Stuff With Thing

Christmas Cookies and Biscuits

Posted by: Marita on: November 25, 2014

Last year for the girl’s teacher gifts we made up gift bags full of biscuits and cookies. It wasn’t planned, Annie had been having a bad week and was very stressed. Baking is excellent therapy for stress, so she and I spent the day cooking together.

We made (clockwise, starting at midday): Sugar Cookie Christmas Trees, Chilli Cheese Biscuits, Chocolate Shortbread Hearts, Gingerbread people (made with Heidi) and Chocolate Chews. Not pictured, but also made, were Florentine Biscuits.

Christmas Gingerbread Cookie

We wrapped the cookies in cellophane and ribbon, cellophane bags would have been easier but I didn’t have any on hand. I made tags for each packet of biscuits using the cookie cutters (ie gingerbread people tags for the gingerbread cookies), the girls stamped Christmas images on one side and I wrote what sort of biscuit/cookie it was on the other side.

Chilli Cheese Biscuit

Annie’s hand down favourite was the Chilli Cheese Biscuits, they were really delicious and using a good quality butter and Parmesan cheese certainly made a big impact on the flavour.

Chilli Cheese Biscuits (recipe from Family Circle “Best Ever Christmas New Gifts & Ideas” book)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup self raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 125g butter, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Milk, for glazing
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to moderate 180C. Brush oven trays with melted butter or oil (I used baking paper instead). Sift plain and self raising flours, mustard and chilli into a bowl. Add chopped butter.
  2. Using finger tips, rub butter into flour for 2 minutes or until mixture is a fine crumbly texture…. or if you have sensory issues, pop the flour, chilli, mustard and butter into a food processor and blitz till mixture is a fine crumbly texture.
  3. Add almost all the water, mix to a soft dough, adding more water if necessary.
  4. Turn onto lightly floured surface, knead for 1 minute or until smooth, shape dough into a log, 5cm in diameter. Store, covered with plastic wrap, in fridge for 15 minutes.
  5. Using a sharp knife cut log into 3mm thick rounds. Place on oven trays, allowing room for spreading.
  6. Brush rounds with milk, sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden, loosen, cool on trays for 5 minutes.
  8. Transfer to wire rack to completely cool.

Chilli Cheese Biscuits can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Dough can be frozen for up to 2 months.

Once we had prepared all our biscuits and wrapped them up into little parcels, I filled gift bags with a selection of each type of biscuit and the girls wrote cards to their teachers, aides and other support staff at school. The whole thing was quite unplanned and turned out much better than I thought it would when we started cooking.

Biscuits wrapped in cellophane and ribbon

Gift bags of cookies

All I want for Christmas

Posted by: Marita on: November 19, 2014

Disclaimer: I received a free Little Live Pets toy to review, all opinions are my own.

Heidi really really REALLY wants a pet for Christmas.

But with all our allergies and the memories of the depressing experience of adopting Oz the Cat only to find we were too allergic to keep him, well I’m steering clear of real pets for now.

However there is a great solution in the toy aisle, a allergy free pet that interacts with you.

A Little Live Pet from Moose Toys, totally adorable and totally allergy friendly.

20141029_161604-EFFECTS

I was a bit worried the noise would get annoying, but it doesn’t, thankfully.

Heidi is rather smitten and has taken her new pet to school with her, walked around the shops, it sleeps on her bedside table and generally has been a constant companion.

I’m rather thrilled :)

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Halloween Giveaway

Posted by: Marita on: October 8, 2014

Disclaimer: This is a giveaway post for Warner Bros Halloween Costumes, I received two costumes as a gift. All opinions are my own.

Heidi is pretty excited about Halloween this year we’ve got our decorations up already.

Halloween Decorations

As you may know Batman holds a special place in our hearts and Heidi is going as Batgirl (complete with very pink costume which she just adores), Annie was less than impressed with the girls costumes on offer, saying they were either not scary enough, too revealing or not accurate. However the Warner Bros Joker costume was an instant hit, deemed both accurate and scary enough :)

It can be tricky finding the right costume, especially if your children are like mine and have very definite ideas about what they want to wear. Heidi wants to be girly and in pink, Annie wants accuracy and scary. Lucky for us the Warner Bros costume range has something for everyone.


