simmer and wander into the next room.
6. Come racing back in when you hear it boiling over and making a mess. Grr at the cherry plums.
7. Let them simmer a bit more.
8. Amuse yourself by dragging out the skins which are bobbing on the surface.
9. Amuse yourself more by getting a steam burn despite using the long BBQ tongs.
10. Try to decide if it's soft enough by spooning out a sample and blowing on it until it seems cool.
11. Blow eardrums and burn mouth on deceptively boiling hot plum which only cooled on the outside.
12. Dance like you want rain to fall from the sky immediately.
13. Wash out mouth with cold water. Take census of tastebuds to see how many were not seared off.
14. Decide that the mixture is soft but tart.
15. Put in half a cup of sugar.
16. Put in another half cup of sugar.
17. Nibble on sugar whilst you're waiting to see if the mix is sweet enough.
18. Try again, giving plenty of time to cool.
19. Screw up face, put in another cup of sugar.
20. End up with a sloppy mess that tastes good but still has too many skins in it.
We had to give up in the end and eat the fruit as it was before it went off but if anyone knows what to do with them in future I would love to hear from you! Another thing I'm really keen to master in February which will hopefully give me lots of time in the long run is Once A Month Cooking or OAMC. The very thought of doing that much cooking at once has always put the fear of God into me but I think I have geared myself up enough now to give it a go. I'm going to use my 10 minutes of daily SS time to prepare and scour the Vault and Forum for OAMC tips and recipes. Hey - I wonder if Nigella has ever done OAMC? I bet she hasn't!
PS: Forgot to mention we are off to the beach for a few days tomorrow, hooray! I'd better not forget the sunblock this time...