Monday, May 30, 2011

A minimalist mum: Keeping children's artworks

This is a hard one, as I would like to keep EVERYTHING my children create! I love their paintings and the little doodles on paper. Kids are very creative and make all sorts of cool things. Picasso apparently said, "Every child is an artist."

Obviously, keeping all of their artworks is not possible! So I gotta edit, choose and keep only the best.

What do I do?

1. Bring it altogether in one lot. It always helps me to see how many I actually have.

2. Time also helps. I kept everything my son (now 5) did as a two year old, and I look at some of them now and think...hmmm...some can be recylcled!

3. Give yourself a physical limit - e.g. One big box per child.

4. Give yourself a number - e.g. Keep 20 paintings per child per year. (Remember, if you do the maths, that is 15 yrs x 20 = 300, if you count kindergarten and two years of preschool). You now multiply that with the number of children in your family.

5. Put three or four that are similar together and choose only one out of the lot.

6. Of course, the obvious, take pictures of the artworks! Include the artist in the picture.

7. Use as wrapping paper.

8. Send some to Grandma. And some to Great-grandma.

9. Cut out some (if they will cooperate!) and use to make nice cards.

10. Buy a display folder and display the best. Ask your child to help you choose the ones to put in the display folder.

11. Once you have a collection of digital photos, make a photo book every 2 or 3 years. This will also make a great gift.

I like writing the name of the child on the back of the paper, plus the date. I've just started writing a sentence to go with the artwork as well.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Give Away Box

I have a box in my bedroom that is ready to go to Vinnies*. It's the Permanent Give Away Box. There's a nice Vinnies up the road, with nice old friendly ladies volunteering there. The box gets filled up with things that I no longer need.

Once it gets full, I put it on the pram and go for a walk up the road and donate the box.

It's a bit messy having a box out permanently, but I find if it's not in there, it's all too easy to put whatever I no longer need back in storage.

One downside is that the kids sometimes rummage through it and suddenly decide something is their new favourite toy. So I usually try and disguise it with an old item of clothing on top. Or put a lid on the box. Or get it out the door quick - during their sleep time.

It's good to not think too much about it! I try to follow my guts. I haven't used it, I don't really like it goes. Don't think about how much it cost, who gave it to you, how the kids used to play with it etc. Because more often than not, I'm not going to miss it. In fact, I don't think I can even remember what was in last week's box.

*St Vincent de Paul's: a charity store. I think Americans call them Goodwill stores. There's a few others in Sydney like Anglicare and Salvos (Salvation Army), usually run by a church, selling secondhand goods to help the disadvantaged. They always welcome donations - clothes, books, toys, kitchen stuff - but not big white goods.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My House is not All White & Minimalist

I wish it was!

I'm working on it - as one box leaves the house each box of unused things. Things that others can use. Things that I don't need to hold on to indefinitely.

Husband is always saying to me, "Watch out, people will come over and look at our place and say, 'This is not Minimalist!'"

Very true. We have our messes and piles. A few...or six.

The next few projects are:

1. Desk

2. Kids play area - this is almost untameable!!!

3. Photos & Negatives

4. Camping gear

I've tackled the filing cabinet and I am proud to say that I was not defeated! :) I am now giving it away to a friend. I've transferred all our papers into folders. Not exactly minimalist (as I have ten (!)), but definitely less bulky than a filing cabinet. And easier to file and access. They are also lime green, which is a very attractive colour.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


We don't have a TV. It's something we often "brag" about. ;)

See link here to the onion article: (Thanks BB).

When we got married ten years ago, we didn't buy a TV straight away because we wanted to "just talk" and "focus on our relationship". It lasted six months (!)

Ten years on, and we don't have a TV again...mostly because we bought a new (second-hand) lounge and it was a tad big for our tiny living room. It is a modular corner lounge, and it covered the TV socket on the wall. So for a few days, the TV kind of just hung around, getting in the way, not plugged in...and then the light went on. Why keep it? Why not get rid of it?

Now, we quite enjoy not having one.

Here are some of my reasons why:

More time - For me, it was such a time-waster. I would watch at least one show every night. Sometimes even two. It was becoming a very bad habit - of thinking I could only unwind and relax in front of the TV.

More fun stuff - With the "spare" time, we've now started doing some fun stuff. Husband has taken up a new hobby - guitar - and is even getting lessons. I read a lot more, listen to music, and have started some serious decluttering! (and writing about it on this blog).

Good for the kids - It's less "just-sitting-there" activity, less advertising, and less fighting over what to watch (with the big age gap & gender difference, my kids watch different things). More time for them to just be, play, and make things. I am very lucky to have a massive I just lock them out there for the afternoon.

Less furniture - I've only got a lounge & a sideboard in my living room. I don't need another bulky piece of furniture to house the TV, DVD player and remotes.

Less dusting - as above.

Less electricity - I hear that the flat screens are huge energy suckers.