On to the giveaway.

We have a very cool teen Batgirl costume to giveaway to one lucky reader. Heidi has deemed it almost as awesome as pink Batgirl :)

Teen Bat Girl Costume

To Enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me what is the funniest trick you have played on someone.
  • Most interesting answers, as chosen by my husband wins.
  • There will only be one winner.
  • Australian entries only please.
  • Competition closes 6pm Monday 20th October 2014 AEDST

 

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Entertaining one child while the other is swimming

Posted by: Marita on: September 12, 2014

A while ago I asked on facebook for ideas of how to entertain Heidi poolside while Annie swims, given Annie is swimming every other day this is become a bit of a huge thing in our lives.

I thought I would report back on how we have gone.  Colouring in has proved successful, as has building Lego sets (when I can find them on special), recreating our Lego constructions in Minecraft was also fun. Origami (pictured above) not so great, water and paper don’t mix well.

 

Recreating Lego Helicopter in Minecraft

Poolside Entertainment Lego and Minecraft

 

Now the weather is getting better Heidi and I will wander around outside and play, with occasional check ins to see how Annie is going. I enjoy the spy games much more than the metal detecting, especially as Heidi has such a vivid imagination that playing pretend games like “spies” is lots of fun (unlike the high pitched beeping of the metal detector).

Spy games

Metal Detector

 

Imagination games also lead to sitting down and drawing stories of the games we just played.  Like this one, an evil robber kidnapped me, Heidi used her metal detector to find where I was being held, then we all celebrated defeating the robber.

Imagination game story
Fun times had by all. :) Thank you for the fantastic suggestions. It really has helped make what was becoming a stressful time be fun and relaxing.

We lost Heidi

Posted by: Marita on: September 10, 2014

Only briefly but it was still heart stopping scary.

We’ve been going out to the market on Sunday mornings to do our weekly shopping, it works so much better for the whole family. Being outdoors the noise doesn’t echo and there is no music playing through shop speakers, occasionally there is a performer singing or playing a guitar but outside in the open air it is less of a sensory assault.  Whilst it is crowded there is not the sensory overload of being in a building crowded by people. It just seems to work, the girls, myself, husband are all more calm and relaxed.

A couple of weeks ago we found a stall at the market selling books and of course had to stop to take a look, husband, Annie and I all got busy looking for books and when I looked up to do a head count, there was only 3 of us, not 4. No Heidi.

Two minutes of checking out the stalls around us and we found her at the flower stall, entranced by the pretty colours.  So drawn to the flowers was she that Heidi forgot to tell any of us where she was going. Sigh.

Scary two minutes, a good reminder that wandering happens faster than you realise and one of us always needs to have our eye on Heidi.

The flowers were pretty though and just what we were looking for out near our front door.

‘opposite day’

Posted by: Marita on: September 6, 2014

Tree Bark Divergent

The erudite are stupid

The abnegation are vain

The candor are sarcastic

Dauntless are making daisy chains

The amity are at war

And when you look to find a friend

You go to the factionless

And you see yourself instead

#divergent


The poem and image were originally shared by Annie on her instagram account and are her original work. Reproduced here with permission.

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Garden Gifts

Posted by: Marita on: September 1, 2014

My lovely brother sent me some money for my birthday and I was able to use it to finally put together my dream veggie patch.

We had this empty space you can see above that was usually buried under leaves from the neighbours tree, which they thoughtfully cut back recently. Suddenly this shady spot was spending most of the day bathed in lovely sunshine.

