Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yoghurt Oatmeal Muffins aka the yummiest muffins ever aside from those pumpkin ones!


So last week I mentioned those muffins we made.

They were, of course, a hit with all residents here and were demolished in about 2 days.

Because they are that good.

(I always say this but PLEASE let me know if you make any recipes I suggest. It thrills me to no end)

I originally got the recipe from this blog WAAAAAAYYYY back in the day (I've been blogging forever) but I see she's made her blog private.

This is why you should always PRINT your favourites and stick them in a flipfile, which is exactly what I do.

My printout is dated 28 May 2007!!!

Anyway, I'm going to tell you how I make them.

1 cup oats (any, I'm not fussy)
1 cup yoghurt (again, anything although the recipe says plain yoghurt, I like to jazz it up with a flavoured yoghurt. The flavour is very subtle = DELICIOUS! Last week I had strawberry so strawberry it was)
1 egg
1/2 cup oil (I always put slightly less oil in any recipe - like 50 ml - somehow it makes me feel more virtuous? and fill it with milk)
1/2 cup sugar (same here - I used 3/4 cup which is plenty of sugar)
1 1/4 cup self-raising flour (or plain flour plus 1 tsp baking powder)
Any extras you like is optional - 1 banana, chocolate chips, raisins (last week I threw in a large handful of raisins)

  • Preheat oven to 220 Celsius (mine is a VERY hot oven - like its owner, hahaha - so I turn it down to 180 once it reaches 220 for the actual baking)
  • Mix the oats and yoghurt and leave in the fridge for about 30 mins.
  • Stir in egg, oil, sugar and the flour last
  • Remember with muffins, no over-mixing, just enough to combine
  • I find that I need a little bit of milk at the end. Just a splash. You'll feel it when you can stir comfortably.

I use muffin liners and I spray "Spray and Cook"/ "Cook and Bake" (whichever is cheapest when I need to buy a can) (Pam for the US girls) into each cup.

They make 12 large muffins. I usually make 6 large and 12 mini ones because the kids like the novelty of the small ones... and they're MUCH cuter!

The recipe says it takes 20 minutes. I say stay in the kitchen and check from 12 minutes onwards if you have a hot oven like mine, definitely from 15 minutes with normal ovens. Stick in a toothpick and if it's clean, take them out. Don't let them overdry.


please excuse my muffin pan. it is very well-loved. I have a new pan too but that one doesn't work as well...

Everyone will gobble them up and you'll have to make another batch tomorrow.

The recipe says they're good for 3 days on the counter. They've never lasted that long around these parts :)

And now, since it's the last day of the month, D and I are doing date night 3, Up in the air (LOVED it when we saw at the movies), so we're going to enjoy some of those muffins and a nice mug of tea.

How was your Saturday?

I'll have to find and link to the amazing pumpkin ones. I can't find it on my Pinterest board!!!

Friday, May 30, 2014

I had a great Friendship Friday post planned... but things I love instead

but I've been party planning, wrapping up the "work" month and listening to podcasts and here we are - 11:30.


Let me rather do a quick one.

Lynette, you've given a ton of us something fun to blog about today. Thanks!

Okay, so things I love and things I don't.

I love...

  1. sleep
  2. jumping into my bed on a cold night because of my electric blanket
  3. Joko tea and when I want to treat myself, vanilla tea
  4. grey skies full of drama!
  5. Jhb sunsets
  6. gloves and scarves
  7. scrappy friends (term from Friends - friends who won't let you go)
  8. water with lemon
  9. stationery!
  10. gorgeous doors
  11. chicken breyani
  12. colour
  13. stamping in crunchy leaves
  14. key changes in songs!
  15. the beach
  16. crisp, cold air on my face in winter
  17. the exclamation mark
  18. worship
  19. the sound of rain
  20. reading, esp. Irish fiction - I particularly like it when I get to that place in a book and then it's "fend for yourself" time because I'm not putting this book down!
  21. the internet
  22. when I'm coaching or assessing at church and I ask the right question and people have that "OH MY WORD" moment = priceless
  23. I like having those moments too :)
  24. connecting with friends
  25. people who care
  26. finding the perfect-sized mug for my tea and coffee (they're different)
  27. financial freedom
  28. good hair days
  29. when I can keep up in Zumba and show those 16-year-olds :)
  30. thin days
  31. creamy pastas
  32. Doppio Zero's brie and onion marmalade pizza
  33. warm puddings with custard
  34. muffins
  35. blogging
  36. Instagram
  37. banging on and on about my passions :)
  38. taking a photo and finding out it is exactly as I saw it in real life
  39. the vibe of cities
  40. beautiful light 
  41. shadows
  42. people who aren't afraid to be vulnerable
  43. people who embrace their imperfections