Less worry - if I spent a fair bit of money on a nice flat screen, I would worry about the kids damaging it, or it being stolen. But with less stuff, there's not much you would steal here. ;)

Miss Minimalist talks about no TV here
The Minimalists talk about it too here

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Soy Chicken

You can either bake this or fry/stew on stove-top. Of course, I prefer baking - in the oven - then finished!

Chicken Middle Wing 2 kg
Rice to serve
1 cup vinegar
1 cup soy sauce (dark)
1 cup sugar

1. Mix the three cups of ingredients. Set aside.
2. Place chicken in a big oven dish. Pour mixture over chicken.
3. Bake in oven at 180C until done. (1.5 hrs approx).
4. Serve with rice & steamed greens.

*For some fanciness, sprinkle sesame seeds (as in the picture). :)

Recipe: Japanese Curry (Vegetarian)

Again, very very easy. And you use whatever veg you've got in the house. All you need is the curry block and rice. Enjoy! :)

Japanese Curry Block
Veg (onion, carrot, zucchini, potato, green beans, broccoli etc)

1. Fry the veg with a bit of oil.
2. Add just enough water to cover the veg.
3. Add the curry block. Lower the heat. Stir until nice and thick.
4. Serve with rice.

*You could add beef chunks and fry that up first, before the veggies.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Minimalist Recipe: Chicken Roast

Everybody has their way of doing roast...and of course, your mum's roast will always be the best! But I wanted to share my roast ideas, as it is dead-simple, and a one tray recipe. I love simplicity of roast. One meal, all in one, all in the oven, all done!

Chicken Roast

You need:
2 whole chickens
olive oil
some veg (potato, onion, carrot, pumpkin, green beans*)

1. Wash the chicken, pat them dry. Lay out on tray.
2. Rub a little bit of olive oil on the chicken.
3. Sprinkle salt on top (lots!)
4. Round up whatever veg you've got, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on top.
5. Put the whole tray in the oven on low (160C) for about 1.5-2 hrs.
6. Microwave the beans with a bit of water. Don't put these in the oven!

Of course, if you wanted to go fancy, you can cut up a lemon, and put it in the cavity of the chicken. You could also get some bacon or pancetta (Italian bacon) and mix it with some fresh breadcrumbs and put it in beneath the skin of the chicken breast...but then, you wouldn't be a Minimalist Cook, would you?? ;)

Everybody has a weakness

Everybody has a weakness.

Everybody has that One thing you can't help but accumulate. It might be teapots, or black dresses, or bikes (Husband). But for me, it's kids books. I can't stop buying kids books. I love picture books. Of course, I try to shop mostly at op-shops and so minimise the demand for new things. But I also love buying online (Book Depository). I can't help it.

What to do, what to do...

I've read about the 100 Things Challenge online, where people are trying to get down to owning only a 100 things, but they often count books in One Lot. I guess they can't help it either!

Some ideas:

1. I will round up all the kids books in the house and actually do some counting. When I see how many I own already, maybe I won't feel the need to buy more!!

2. I love using the local library. So instead of feeling the need to own Every Good Kids Book, I will borrow more. You could also make suggestions to the librarian if they don't have a particular author you really like. At my local library, you can borrow 25 per card (so with my two kids, we can borrow 75!).

3. Edit, edit edit - and just keep the very best. Not "Mr" and "Miss" books. They are dreadful! Have you ever tried to read them out loud? I want to just keep the very best e.g. Dr De Soto (William Steig), Where the Wild Things are (Maurice Sendak), Willy the Wimp (Anthony Brown) etc.
4. Donate to good friends - it's often easier to be "generous" and give to people around you. So if I have a double up of something, or a couple of books that are very similiar (for e.g I have about 7 Miffy books & 18 Peter Rabbit books), then I can give them away. That is, if they don't mind second hand books.

5. Enlist the help of your children - they can go through the books with me and donate the ones they don't read anymore. It's good for me to teach them to Edit, and to Give.

6. Give yourself a physical limit (this is a good tip from Byron) - so I have given myself a small bookcase for the kids books. If they don't fit, some gotta go. One in, one out!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Delhi Chicken

This is a new favourite. A friend recommended the Curry Masters range from the local Indian deli. It is about $4 a box (feeds 4). You can use the slow-cooker or just cook it on the stove top.

Chicken Thigh
Delhi Chicken powder (add 300 ml water)
Coconut Cream
Coriander to garnish (optional)

1. Brown the chicken with a little bit of oil.
2. Add the powder mixture.
3. Add coconut cream at the end.
4. Serve with rice & garnish with coriander.

It tastes even better the day after! I think this is what we'll be serving up for lunch when friends come round. Of course we can only invite friends who eat Indian. :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wearing One Outfit

I wore one outfit for 9 days straight last winter. And no-one noticed or cared!!! (including Husband - hahaha). I was going through a brain-dead period without enough sleep. The kids were taking turns getting up at night. So one morning I thought, why not? I like this outfit. Eliminate one more decision I gotta make in the morning. So it became my Uniform.

The Outfit
Black dress
Black leggings
Cream knit cardigan
Ugg boots

Pretty bland and boring, but that's the beauty of it! It was my Uniform.

