Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Why IP goes to creche

One of the reasons for moving to Luxembourg was that I got to stay at home with IP. I am of the belief that if you can afford to stay at home when you have children then you should. However, I am also not necessarily naturally maternal so know and believe that if you want to return to work for a few days a week or similar, then that makes sense. I was trying to arrange to return to work part time just before we moved. Then having moved discovered that finding part time work in Luxembourg, especially if you don't speak French, is very difficult.

But, bizarrely, the government provide a system that pays part of the childcare costs even if you don't work, so what should be about €400 a month is about €200. It's not quite this simple but basically there's a service provided that refunds the creche the additional money. And as a result, a lot of parents here use it, even if they're not working. I wasn't going to be one of those parents...

I was taking IP with me when I ran a Rainbow Guides unit (5-7yo girls) and it was getting harder and harder, as she started to walk. So we made the difficult decision that she could maybe benefit being away from me a bit (my mother told me of a grandmother who has sole custody of her grandchildren after both parents were killed in a car accident and the children had previously been solely looked after by their mother so it was a massive shock). 

It took a long time and a lot of searching to find the right creche (or nursery as they are referred to in the UK). There was 2 within 2 minutes walk of our home, right next to bus stops. But they insisted she had to go a minimum of 2.5 days a week and I didn't want to send her for that long. At 3 yo, they have a system where they start a Luxembourgish preschool, so I wanted a Luxembourgish creche but couldn't find any locally. There was an English Montessori creche nearby that some friends recommended but then another hated it and when I visited it I understood why. I then went to another English speaking creche and again, hated it. Firstly because they were not native English speakers which I didn't understand the problem initially but when I witnessed them reading a book I realised that IP would speak better English than the person 'teaching' her! They also told me that she had to be potty trained or in pull ups by 2 years old to graduate to the next 'class'. As it happens she was potty trained but that was coincidence and in DP's words 'no one tells us when we do things with our child'.

So which creche did we eventually go with? One that is nearby, but not the closest. IP also likes music and this creche is music themed. It is French speaking so I have found it hard work to translate but they said last week that she was speaking more French there now and there hasn't been any issues with her communicating as far as I am aware. They weren't happy that she potty trained so early and they wouldn't use cloth nappies but she only goes 3 afternoon's a week so I'm not too worried about it all. 

I can't remember how long it took her to settle but of course, the week she was fully settled and happy there, was the week that I decided pregnancy and running a Rainbow unit didn't mix for me. So having discussed it with DP we decided she got more benefit from going, especially as it's only a few afternoons and when I have 'boring' medical appointments it's easier to have somewhere I can leave her quickly (scan appointments she comes with us).

So IP will almost certainly speak far better French a lot quicker than we will! I am in 2 minds about this. I have been told it'll be good that she can translate. However I do find it weird and hard to swallow that she'll be better than her parents and probably able to say rude things about us without us knowing! It is also an incentive, though.


Of course the other benefit is that she gets to dress up for occasions and they make presents for Luxembourg mother's day, etc (see above).

So not all my friends send their children to creche and yes, I do find it hard when I'm not working but while we can afford it and we feel she benefits she's attending. I did ask about Munchkin (thinking I could have some time with just IP) but the minimum is 3 days I think and I don't really want to do that. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Food Week

If you're on facebook and have 'liked' The Adventures of Mamma then you may have seen that last week I declared 'food' week. This was because IP recently has ended up only eating the same foods over and over again - chips and bread. Plus we were finally getting to the bottom of our cupboard and freezer. Plussss I wanted to start thinking about bulk cooking for when Munchkin is born, so I don't have to think about food...

Unfortunately I had mentioned last week that we were hoping to switch to a World War II ration style system to try to reduce our food bill and we had intended to not bulk buy once a month but to do a smaller shop weekly. However I don't think this is going to work at the moment for me for a couple of reasons:

  1. I prefer to preplan and make in 'bulk' and then defrost each week.
  2. With Munchkin due in a few months I don't want to go radically changing anything and I want to bulk cook just before if possible.
  3. I did try to stick to the ration amounts but I don't think I was that accurate. We also don't have the ability to grow our own food (ie fruit and veg) because we only have a patio and balcony. 
  4. The idea had been that we would go to different shops to buy food, such as the fishmongers, bakers, etc. I frankly don't have the time or the inclination to go to so many different shops when I could either go to 1 or order from 1...

Whilst walking around the supermarket I realised a couple of things about my own habits. I am not a natural chef or baker. I will cook basics, like I have made mini quiches from a recipe book and I have made various dishes from recipes but I have no desire to be experimental and I cook out of necessity because we need to eat. Not because I want to or enjoy it. Luckily DP likes cooking so I manage to get him to do some of it but whereas friends love baking and I read about how certain foods should be home made, I accepted whilst shopping that that is just not me.

So I have stocked up on 'naughty' snacks because I'm hungry all the time due to the last trimester and yes, I really should be making things like biscuits myself but as I say, frankly I don't have the inclination. I do feel bad but am rapidly coming to the conclusion that life is too short. However IP was eating a lot of yoghurt so I have bought natural fromage frais and some fruit to puree. We discussed other ideas but frankly came to the conclusion that I'm not a vegetable sticks in dip kinda gal so they'd more than likely be wasted. Up until now we didn't really want to shop more than once a week, if not less (ie once a month) but this may have to change.