Things I don't love
  1. waking up in the cold - brrrr
  3. driving more than 30 minutes
  4. mean girls
  5. rude kids
  6. when my brain goes overboard about nonsense
  7. how I have to work at my confidence after that dreadful year
  8. peas
  9. watermelon
  10. parents who don't RSVP
  11. people who butcher the poor apostrophe, their/ they're and there, and your/ you're  
  12. Twitter!
As you can see, I can go on forever. But that's enough for now!

What do you love and what don't you love?

PS obviously I love God, D, the kids, etc. That's a given.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Your questions for my wrap-up post?

*** I edited last night's post and linked to those instagrammers properly - amazing what a real keyboard will let you do!


I want to write one more post on grocery shopping and so on.... to wrap up the whole series.

Also, I've been managing our grocery budget for the month of May. I want to add up all the slips and see if I managed to save us any money or if we've gone worse (it's entirely possible - there was one bad week when I went shopping on an empty stomach).

Please put your last questions on this post, especially if I haven't answered them sufficiently in the comments.

Some of you have been noticeably quiet - I want to hear from the Americans too! :)

Mandy, share your tips!!!

PS Sam, thanks for giving such nice feedback on the last post!
PPS right, off to gym!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - 5 of my favourite instagrammers (part 1)

Posting this from the iPad. Hopefully they still display well. Will fix on "proper" computer tomorrow.

this lady's feed is just gorgeous - all snippets of NYC - makes you want to NOT ignore the FlightCentre emails. She has 278 000 followers!!!

This is a mom of 4 from Germany - I love the colour of her feed - and how she just celebrates life with FOOD!
Nella's a travel blogger of note, obviously from Finland.One minute she's in one country, and the next day she's in another. I live vicariously through her :)
Our own Gareth Pon. He was a speaker at the Epson talk and is SUCH a nice guy despite having hundreds of thousands of followers. Started following him the next day. He's currently in Amsterdam :)
And then he linked to his food feed the other day. OH MY YUM. Such beautifully styled photos and yummy food. I'm very curious as you know (I consider it a strength!) so it's fun to see where in Jhb he's eating and what he likes to eat!
Based on what you know about me, any others I should be following?
PS As I was typing I realised there's definitely going to be a part 2 and maybe a part 3 too!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Unintended consequences of "just leaving"

Me "just leaving" has been so very interesting.

A social experiment almost.

There's the good things about being home but no-one wants to hear about that so I'll get onto the not-so-good bits, of which there are 3 that immediately spring to mind.

1. friends are few

What's that saying, "when days are dark, friends are few". I feel like I need to rewrite that to say, "when drama is gone, friends are few".

It's early days but I can count on 3 fingers (!) friends who have checked on me, one of whom is my boss from the old team, not the disaster team. It's a little bit (okay, I lie - a LOT) discouraging but what can you do. And yes, I have been contacting others.

It just makes me wonder if I've been too vulnerable and open, and people were hooked on the hell-hole that my life had become? I don't know.

2. people keep asking me if I've got another job yet

I'll admit this one ticks me off, along with the "lady of leisure" comments.

I am not looking. At all. But I'm working very hard.

I stumbled upon a place I want to work at, if things fall into place, but not looking yet.

I suppose it's just the normal thing people ask, but in my mind, I'm still healing.

3.  I miss interacting with people

I'm still coaching only on one day a week so there's that, but otherwise, aside from social media, which doesn't do it for me.