I washed it after Day 5.

Here is a link to Radical Minimalist, a 26 year old blogger from Chicago, who ditched everything, job, house, Stuff, and is now roaming the world with a Minimalist view on life. She writes about wearing the same outfit to work every day for seven weeks. She doesn't talk about laundry however...I do wonder if she washed it once or twice a week?? And how she dried it overnight. Maybe she just wore it for 5 days straight. Girls don't sweat/stink that much!
Here: Radical Minimalist

When I put it up on FB as my status back then, I got a few interesting responses. From "What, you are disgusting!? We can't be friends" to "I applaude you. You are obviously from the future, because in the future, everyone will be wearing uniforms"

Hilarious :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Minimalist Cooking: Chocolate Truffles

Dead easy recipe: even I can do this! :) And I love these.

Chocolate Truffles

200g sweet biscuits - crumbs
1 can condensed skim milk
150g dark chocolate - chopped
shredded coconut

1. Crumbs in a large bowl
2. Heat condensed milk and choc in pan, low heat, until choc melt
3. Pour over crumbs
4. Chill for 10 minutes until firm
5. Roll mixture into little balls, roll in coconut
6. Refrigerate and eat cold


*Please note: your truffles will probably look like the one second from the left.

Minimalist Cooking: 3 week Menu Plan

At this stage of my life, cooking means fast, simple and nutritious meals. It's not fancy or expensive. This means I am not using ingredients like Rhubarb, vanilla bean or saffron!!

I have a three week rotating menu. I'm working on minimising waste, and saving money and time. I think to make things simpler, I would like to eventually do a one week menu e.g. Monday is fish, Tuesday is pasta, Wednesday is vegetarian etc.

Also, I would like to move towards a more veggo diet, i.e., 5 days veggo, 1 day fish and 1 day meat. However, I have a carnivore Husband who thinks vegetarian dishes are just pre-dinner snacks. Reform will happen slowly... ;)

Week 1

1. Spaghetti bolognese
2. Fish
3. Japanese Curry (Veg)
4. Cream pasta
5. Roast chicken
6. BBQ
7. Leftovers

Week 2

1. Ja Jjang Noodles (Chinese black bean noodles)
2. Stir fry noodles (Veg)
3. Chicken Noodle Soup
4. Lasagna
5. Crumbed Chicken
6. BBQ
7. Leftovers

Week 3

1. Fried Rice (Veg)
2. Pizza
3. Sausage Roll
4. Soy Garlic Chicken
5. Roast Lamb
6. BBQ
7. Leftovers

These recipes are very simple. They require minimal cooking...minimal effort, time and ingredients! You probably already have the ingredients in your pantry.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why I am a Minimalist

My sister-in-law asked me today why I wanted to be a Minimalist...I started to explain, going off in various tangents, and before I knew it, her eyes were glazed over!!! ;)

I need to work out a succinct way of explaining, to grab their attention, and to interestingly present the case FOR minimalism.

1. Essentially, I have Enough. I am content. It is a lie that we need to acquire more stuff to be Happy.

2. It is better for the environment, and socially, it is responsible. I cannot keep consuming, and the economy cannot keep growing. The resources are finite, and I cannot keep buying/using/disposing indefinitely. (This is the extent of my understanding of Economics 101).

3. With minimalist lifestyle I have less to clean, dust, wash, wipe, sort through, insure, play with, pack away and essentially less stress over Stuff.

4. Janet Jackson is right! The best things in life are free: the sunshine, the smile of your spouse, the smell of your kids' hair, a cup of tea with a good friend*, the swing at the park, a bike ride around the beach & eternal life through Jesus. All free!!!

*might cost you 20 cents. :)

Ja Jjang Myun (Chinese Black Bean Noodles)

This is an Asian version of the Bolognese. Essentially the same ingredients, you just need Ja Jjang powder. They are available from Asian grocery stores.

It looks like this.

Mince (beef or pork)
Ja Jjang powder
1 onion
whatever veg you've got (carrot, zucchini, cabbage)

1. Fry the onion & mince.
2. Add & fry the veg (grated).
3. Add a little bit of water (1 to 1.5 cups).
4. Add the powder. Simmer until it becomes a nice & thick sauce.
5. Serve with Chinese white noodles.

Dead Easy Spaghetti

I have stopped using tinned tomatoes and tomato paste. I find it a bit bitter & strong in flavour. A friend introduced me to the Passata - Italian jar of smooth mashed tomatoes. It is sweet. Also, I used to hate chucking out half used tins of tomato paste. So this is a one-jar recipe.

You need:
1 onion
grated veg (carrot, zucchini)
1 jar of Passata
1 bag of dried pasta

1. Brown the mince and onion.
2. Add grated veg. & Passata
3. Serve with cooked pasta

Every Monday we have Pasta (it seems), as Tuesday is my shopping day, which means there's not much left in the pantry.

You can buy 12 jars of Passata from the Italian fruit & veg shop for $13.