However, I have said that I'm going to try this week a different service. Whilst the supermarket we were shopping at doesn't do deliveries, there's one very local that you can collect from called 'drive through' and I also found out a lovely 'natural' supermarket - Naturata - does deliveries so I'm going to have a look at both options this week (ie costs) and see if these may be the best solution for us. Another supermarket does do deliveries but I think these options will be the right ones for us...

Sooo 'food week' hasn't quite worked out exactly how I meant but I do feel I'm getting closer. I have made:


Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie ^


And Jamie Oliver's Salmon en Croute^

Still to go is Jamie Oliver's fish cakes and then a large mix of mince including vegetables to make something like bolognese or meat balls, etc... This all came about because we had an entire shelf of recipe books and I never looked at them, I used the same recipes if I wanted to and the rest of the time googled what I was after. So we decided to go through them. And one of the books is Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food. Which had the recipes mentioned above in it and we decided to keep that book so I thought I should put it to good use. I have previously made a different fish pie and then we've had things like tuna mayo on jacket potato but I don't know if having that every week gets a bit boring so we'll see. I would like to do a rolling menu plan but I don't know if it would need to be monthly or several months. DP also moans each time about how much food costs. Maybe that would be eliminated if I just did the shopping myself? 

The other thing I meant to cover this week is how I currently organise recipes. It's not the best way but it works for me. I like to have a paper copy of a recipe that I can refer to in the kitchen so I have a folder and keep recipes printed out in there in dividers. What I may try to do is scan all the recipes that I don't use regularly to save some shelf space. I have scanned some of my most used recipes but I can't load them at the moment so that will have to wait for another day! 

So all this leaves is... This week's menu plan! Well I'd normally have made it all by now and got it all out the freezer but this week I haven't so it's meant to be salmon en croute, fish pie, cottage pie and lasagne but we'll see! Plus it's DP and my wedding anniversary on Wednesday so that may change our plans (though that'll probably wait until the weekend) and I'm also thinking of having 'Food Friday' instead of Meal Planning Monday (simply because it works better for me). We'll see...

Friday, 26 July 2013

Feelin' hot, hot, hot!

...And not in a good way :(

As many of you know, I am currently about 27 weeks or about 6 months pregnant. And DP's awesome description when a friend asked how I was doing, was 'she's at the fat stage'. (Yes DP you should have known that comment would come back to bite you! ;)) He did explain that he actually meant I am now very much showing, not able to do things I could initially and it seems the minute I was close to the 3rd trimester I got more tired immediately.

So what does the weather do? Here it has been hot. Humid. Not even the nice, dry heat. And recently stormy. This morning was my turn to host 'coffee morning' for the mum's I see regularly and it was boiling hot but raining! I had planned we could at least go outside but nope, it rained the whole time. :( When I say hot, I mean around 30 degrees. At the weekend we covered IP in factor 50 suncream, sun hat and glasses & went outside for her to play. 15 minutes later she was looking bright red and all 3 of us were sweating (just to clarify, the redness was, it turned out, irritation from the sand she was playing with and as soon as we bathed her she was fine).

So how do you cope and keep cool when you're pregnant (dare I say heavily?) and it's hot? Well 1 suggestion was when I'm at home to wear knickers and a tshirt. I would, but our apartment is quite open with large windows so I don't quite dare. But I am wearing vests a lot more and leggings. I've always left my hair to dry anyway so I'm just trying to ensure it keeps me cool for as long as possible. We have just had our freezer repaired so that the filtered cold water and ice cube maker works again. I've had suggestions of putting sheets in the freezer.

I need to drink more water but I always need to so that's nothing new! ;)


Baby bump on 26th July 2013, about 27 weeks...

IP has also just started to teeth her back molars in so although she's still sleeping well, we have had a few sleepless nights, whether because of the temperature or because of her molars we don't know.

So do you have any tips on how to keep cooler in this weather?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Learning French...

My mother speaks good French. She would say she's not fluent but she's able to translate and say a lot of things that I can't. If ever the opportunity to learn French came up at school my parents encouraged me to take it, from having French penfriends to going on school trips to France. 

I've tried saying I will work on my French when IP's at creche. I've tried saying I will have polite conversation with creche helpers for a few minutes. None of it has lasted. So recently I met a couple of ladies who speak French and mentioned learning it to them and they've offered that we can meet up to speak French. They are both on holiday for now but I certainly hope and plan to make use of this in the future. 

Thennnn we went to Belgium a few weeks ago for a mini holiday and couldn't watch tv. So we chatted or I went to bed early (I am pregnant and we were busy). I mentioned to DP on our return that it had been nice not feeling like a slave to the tv all night. So we began reducing our tv viewing. We now have a few things recorded during the week but it's very easy to keep up with them (and I'm still debating on Eastenders). My theory was that I don't feel a need to watch them, we never talk to friends about what we're watching so why bother (of course, typical, this week a friend did start talking to me about tv)? So one night a week we're calling 'French night' and we either watch French tv (even just French news) or work on some French, talk French to each other, etc. 

Last week was the first time we really tried this and DP loaded an app called Duolingo that I have started using. And I do think it helps. It pops up every day if I don't use it and I can use it on my mobile anywhere, so just a few minutes on the bus or sat waiting... 

Then I hadn't had a French lesson for a few weeks due to various issues and my teacher is back this week so I'm looking forward to starting again. 