On my "assessments" it says I have a high need for social extension and I'm feeling it badly!

Which is why I'm really looking forward to meeting up with Laura tomorrow.

What are you looking forward to doing tomorrow?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Let's talk money - cleaning stuff and toiletries

Loosely, anything we can buy at PnP is classified as groceries so things we don't get there and get at Clicks/ Dischem are:
  1. our prescriptions
  2. some vitamins
  3. make-up, etc.
Again, if PnP stocks it, we get it there for three reasons: 1) we don't like the schlep of multiple stores  2) it often costs you more (your time is worth more than paying R1-2 more at PnP, and the inevitable things that land in your trolley from going to Clicks)  and 3) Vitality points are higher at PnP than at Clicks!

(still I get about R360 in Clicks club card points every 3 months so we still shop there quite a bit! note to self - stop buying nail polish!!!)

Right, so onto the cleaning stuff.

I am a marketer's dream. I could walk down that cleaning aisle (and often do, which is why this month I'm doing online shopping to keep me out of the shops!) and buy everything just to try out new products.


Here are the things we do buy:
  1. toilet rolls (obviously)
  2. the stuff in the photo (except the Mr Muscle and the Handy Andy bottle - I'm working through my "stash" of cleaning things). As you can see, D is obsessed with killing insects :)
  3. bleach
  4. toilet cleaner - the gel
  5. washing powder
  6. white vinegar
  7. stuff in the photos below

  1. I buy one Mr Muscle kitchen cleaner that lasts us forever because I dilute it 1 part: 3 parts water... and yes, it's still strong enough to do its thing on my kitchen counters. My current one is from Oct and we still have to use the last bit in the original bottle.
  2. I use white vinegar instead of fabric softener. No, it doesn't make your clothes smell. Your clothes just smell... clean. I use 1/4 cup per load. I haven't made washing powder yet and that's only because I wouldn't know where to buy borax (remember, if PnP doesn't stock it, it mostly doesn't exist for me *the shame*). I'm not fussy with washing powder because I haven't seen a marked difference in results, so I take the PnP brand. Maybe the vinegar makes a difference here?
  3. I use these things. My goal is to transition to just a few essential cleaning products so I don't need a bathroom cleaner, shower cleaner, kitchen cleaner, etc.

You use just 5 ml in a 750 ml bottle of water. Shake it all up and go clean.

We've been using this stuff over a year and my original bottles are still mostly full. They cost about R75 initially (for both) but look how long they last.

(it's also kid-friendly and kind to the environment, etc, etc. if you're concerned about those kinds of things. I am slightly hippy so I am)

Initially I bought these things at work because we were still having toilet training accidents and have I told you I'm obsessed with clean bathrooms?! 

Now I see PnP sells them too so all is good with the world.

The fabric and carpet cleaner I use for the sweat marks on my t-shirts (I know none of you have those!) and other fabric stains before we need to do laundry.

And that's it.

I know that we save a lot of money with this kind of thing.

Years ago I used to buy Handy Andy (the white liquid), the gel for bathrooms, stuff for our clothes, stuff for the carpets, stuff for the windows, etc, etc. Now I have TWO bottles to take care of it all.

Once I finish those two on the top.

I will still have separate toilet cleaner (see clean bathroom obsession above) but that's the aim.

Any shocks?
Any tips you can share with me?
How much do you spend on cleaning stuff in a month?

(I don't know how much we spend but probably if I had to average it out, I'd say R150 a month. We go through a bag of 9 toilet rolls for the kids' bathroom once a month and another bag of 9 rolls in our bathroom once every 6 weeks. It will change now I'm home probably to also once a month)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Oh boy, this party planning business

Happy birthday to my book. She's TWO today :)

Last year, K had 5 kids she wanted to invite from school. Connor had 2 of the same kids and 2 others.

We invited all those kids (7 unique) and 3 pitched. 1 didn't bother to RSVP (he won't get an invite this year), 1 was sick on the day (our party is traditionally on the coldest day of the year) but came to drop off a gift and 2 were on holiday so declined when they got the invite. Oh, our party is also during school holidays - fun times!