Veggie Garden on a Budget

We got the pine box from Bunnings as well as the soil and veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and silverbeet/chard). I can’t wait to start sampling our home grown produce. :)

While I was outside setting up the veggie garden, husband found two old speaker stands in our shed, they were made of black iron and we had not used them in years. We had been discussing how to cheer up our front door area:

Front Door Before

It occurred to me that the speaker stands could be re-purposed as pot plant stands and with a bit of enamel spray paint to match the screen and window trim they were ready. We found some self watering pots in Bunnings (important as I often forget to water pot plants) and ta-da a lovely cheerful front porch.

Front Door After

Complete with enough jasmine to set your allergies aflame.

Jasmine

My next mission, the garden bed of DOOM.

Massive Garden MakeOver

How do you tell an Autistic child their Dad is in hospital?

Posted by: Marita on: August 27, 2014

This is the question that consumed my sleep Monday night last week…. well technically early Tuesday morning. I wasn’t sure how much the children, especially Heidi would take in, sometimes she fixates on the one word and the rest of what you say is lost.

Around midnight my husband got up to go to bed and had a fall, he woke me up, but he was a bit… not right, he didn’t know why he fell and I thought it best to call the ambulance. An hour later he was on his way to hospital, we later found out he had a mini stroke.

I stayed at home with the children, both of whom had slept through all the (scary) excitement, thank goodness. This gave me four hours to ponder the best way to tell them Daddy was in hospital, much improved by the time the ambulance took off with him thankfully and subsequently being a bit of a smart arse on twitter whilst he waited for the painfully slow process of hospital admission.

Knowing my children a visual image was going to help them best, but any Boardmaker cards would likely get mislaid as both children are far more absentminded when distressed. The same for soft toys, notes etc. Given Heidi’s already extreme separation anxiety I needed to reduce things she had to worry about as much as possible. I wasn’t sure if losing whatever visual prompt I gave her would trigger further meltdown.

In the end I decided to draw a smiley face on the back of their hands and pair it with the words “Daddy is okay”, I chose a blue sharpie because of the calming nature of the colour blue. That was what I did first, then told them what had happened overnight, referring back to the smiley face on their hands and the phrase “Daddy is okay.”

Turned out to be a challenging conversation (unsurprisingly), Annie in particular got very distressed, her greater knowledge of what could happen equals great anxiety. Heidi couldn’t really process it, she fixed on the smiley face and the phrase “Daddy is okay” and went to have breakfast. Which served to further distress her sister due to her apparent callous reaction. Heidi’s processing delay was a great relief as it left me free to focus on Annie’s needs.

I made sure both children’s teachers and aide were aware of the exact wording of the phrase and the smiley face, as well as what had happened overnight, also warned Heidi’s teacher/aide about the possibility of delayed reaction in class.

In the end things worked out okay, husband was home again a couple of days later. But I did notice both girls were careful not to wash the smiley faces off their hands until Daddy was home again.

Everything keeps happening

Posted by: Marita on: August 17, 2014

The circle of life or something like that. Everything that happens has happened before.

I didn’t expect to be facing severe separation anxiety again, but here we are, some triggering issues set us on this path again. Our school counselor (a fully trained child psychologist, what a blessing that is) and I had a very long chat, we’ve got sessions booked in with our private psychologist as well. Routine, worry ladders, visuals of safe places and safe things, sleepless nights, melatonin, structure, hugs, love and lots of patience. Any and all ideas to help would be most gratefully accepted.

Annie is growing up so fast, soon we need to seriously start looking at high schools, so scary. She is swimming 4 times a week, looking at swimming club next term, she wants to compete. Swimming is her obsession, she feels at one with the water, calmer, happier after a swim. I’m no longer allowed to blog or write on social media about Annie, unless she has read and approved first. This is good, it is her life, her story to tell. I’m so proud of the mature young person she is becoming and I adore the duality that is 11 years old, child and teen, best captured in this image of two books Annie was reading recently.

Anne Frank Diary

We got Heidi an early Christmas present, an apple tree, she has been asking for it all year and I thought it would be best planted now, before the hot summer months. Our veggie garden is looking amazing and we are starting to enjoy small amounts of food from it. We’ve got a dwarf lemon tree in a pot, Heidi is already planning her lemonade stand :grin:. I do love that my girls are moving away from wanting stuff and are learning instead to appreciate the beauty of gifts that keep giving, like our garden, and gifts of experiences that can enrich their lives, like travel to see family interstate.