IP started at creche for a variety of reasons (that I think I'll cover in another post) and this week they actually said she's started speaking French. Her first foreign word was 'Adi' which means 'goodbye' in Luxembourgish. Now she finds 'Merci' easier to say than 'Thank you' for some reason. Luckily we haven't had any trouble working out what she's saying so far, so I live in hope that whilst I'll never be fluent at the same pace as her, I may know a decent amount.

Also, most of the time I don't have to speak any other languages. For example, in my apartment building, most people speak English and I don't think there's any Luxembourgish living here. There's various Flemish, French, Spanish and our neighbours are just moving, they are Australian and Icelandic. So if I bump into someone they often say 'hello'. Then I started going to a playgroup where I met a lady that has been hugely helpful and she introduced me to some other friends. All of them liaise in English. One lady is German, one is Dutch, one is married to a Frenchman, another to a man who's half Flemish, half Spanish and my initial friend is English but married a Luxembourger. So there's a lot of different nationalities but they all speak English. 

What DP and I have discussed we need to do more of (or certainly I do) is take the next step and actually talk in French for things. Like I should be able to make a Doctor's appointment in French but because they speak English and know I am English they speak English to me.  

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Why Luxembourg?

I did mention in my 'about' section that part of this blog is to cover my road to improving my French (& hopefully in the future other language skills). And as DP and I have started to work on this I thought now would be a good time to cover where I am and what we're doing...

I met DP in 2003 and we went on holiday to different countries, speaking different languages. We discussed our hopes and plans for the future, including that we'd like to live abroad. We got married and had IP. I had mentioned I wasn't thrilled with returning to work the way I had previously with IP but I felt it was the best thing for all of us, in fact, it was just various issues coming up.

Then one day (and it would have been good if I'd made a note of the date in hindsight) DP rang me and said 'is it ok if I apply for a job in Luxembourg?' He had been mentioning various jobs abroad for about a month so it wasn't a sudden, out of the blue question and we had already discussed that we'd both like to live abroad, as I say. So my response was 'why are you even asking me, go ahead and apply and then we'll discuss it'. This may seem crazy to a lot of people (certainly 'why Luxembourg!?' was many people's response when I told them we were moving) but my parents lived in Holland for a year before I was born and we have travelled all over the place so the idea was excitingly scary. We/I were also very lucky that DP's job arranged most of the moving. I think if I'd had to pack everything and arrange everything I may have felt differently!

Anyway, DP applied for a few jobs. He told me about them. We discussed and argued about various jobs (maternity cover positions, was it a good idea or not?). Then he got an interview. I think this was around April. I have a feeling it was after that we didn't hear anything for months. We later learnt that there had been various changes of position within the department he'd be going to, but we didn't know that and were just in a state of wait and see. I think it was the week of IP's birthday that DP finally heard he'd got a second interview and they said if he was offered the job they wanted him fast. I can't remember how soon after that he was offered the job, I know I was frustrated as I am impatient. Then suddenly he was offered the job, had accepted it and was discussing final details!

At this point I asked if we could go to Luxembourg for a short visit, maybe a weekend, as the only time I'd been was driving through with my parents at about 10 years old. DP wasn't keen at first because he thought we'd be moving very soon but agreed eventually. Luckily I did like the country and was fine with moving. We then came for a 'previsit' the week of the 1st August and viewed 8 apartments. DP started his new job on 1st August so IP and I had 3 days to entertain ourselves.What we also hadn't realised was that everything was closed in the summer. I still managed. We chose an apartment - 2 bedrooms, airy and were ok with us having a cat. The biggest thing I realised was that although the country was Luxembourg, we didn't need to speak Luxembourgish, French or German to get by. It helped to speak a bit of French on a daily basis but that was it.

So we went home, DP then returned back to work for a few weeks (this time is a bit hazy now) and IP and I said goodbye to people. Then DP arranged that we'd move out around the 31st August. We had arranged to rent our house out in the UK and I was going to 'deal' with it, as I would be at home, certainly initially. Also through DP's company we got language lessons paid for...

So we have been here nearly a year and have been taking French lessons in most of that time. IP goes to a French creche that is nearby. And now we're here we love it so much we hope to stay here longer term so our children can learn languages in the school system here. It's a private healthcare system where the government refunds 80% and then DP has an insurance scheme at work that covers the remainder so we get the best of both worlds in that respect and it's why we chose to have another child here. I was very nervous initially of that side, whether I'd have to speak French at medical appointments, etc. Then I took IP to the Doctor in our first week (not something I normally do!) and it was fine. The biggest thing is getting recommendations So IP sees a pedatrician here and I had to get a couple of recommendations first. I see a Gynocologist and what was simple in the UK isn't quite so simple here. Having said that, if things go wrong then it's very good. 


Anyway, I digress. I found out the other day that the Doctor's receptionist speaks 5 languages! In general we just feel certain things within this country are a lot more to our way of thinking. 

I have just realised I haven't explained exactly how the languages work, etc (this started off as 1 post on a subject and is now 2 posts on 2 subjects)...

So... Just to clear up a few things that have come up. Luxembourg is a country. It is small and borders Germany, France and Belgium (or they border it). Belgium is 20 minutes drive away from us. It's capital city is Luxembourg city. Where we live. Northern Luxembourg I gather is very sparse and I don't think I've ever actually been.

The language is Luxembourgish, which is made of various components, including French and German. A friend described it as 'Geordie German' - German with a different accent. It's spoken in the schools but not everywhere. So assuming we are still here in a few years time, IP will learn Luxembourgish at school. Then the language spoken to 'get the bus' etc is French. When we have repair people come round, they generally speak German. 