The only thing worse would be if we lived at the coast. Winter = rain!

I need to start making the party list and I did what I did last year:
  • pulled up my spreadsheet from last year
  • make a list of my friends and their kids
  • see whose party we went to where we need to reciprocate the invite
  • and then I made a rookie mistake:
I again asked the kids!

This time K rattled off a list with about 10 kids and C wasn't far behind.

They also each said they want to invite their twin (!), me and D (I should think so as we're paying), nanny S (she will be there), Granny and Aunty C.

A funny aside. Uncle C (SIL's hubby) is not very kid-friendly so he avoids family things as much as he can. I don't blame him, to be honest. However, the kids don't know him well and at a lunch last week, he was speaking so loud I could see K's terrified eyes.

So I hugged her and said to the table, "let's just move on please. K and I have already spoken about it and we have an understanding".

Granny and Aunty C "twigged" and carried on while he belaboured his point a bit more and K clung to me.

Afterwards I asked her how she felt and she said, "I really didn't like it when Uncle C spoke so loud. It made me feel shy".

BTW, this child beautifully expresses herself and I want to write everything down because she is an advert for an introvert! She'll say things like "I do want to be with you, Mummy, but I just feel like being alone now" - this type of thing. I LOVE IT!

this family photo by Cat
Anyway, we have problems with this humongous party list.

  • You see, over the last year, we attended parties for 16 kids and turned down invites to 5 others.
  • If we just reciprocated, that's 21 kids besides K & C, EXCLUDING some of my friends.
  • It also excludes about 10 "new" kids they claim to have as friends.

I told them the other day, "Babies, this is getting out of hand". We're going to have to cut down.

(I can't invite 40 kids to a birthday party IN MY HOUSE and I refuse to have it at a venue)

There's obviously only one solution - decide on my comfort number, add some more to account for declines (about 30 - 35% decline), and go for it. Accept that this crazy is just one morning.

But help me out -
  1. what are your criteria? when do you stop inviting your people and focus on the little ones' people? 
  2. do you always reciprocate invites? (I'm thinking of that weird party and I already said NO WAY)

(thank goodness we don't have family with kids here in Jhb!)

PS does S & S party mean something "weird" - for some reason that post has a TON of hits.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Holiday photo-organising and the Easter photos

Guys, I did some sorting of photos this afternoon and realised I never ever posted some photos I took of the kids on Easter Sunday.

I think I was so focussed on getting the holiday photos done... and printed that I forgot about the other stuff.

The holiday album is done though.

But I should tell you this - always count the actual album pages.

I buy 200-page albums from CNA and every year (for the past three years), I use 120 photos for the big Ballito holiday and 80 photos for the other shorter holiday we have some other time during the year.

This year apparently I used 124 photos for Ballito and so I carefully culled all the Drakensberg photos down to EXACTLY 80 photos and......... when I'd already printed them out, I counted the available album pages and worked out that there was only space for 76 photos.


Anyway, then I went mad deleting another 5 so I could use a 10 X 15 project life card for the heading and have my remaining 75 photos neatly placed.

AH, I love my photo albums and for the first time (properly) the kids are REALLY into the photo albums and want to look all the time. They're fascinated with stories and photos from when they were babies... and you know I have lots of crying photos in those albums because there was a lot of crying around here, most of it from them.


Who else besides me prints actual photos for albums? 
PS remember photobooks make me crazy
PPS I'm reading my 4th Pauline Lawless now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

I'm obsessed with the fitbit

So yesterday I saw a post on Elise's site and I so loved her review I decided there and then I need one of these things.

Of course we have to pay much more for them in South Africa but I decided for all those lovely stats and things (and you know I'm super motivated by numbers), I have to have one.

I've used pedometers very successfully in the past (amazing how just wearing something makes you park far away from the shopping centre entrance and take stairs voluntarily!!!) and currently use a sleep app. I will be writing about that again soon on the other blog because there are some unintended consequences of having your phone under your pillow.