Our Supermarket Less, plastic free (well plastic less) challenges continue. I’ve sacrificed my Sunday morning sleep in so I can get to the market each week. Going early means I miss the crowds and the stall holders still have loads of stock to choose from. I do miss that sleep in though. Between the market, the bakery and our Little Creek Beef orders we don’t need much from the supermarket. A friend has started a coffee bean delivery company so we are giving their coffee a try this month, the Il Caramello Coffee Blend sounded too good to resist.

Our energy saving challenge continues as well. I’m taking daily electricity meter readings and recording the days high and low temperatures, along with what appliances were used that day. After a week without our washing machine I’m curious to see how much more energy we use as I catch up on all the laundry.

So many challenges :) Hopefully they will combine to make our life better. I will say shopping at the outdoor market is so much more pleasant than being stuck inside the local supermarket, I walk away happy and smiling with my market trolley full of fresh produce.

A rambling post today, catching up on things I’ve talked about over the last few weeks and months. Forgive me for not being more specific, the words flutter around but they are hard to catch and write down.

I hope you are well, I hope life hold good things for you and that when sadness visits you have friends and supports to help.

Origin Energy, Your Questions Answered

Posted by: Marita on: August 11, 2014

Before my visit to Origin Energy last week I asked my readers and friends if they had any questions I could ask on their behalf.

Here are the questions and answers:

The Little Lioness: How much are they investing in renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Origin Energy are the largest energy retailer in Australia, they are a bit unique among Aussie energy retailers as they also have interests in energy exploration and generation.

Personally I think we need to encourage an increase in renewable energy, one way to do this is for more consumers to switch to Green Energy, as demand increases so will investment in these renewable energy sources.

Thanks to the team at Origin Energy for this handy graphic that breaks down Australia’s current electricity mix:

Australia Electricity Mix

The Diary of Joni & Anya: Wow, just read your post, what an achievement. Can you please ask Origin why should we pick their solar panels over other suppliers? Thanks!

This question generated a really complicated discussion and the end result was that each home varies and to talk about your specific needs it would be best to contact Origin Energy direct. Their social media channels (facebook / twitter) can usually respond within 20 minutes of you contacting them (between 7am and 9pm Monday to Friday) or check the Origin Energy website for phone / email.

Hot Tip: Their call centre is busiest on Monday and quietest on Friday, if you want to spend less time on hold, call on Friday.

Jeanette: When are bills going down to $200 a quarter lol

We all wish those days would return. Check out some of the energy saving ideas here to help reduce your bills.

Suburp: Leaving chargers plugged in (w no device) & stand by PC /TV/microwave clocks…do they impact your bill ?

Short answer, yes it does.

Long answer; If your device chargers feel hot when they are plugged in (with no device attached), then they are still using energy and adding to your bill. Newer device chargers have been designed not to use energy other than when the device is attached and charging. So that is a simple way to check those.

Stand by devices DO use power when in standby mode, however the newer the item the less power it will use. The average yearly stand by cost to Australian households is about $250.
 

Maid in Australia: I have a small solar power thingy on my roof (8 or 9 panels). When I first moved here, I had solar credits but never have any now. Why is that? Also if it’s sunny and you are using the electricity more – eg, doing the washing and cooking – does that mean you are using the solar and therefore getting better value for money?

If you have solar panels it is best to use all the energy during the day while the sun is out and make the best use of all that delicious environmentally friendly (and bill friendly) solar power.

Solar panels are usually interconnected and only pull as much power as the panel generating the LEAST amount of power (technical thingy, you might need to talk to your power company to work this out), so if one panel isn’t getting as much sun or doing the job properly that may be an issue. Talk to your power company :).


Origin Energy have a question for YOU: what’s that one thing that you would like to see in your energy company.

Leave a comment here or you can let Origin know directly on Facebook or Twitter or give them a ring.

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