So as I spoke a little French, I am building on that. Then I will learn German and finally Luxembourgish. I met a German lady within a few months of living here who said she learnt English at school and most of the German's I have met speak fluent English. So not speaking German hasn't been an issue so far. I would have put IP into a Luxembourgish creche but I couldn't find one locally so we decided a French creche was the next best option. 

Just a final note on Luxembourgish: what we do know is that 'good morning' is 'Moien', 'goodbye' is 'Adi' and now we know that 'thank you' is 'Merci'. Hence I said before that it's a mixture of components. I next want to learn 'sorry' or something similar and then I'll wait for anything else.

What I have also learnt is I hope to take IP to a playgroup in September that is based on Luxembourgish so she can learn but also so I can. Then when she is 3 years old she can start 'Pre Cos' which is Luxembourgish 'pre school' I suppose. 

Monday, 22 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday... Week 2

I started this last week after I mentioned my awesome Facebook friend, suggested the idea. Last week's meals were supposed to be:

Monday - Fish pie (frozen in 'bulk')
Tuesday - Lasagne (frozen in bulk)
Wednesday - Burger or sausage with vegetable cake
Thursday - Potato soup
Friday - Fish & chips, mushy peas
Saturday - whatever DP chooses
Sunday - whatever DP chooses

Yes, that's right, I am very lucky that my awesome husband just happens to love cooking and eating (and eating out) so I only cook because I'm home with IP! :) As such I only started trying to cook when IP was 6 months old. Now we live here I tend to cook recipes for about 6 people, maybe once a month. Freeze and then defrost each portion each week. It works reasonably well. Anddd as I mentioned last week, I am trying to use up the items currently in the freezer and cupboard (and fridge, etc).

So how did we do?

Well, I can't even remember what we ate on Monday but we did eat the lasagne and we ate out on Thursday. We, it turned out, didn't have potato soup left. Then I had also forgotten we had my parents visiting on Friday to Sunday. So we didn't have fish and chips on Friday, DP dealt with meals.

This week:

We still have Fish pie to eat.
We have Chilli con carne with rice.
Fish cakes & vegetable cakes.
And I have the ingredients to make a chicken casserole.

What order these things get eaten in is a different matter as we have a fairly busy week in comparison to previous weeks.

Then on Friday I am hosting a coffee morning so I'm hoping to make my mother's 'Crunchy Muesli Tray Bake' which is a bit like flap jack (and involves using cupboard ingredients up so a double bonus).

I will hopefully be able to take some photo's of our fridge, freezer and cupboard at the end of this week as I don't think it'll be long before we have to start planning meals based on war time rations (as per my previous post)...

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Catch up from the week ending 20/07

I mentioned here that I was going to try to reduce my schedule. So far it's not been too hard. DP managed to go along with me and reduce our tv recording. Whether when programmes restart that will change I don't know but I feel refreshed that we have so few programmes to 'think' about on our Sky + planner. I don't think I'm quite ready to get rid of things like the Sky+ (if I ever will be) but it's good to have reduced certain things significantly.

Right now I am trying to decide whether to introduce new activities into our days to keep IP entertained and enrich our experiences together. The reason I'm not sure is I'm entering my 3rd trimester of pregnancy with Munchkin and want to be able to take things easy if I need to. This week I've been relaxing a lot more and I have to say it's been nice not to stress about things! However I have wondered whether IP is entertained enough. So we'll see. Also here in Luxembourg a lot of our activities have stopped for the summer. So I'm considering whether to take her to a singing group on a Thursday morning that I have been meaning to take her to and they have a summer programme.

Parting with items:
I have officially got rid of my first lot of 'clutter' from our home - my friend likes baking and cooking so I gave her some boxes of supplies and said if she wanted any that was fine and if she didn't then just leave it and I'd take it to our local charity drop off. She has been very good to us so DP didn't complain when I said what was happening to our 'stuff'. My parents have also dropped by for an unexpected visit so are taking some craft bits home with them. I found out I can advertise things for sale and wanted items at our local supermarket last week so that was hugely helpful as smaller pieces of furniture (filing trolley anyone?) I will put on their notice board. I'm particularly pleased to get rid of the items mentioned because consumerables I find very hard to part with and it has helped a lot.

This week I have been trying to finish things off - I have ordered some new keys for my keyboard and my IPEN kit arrived (I will cover this more later), playing around with items on this blog (you may notice my first advert may have appeared?!), taking photo's and keeping track of ideas for future posts and towards the end of the week getting emotional. I hate hormones, especially pregnancy hormones and now I am nearing the time that IP arrived, I thought I could ignore but apparently not! However all is good otherwise so I'm going to try not to dwell on things!

Envy:
I hope to cover this later but I made a quick mental note the other day when I realised that I walked into a friend's house and noticed IP loved playing with her daughter's water table. I thought 'oooh I'll have to get IP one of those' and then immediately realised that I've just got rid of lots of her toys so it would rather defeat the object! I felt a bit sad but came to the conclusion IP could play with it whenever we see friends. Then on Friday we saw the same friends and IP monopolised the table (she did play with other children) so we will see. We have a paddling pool so maybe we just need to get that out again? I do however like the ideas that rather than rushing out to buy her a water table, I started to consider what we already had and remembered we packed away inflatable paddling pools. With a few plastic cups she would probably get the same enjoyment! :)

More decluttering:

I have also started to go through our recipe books which I'm pleased about. I like to be able to take recipes on a piece of paper to the kitchen so I have got a folder with them divided up. DP suggested that I could go through our 'books, photocopy any I want to keep and then donate them.