Nevertheless, I was crunching numbers left right and centre...
  • we get 20% back if we buy at the istore
  • what do I have in the discovery mall (a measly R65)
  • what do I have in ebucks (R408)

and I'm busy buying one now.... except.... I decided half way (once I'd paid the ebucks) that I want it in teal instead of lime.

And of course, I now have a support ticket into their people :)

Things are never straightforwad with me (I call it "making life interesting").

Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity & Sleep Wristband - Teal
What are you obsessed with at the moment?

PS I thought about getting it for my birthday (to Marcia from Marcia) but instant gratification won. So I'm calling it my "Congrats on your Freedom" gift :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Baker baker and the other lovely bakery


Today I baked 3 dozen muffins and just finished helping D pop a bag of popcorn (popcorn kernels, not microwaved stuff).

I feel like Martha.............not!

Shame, my child was so looking forward to making "car biscuits" for Baker Baker day at school, mentioned it to his teacher who came and "chatted" to me at pick-up that they don't want biscuits because the recipients of those will feel hard done by.


I said, "waitaminute, we're not going to just put ONE biscuit in a pkt. I know people generally bring cupcakes, so we were thinking two big biscuits or 3 - 4 normal sized ones".

No, that was not good enough. She said cupcakes or muffins, that's it.

You had to see my poor boy's face.

Sometimes I hate the school. I'm the last person who would want any kid to feel left out so they'd actually LOVE my biscuits (it's Se7en's recipe - have been using for years and years and years).

Anyway, so we made vanilla, chocolate (both of those from a mix) and then I made some "special muffins" just for our family.

Have I ever shared those? They're made with oats and yoghurt. If not, I will post the recipe - it's too easy and so nice and moist. And a nice healthy snack!!!

You'll notice no instagrams, etc. I was too busy keeping all those little fingers out of the mixture!!! Eventually I said to Nanny S, please just go make them rest and I'll finish up.

Yes, so am tired.

Here are some photos of day 2 - the anniversary day of our holiday. Enjoy!

I love this photo - my 3 loves (bright nail polish, camera and tea!)

under the lapa


Valley Bakery

indeed it was beautiful. Any place with breads and biscuits and cakes and and and... is indeed beautiful to me

What do you guys take for Baker Baker day? Do you have food rules?

On the bright side, my book will be TWO on Sunday and I've been working on updating the website, etc. to have a special for my list. Hey, thank you to the two of you who left amazon reviews - am amazingly chuffed.

Off to enjoy my electric blanket now!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Suiting up

My fin.ancial services provider invited me to a client feedback session with the fund managers talking about the economy, the mandates of the funds, etc, etc.

Really not very interesting unless you're in fin.ancial services OR it's YOUR money.

In this case, both boxes were ticked.

I really didn't want to go because it was far (Br.yanston) but last week when she checked again, I thought actually, I'm getting way too comfortable in my jeans and sweatshirts, so I'll go just to get used to being with big people again.

All suited up, I had the directions ready on my iphone and you guessed it - I STILL GOT LOST.

Today I actually wondered when I will grow up and just get to a place already.

I was listening to music when the iphone lady talked, I thought that meant "take this turn" so off I went.... to Midrand.


Anyway, that little detour cost me some time so I was 15 minutes late but they'd just started with the introductions.


I forgot how much I love this stuff (my days prior to the last job). I also met a lady who was with me at Weigh-Less years ago, and two new people.

And flowers! I never win anything but surprisingly, I was the person at our table to have the sticker under my chair so I got the centrepiece (great idea by the event planners, I thought).

What this taught me...
  • It's good to step out of your comfort zone even if you get lost.
  • Not all people who go to talks like this are boring (hello, ME!) - but the demographic was interesting. Mostly people about 20 years older than I am, although a few others in their 30s too.
  • It's nice to get dressed up occasionally :)
  • I love learning about mo.ney!

And best of all, I didn't get lost coming back home! :)

What did you learn today?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Let's talk money - suppers

Post 1 on breakfasts here
Post 2 on lunches here

This post is probably the easiest of the lot because we all eat together and yay, it's all the same food.