I used a nail varnish that didn't work this week so I think paring them down will happen soon and most importantly, went through my email folders and inbox and pared that down. Must get into the habit of unsubscribing!

We had tried to revive IP's old dresses but we have decided they are too short and she has plenty of others so when I have the chance they will go into storage.

I met up with a friend due to have a little girl next month so it was good to have a catch up. I have kept IP's clothes as we don't know what gender Munchkin will be but I am actually looking forward to getting rid of items as soon as possible, whether because we have masses of baby girl clothing or whether it's just because Munchkin grows. 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Maintenance...

I read this post by Minimalist Mom when she first wrote it and to be honest, didn't think much about it. I also had no intentions of blogging about this but when my laptop keyboard started sticking I figured it was time for some maintenance. So I got the cleaning wipes and compressed air out. Turned my laptop off overnight and decided to clean it this morning (Sunday).

I thought I'd quickly google cleaning laptop keyboards and found these links. There are you tube videos but I prefer just to read instructions...

So I used compressed air. And nothing major happened. So I figured how hard can taking some keyboard keys off be, then clean and put back on, it's just logic right?! 

Uh uh.

DP is now attempting it & just said ' Don't have one of your smart ideas ever again'...

Yeah, sorry about that!

Sooooo. If I go through what I did and then what would have been useful...

I pulled each key off and put it at the top of my keyboard. I then cleaned each key and most importantly the parts underneath with compressed air and screen wipes. Half way though I ran out of space and put the keys on a book...

During the process at some point I took a photo of the keyboard to ensure I didn't forget the order.

The other thing that DP pointed out is I can semi touch type - I learnt most of the keys when I was 10 years old from my mother. I have good eye sight so just took a quick photo on my mobile but the articles suggest you could get a photo of your specific laptop make...

So I hadn't intended to take the battery out but the instructions recommended it and then I found the end of a teaspoon and cotton wool buds were useful...


My supplies from last night, they did at least remind me! :)


The state of the keyboard and screen to start with!


My photo to remember what the keyboard was like... At this point some keys were just sticking a bit...


The state underneath! :/ (I'd already cleaned the top part)


I got frustrated with about 5 keys that refused to slot back so asked DP to help...

DP awesomely managing to fix them when I had long ago given up! This is at 12:20 on a Sunday, when I started probably about 9, maybe earlier! 


He has now established that my caps lock key is damaged and my space bar has no spring. This isn't brilliant but its better than the 5 or so keys not working at all... I wrote most of this on my mobile whilst DP worked on  my laptop so now I have tried to straighten this post out, it's taken ages and is VERY frustrating! :( So I'm going to phone my laptop manufacturer tomorrow when IP is sleeping or if I get really stuck I know the shop I bought it from were very helpful. I don't think it's anything major... I have also just remembered my neighbour works in IT... *Later: I have just been up to my neighbours and it's now working much better. Not perfectly and I have 2 keys that need replacing but for now I think I'll ignore them...

So tips. Here's what I found useful: 
  • Leave a few hours for this. DP 'entertained' IP thankfully but I still had a shower, drank coffee, googled and gave up, asking DP to try. I THINK I started this around 9am...
  • A clear solid space like a table or the floor. Not a rug or in my case, balancing the laptop on my lap, running out of space & transferring to a book on the sofa that your daughter can tip or your husband... (Neither happened but still)
  • Patience. And lots of it! :(
  • Then all the tools mentioned above...

Monday, 15 July 2013

Meal Planning Monday...

So I have previously promised you I'd do Meal Planning Monday. And it's now Monday. So... Here it is! I am currently doing an 'experiment' where I am using up all the items in my freezer (fridge as well technically) and my cupboard and then I plan to use a WW2 rationing style idea to menu plan in future. Soooo I've actually already done my menu planning until around the end of this month but some things have changed.

Previous meal plans for the last 2 weeks were:

1/7 vegetable cake & sausages
2/7 beef burger & vegetable cake
3/7 fish pie
4/7 ham hot pot vegetables & pasta

8/7 tuna pasta bake
9/7 beef burger & veg. cake
10/7 fish pie
11/7 potato soup

And actually I think we pretty much stuck to this. Oh except we did eat out on 8th and I'd already made a tuna pasta 'salad' so we had it instead of the vegetable cake combination another day.

I read my facebook friend's blog first to get an idea of what the rations were. I also read a post on Imperfect Homemaking just now. I kind of do that. We try to have fish three times a week. And I am VERY lucky that DP loves cooking and I don't so I only started cooking when IP turned 6 months and was weaning her. So DP cooks (or we eat out) at the weekend. So I actually only have to meal plan Monday - Thursday. So we have fish and chips on a Friday and then I try to plan in fish on a Monday and Wednesday. With using everything up from the freezer that hasn't always worked recently...

If you need another reason to menu/meal plan then this post from Minimalist Mom also helped.

Ok, enough's enough. This week's meal plan:

Monday 15th - Fish pie (frozen in 'bulk')
Tuesday 16th - Lasagne (")
Wednesday 17th - Burger or sausage and vegetable cake. If the weather is good and DP gets home from work early enough he'll do this on the BBQ - must take a photo of our balcony where we've eaten most night's this last week!
Thursday 18th - Possibly potato soup. This wasn't very successful last week so I may defrost Chilli Con Carne instead. I had planned to have a lovely Italian Herb Bread made at home to go with the Potato Soup but due to miscommunication it didn't work out so either I'll do it this week or DP may say forget the potato soup...
Friday 19th - We have frozen fish and chips and mushy peas if stocks allow.
Saturday 20th - Whatever DP chooses
Sunday 21st - "

This is without consulting what's in the freezer or the cupboard. I will do that towards the last week of the month.

*Update: I just realised I forgot to say that I borrowed this idea from my awesome facebook friend - http://chivesdesigns.blogspot.com/2013/07/meal-planning-monday_15.html.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Toy Box Labels & decluttering schedule.

Firstly, this is VERY much a working progress. But I am sick of seeing no labels or some that are Dymo on IP's toy boxes. So I have decided

1. Any label, however badly put together, for now is better than none. Especially as I would like to test some durability.
2. I am going to revisit 'decluttering' IP's toy collection, along with many other things. In the future. This will be explained further down...

So the labels I have made at the moment are below:


I was planning on all sorts, when IP is older she'll colour in the letters, I planned to get photo's or exact replica's from Google Image of her toys and I was going to wrap sticky back plastic ALL the way round the toy box. Oh yes, and I was going to laminate the pictures first. I even considered this from The Cottage Home. But right now I do not have the time or the inclination to get everything done perfectly. My mother would call this the 80/20 rule. I think.

Scheduling decluttering:
We currently have a print out calendar on our fridge for family events. So IP's swimming lessons were up there. It's particularly for weekend activities but when I remember I put stuff up there and when DP remembers he does too. He's better at updating it than I am, to be honest, because most of our stuff is routine then I forget if it's not. Anyway, I have added a note that in October time 'ISH' I want to revisit declutering. I say ish because Munchkin is due in October so I am not actually expecting to achieve this. But it's good to set expectations high, right? I hoped to get everything ready for Munchkin's arrival by now and it pretty much is, so this idea is not unachievable, but it is probably unlikely. However at least if I put it there I won't forget completely. AND I am about to start a list of areas I want to visit. So far:

  • My hair supplies
  • My toiletries
  • IP's hair supplies (yes, for a 2yo with not that long a hair, she has A LOT of hair stuff!)
  • IP's toys - I hope to review this sort of in the near future because we don't have masses of room but if we don't get very far then at least I can review it then. 
  • *Updated: my nail varnishes. Currently wearing a yellow colour on my toes and it doesn't look that good.

I'm sure there's masses of other things. I had planned to do this decluttering at any point between October and December and we normally aim to get Christmas decorations out for the start of December PLUS we know there's a lot of other stuff nearby the decorations that are currently hard to get to that I will probably get rid of. So it is unlikely this will all happen in October. BUT at least by having it on the calendar and a list, I hope to remember...

Friday, 12 July 2013

Once you start you can't stop! ;)

I use this term for a lot of things but I am now at the stage where I just want rid of things. Where I'd normally worry about how much I'd spent on something and keep it to one day put on Ebay and then never quite get round to it, now I'm thinking 'why bother?' If I get it out of my house then it's less stuff to dust and more space...

Some items that have recently 'flown the nest':

At the moment I am pondering whether to put onto ebay or just bin some tickets I bought years ago that are valid in the UK. Having moved to Luxembourg methinx I won't be using them any time soon? They were expensive but I don't seem to do that well with Ebay selling and I know I've tried to sell them online before...
Various bits of paperwork, I've done some research so it's now either ready to scan or in the shredding pile... DP shredded all the bits we cleared out last weekend and took the rubbish sack's worth straight to the recycling point with IP :)

Cleaning supplies (please excuse the naff photo but if I take them all out again now I may change my mind):


Various craft supplies like paint. To a lot of people who know me, this may seem crazy. I love arts and crafts. However something I have recently realised is I don't do much with IP. Being so young I can't just leave her to it and we go to one Playgroup currently where they do 'Messy Play' every other week. And do you know what? She hates the free painting session. Well hates a strong word but I struggle to get her involved. She also hates 'mess' on her hands - she expects them to be cleaned often (certainly not her mother's daughter!) SO I came to the conclusion that if she suddenly gets interested in anything more than stickers than I'll worry about it then, but right now she has more than enough toys to play with, colouring books and crayons, plus creche 3 afternoon's a week and I frankly do not have the inclination to make a massive mess of everything trying to persuade her to get 'crafty'.
I have also now gone through my craft supplies box and been VERY ruthless. The amount of random things I was keeping in there for 'one day'...


Wrapping materials. It's crazy to think I had 4 boxes and a bag in the UK. I still have 3 boxes and a bag but they're slightly emptier. And when I thought about it, I've had some of this tissue paper or bags for years. I love wrapping presents nicely. But actually I tend to probably buy new at the time.  So why do I have about 10 years worth (probably) of second hand tissue paper!? And probably 10 years worth of new tissue paper, pretty bags, etc!? Well no more! :) Don't get me wrong, I still have some, just not as much. I have a box for Christmas stuff still, a box for presents still and a box for wrapping supplies. They're just not overflowing...


Various toilettries.

I still have a massive to do list but today after a tough morning I managed to get some of it ticked off at least. 

Just to clarify, I haven't got rid of any of the clothes that I'm not using for the next 3 months as part of Project 333. I have packaged them up in storage, the same goes for IP's clothing. If we're both still in the same size clothing in 3 months then I will probably just change the items for variety. I believe the idea is more to simplify your current wardrobe.