Except for Connor with his hatred of potatoes.

Yes, I also don't know where he gets that!

I took the time over the years to make a list of favourite foods everybody likes - first time years ago when it was just the two of us - and then again late last year.

If I'm stumped, I have a look at my list and add some of those things into the rotation.

So what do we eat?

Rice X 2 - we cook 2 cups a week - that's enough for the two meals
Pasta X 2 - we cook 1 500 g bag - that's also enough for the two meals, when I add some garlic bread into the second rotation
Pizza X 1 - I buy one bag of swiss chard, Nanny S chops it and we make a lot of pizza bases once a month, partially bake it and freeze)
Potatoes X 1 - 6 - 8 potatoes lasts us two weeks....
Sandwiches/ wraps X 1 - wraps are expensive (R28,99 for 6 for the small ones, and R39,99 for the big ones) but we like to make cheese and apple quesadillas. Just discovered Se7en's wraps so will try later this week.

chicken, fish, beef stir-fry, sausages, mince, probably one night meat-free (not really intentionally about being "meat-free" but more about convenience).

My one friend has a set menu for every night - "oh, it's Tuesday, that means it's bobotie". I can't do that because I'm way too spontaneous. Yes, the one place I'm unstructured is the kitchen - the menu plan is the last bit of structure - and yet if it's followed 5 nights a week, I'm very happy. At some point, I just like to clear out the fridge so we'll eat a hodge-podge of things. Someone will have one set of leftovers, another will eat something else and the kids will eat something else.

A typical menu:

M - stirfried beef, veggies (a bag of coleslaw and some broccoli) and rice
T - pasta and bolognaise sauce (in summer, with a salad; in winter, I make the sauce with more veg. My sauce has onions, tomatoes, carrots and sometimes pumpkin and broccoli but no-one knows!)
W - baked potatoes/ spinach pizza, chicken/ fish in a box, carrots
T - rice, chicken casserole with mushrooms/ broccoli, carrots
F - soup, toasted cheese and tomato/ toast with baked beans/ toast and egg
S - creamy pasta like macaroni cheese (again, I hide carrots - no one knows - shhhh!) because it's the day I get weighed so there's a whole 7 days to fix my eating)
S - light supper with whatever needs to get finished

When I cook, I cook 500g of chicken at a time, and 500g of mince (ground beef) for bolognaise sauces.

Chicken - feeds us all properly for one meal with rice (300g), and for the second, will feed us all if I use pasta.
Mince - I add so many other things including 2 cans of tomato that it makes a TON. E.g. I cooked a big pot last week of April and we'll finish that tomorrow because we had about 4 - 5 portions. We can all eat at least 2 meals and there's enough for a D and M portion too.

I portion out things immediately. When the pot of food is cooked, I dish, put the rest into a container, label and when it's cool, put into the freezer and add to the "inventory".

Bolognaise sauce - same story. I usually cook this in addition to something else so I'll have about 4 containers out of food when this pot is done.

I know there are a lot of you who eat no carb and low carb and whatnot... I eat carbs! I follow Weigh-Less portion sizes; the rest eat as they want but we all eat everything.

haven't made this for a while; will make it tomorrow, I think :)
Laura was very good at estimating how much it cost for each meal for the month; I have no idea because I don't think like that.

Because we eat such a variety of things, I don't buy meat and chicken every week, or even every month.

So my best guess is about R125 - R150 for the meat portions  per week. Actually that's scary because I spend that on ME ALONE eating out once at Doppio Zero....

We buy extra lean everything as far as the red meat is concerned... and de-skinned, de-boned chicken br.easts, usually the Goldi frozen 2 kg bag of br.easts for R90 at Checkers once every 4 - 6 weeks because our PnP just never seems to have it anymore. The chicken/ fish in a box is about R40 a box for one meal for us. If there's an extra piece left, the kids will have that one to share the following day for their protein with lunch.

Has this helped anyone? I feel like I'm going into my default - too much detail!
Did you get any tips on what to do or what not to do?


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