Other stuff...

So after an emotional few days I have come to a conclusion. Or had a brainwave. If I ever want to be organised about activities that we do and have a vaguely organised home, then I need to stop doing so much. That may seem obvious but I mean things like the 'extra' craft things I come up with. At the moment I have been working on getting things ready for Munchkin, trying to keep up with Pickle, keeping this blog going and all manner of other things. So I hope this weekend to finish the few bits that I can, next week will be going out and about to various places and then hopefully that will be it. And I've asked DP to remind me of this so I don't buy a load of random stuff in the future and then overload myself and feel bad. This is meant to be a life long idea rather than just because I'm having Munchkin, it's just Munchkin's impending arrival that has made me realise I can't continue to do everything and not burn out.

Soooo still to come:

  • We've still got sorting out to do in terms of taking larger bits to the recycling centre and decluttering in general will be ongoing, I have marked points in the calendar. As many other minimizing mum's have said, minimalism is a journey, not a destination.
  • I still plan to open an online shop on here in the future so that will be my crafting outlet. I also plan to continue making things for friends. I just don't want masses of stock taking up masses of space.
  • I am finishing some bits for IP that I will post about later in more detail. 
  • Silent Sunday
  • Meal Planning Monday

Maintaining Momentum...

Over the last few days I've started to inwardly mildly panic. I remembered this post from Minimalist Mom and I have done massive purges in the past but lots of stuff still stays or creeps back in. Then today I finally decided I needed to get over myself and clean. I had done lots of purging of things but not actually cleaned as I went. And boy did our apartment need a clean! So this morning I cleaned 1 bathroom quickly (this was with IP in tow, hence speed was of the essence). Then this afternoon whilst IP was at creche I cleaned our other bathroom and hoovered and polished the bedroom.

And guess what? Whilst I was doing that I realised I could get rid of 1 basket and numerous 'bits and bobs' from the bathroom and store the rest in the drawer, making it easier to clean (I had been holding on to a face mask and hair mousse for 'one day' but as I've not used either since we moved here nearly a year ago, I feel it's time to let them go) and then I realised I never use my place mat on my bedside table for actually putting coffee on. I considered getting rid of our bedside lamps but have kept them for now. I then saw IP's 'toys' in the corner. I keep a small selection of bits and bobs for her in our 'room because when she was smaller she used to want something. And then there was a load of stuff that is for outdoors. Well she has outdoors stuff out of doors so I've put it to one side to go to charity (this doesn't properly explain. We're talking old kitchen spoons etc that end up all over our apartment). And they were over 2 boxes - 1 box and a bucket that we keep for the patio. So I've put the few bits in the bucket and the box was going to go but then I discovered a basket in the hall cupboard was broken so it's replaced that... (It's a lovely wooden box compared to a plastic wicker basket that's broken!) So that's cleared up our bedroom floor a bit.

And when I realised what I had done, I had an idea that every time I do some cleaning I'm going to try to purge a few items, maybe 5 but we'll see how that goes. I was also thinking of trying to do 'one in, one out' but again, we'll see. I did read a blog post (but I cannot remember now which blog or any details :() by someone who said they find 1 item a week at least and always take it to goodwill. I don't plan on going weekly to the recycling centre but if we can manage it this person also had a box somewhere to put donations in so I might try to do something like that and then when there's a few items or I'm going near the 'centre I can take it. I'm currently already planning to do a review, sort out and possible purge around May/June and November time. IP's birthday is in June so that would cover pre-summer items and her birthday. And then Munchkin is due in October, my birthday is in November and then there's Christmas in December so sometime around then I hope to do another sort out...

And I don't seem to have mentioned it but a while ago (a long time ago) I did have a blog that I then stopped updating. It's a long story as to why BUT the important thing is that when I was having a mild worry about maintaining momentum that thought had also crossed my mind. Whereas various ideas have since sprung to mind...

For example:
Stealing an idea from my facebook friend I thought I'd start attempting 'Menu Planning Monday'. I actually do my menu planning probably a different day/ whenever is convenient as we tend to do the food shopping at the weekend. But it's possible to write the post before I publish it, so really I have no excuse. Well I do for the next month as I've already sorted my menu's for this month here but going forward I hope to only do about a week in advance...

And then, my same lovely facebook friend also mentioned that there's a thing in Blogging land called 'Silent Sunday' and as this post mentions 'no clutter' I'm thinking I will try to do something similar... I have also discovered on facebook some brilliant blogging friends so I hope we can share with each other in the future! :)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Furniture...

One of the biggest issues I have is that our apartment is not that big, considering we have a 2 year old and a second baby on the way AND a (large, black, fur shedding) cat. I remember when I was a teenager I loved organising and rearranging my 'stuff'. And one day I ended up with a whole shelf of empty containers. Containers I liked, yes, but they were empty. Well I'm really pleased that I have slowly and gradually got to that stage again:

We have 2 suitcases in our bedroom that take up an entire wall (photo below and includes a bag of clothing/ towels for recycling!). The smaller one I had intended to use as a 'memory' suitcase for Munchkin but Pickle's suitcase for the same purpose is double sided so I have since decided that I'll just use 1 side of that. I don't have much at the moment, a handful of things, to put in it for Munchkin and I expect that most of the things we wanted to put in Pickle's suitcase were from her time in the SCBU, anyway...


And then a storage 'thing' that has held a variety of items and is now empty. And we really can't afford to keep stuff we don't use ('cuse the doll, IP decided she needed to leave it there this morning).



However, on the flip side, we have just acquired (today) a changing table and are due to acquire a few more bits and pieces. But they were second hand, from next door (who are moving country) and DP was moaning that his back aches and how good their changing table was, so...

Not the best photo, I apologise. It was taken for another purpose...

I think I am going to just take them with the other items I intended to get rid of to the local recycling centre that has a little 'drop off' that you can pick stuff up if you like it, for free... They're going to get one heck of a shock the day I turn up with a car full of stuff! ;) No, I have already planned that I think I'll have to do it in smaller trips...

Big Sister Ideas...

I had already had various ideas of things to help IP transition to being a big sister and then today I was reading my weekly update on facebook of 'Week 26' and there was a link that led to another link that led to this blog idea about making a 'big sister' bag. As we already have the paper to print and iron on to material, I am seriously considering finding a bag, buying a plain tshirt and making IP a tshirt, bag (I've got masses of spare ribbon that I could glue to a bag) and then I already have a box that has various games in it... I'd be interested to know what others think of this idea?

I am currently working on and will post separately, a 'quiet box' of various home made games for IP to keep her occupied when I'm busy with Munchkin. She's already showed an interest so I hope she'll like it! 

So far we've taken IP to all appropriate medical appointments, so she's seen Munchkin on the scan and we've talked to her about how she'll be a big sister. I've also bought a range of books, the first one she's read, about preparation. And she helped at the weekend when we sorted through all the masses of baby stuff and stored it.

Oh yes, that reminds me, we also plan to buy her a present from Munchkin and get her to choose a present for Munchkin... And then I am hoping in the future that we'll be able to get print jewellery like DP and I already have (of IP). A friend in the UK - Cheeky Little Prints & Gifts - made DP's cuff links and I recommend her to anyone and everyone. 

And lastly I was intending to buy her a doll (of her choice) for when she becomes a big sister. I'm just struggling with this one and how to go about it. 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Wow!

Ok I have started a whole different post but it's 00:31 here and I need to go to bed. So I promise to share another day instead. We have been INCREDIBLY busy this weekend, I am amazed! My main reason for this post (and it's going to be the shortest in history) is that in the craziness of getting DP to help me go through the filing trolley, I realised that actually we only had a small amount left so have put it all in a ring binder instead! So we can get rid of the trolley! :D Photo's of the redundant, sad looking trolley and other bits will follow but I couldn't wait to share!

This was about half way through when I hadn't even considered getting rid of the trolley...

This was chucking the empty folders to one side...

The pile for scanning, just from the filing. This doesn't include the bagful I already had:


I don't seem to have a photo of the filing trolley before and after unfortunately but you get the idea! ;)

Friday, 5 July 2013

Catching up...

Well this afternoon I tidied the house because I hadn't bothered all week, pretty much. I made a fish pie because I have so far failed miserably in sticking this week's menu ideas BUT the aim of the menu plan was that we used items from the freezer and cupboard which I have done - http://piperquinton.blogspot.com/2013/06/menu-planning.html
I was also feeling good enough so I continued and made the Chilli Con Carne.

I've mentioned a few bits and pieces that I'll include now:

The massive suitcase I have previously mentioned that I love for storing clothes in. This held all my  maternity clothing, for a start. I hope, at the weekend, to vacuum pack the remainder of my maternity clothes and then the rest of my non maternity wardrobe due to Project 333 (pared down http://piperquinton.blogspot.com/2013/07/mamma-pickles-clothing-clear-out.html) and fingers crossed that both bags will fit in this suitcase. Then it'll go in the bottom of our wardrobe.

As a teenager I had a lilac bedroom and one day my mum left this in my room! In the UK IP's bedroom was lilac, pink and silver so this was in her room but now we're renting it's just kept 'cos it's useful...

I was asked what a vegetable cake was. This is the box:


And the fun part of using up the contents of the cupboard! I was rubbish at making the chocolate pudding but IP seemed to enjoy the chocolate 'milk'! :)


I feel better that I can see areas of my home again - this week has been crazy and I couldn't see parts for a long time! :) The weekend will hopefully hold more and with DP's help. The 'To do' list is slowly reducing though! :D

Part 2: Sorting IP & Munchkin's clothing

I often think IP has too much clothing, I have no idea how it happens. I lie. I do know how it happens. We buy a few key items we like. We probably buy too much. Then we get given gifts (not even necessarily for an occasion) - Just to clarify, I am NOT complaining about this! It just happens to be a contributor - and then we've got an awesome friend who's daughter just happens to be a bit bigger than IP so she gives us her daughter's clothes (again, awesome!). 

Today I thought I'd try to apply Project 333 to Pickle's wardrobe. I decided as I had missed some points on my own wardrobe sort out earlier this week and IP LOVES her shoes I decided to leave those out of it. I have also not gone through her hair accessories yet. I will probably keep them for if Munchkin is a girl but par down what she actually has. 

Just started and this is the pile not to be worn at the moment (excluding the green hoodie)!

The left is nightwear but the right side is jumpers and cardi's...

Previously there was a drawer for tops, 1 for trousers. My aim was to reduce it to 1 drawer for IP so I could have 1 drawer for Munckin...

In order to start this, I read parts of this post: http://www.theminimalistmom.com/2012/06/childwardrobe/

There was also a few items in the wash (including newly out of storage) so I had a look and made a guess that there was maybe 5-10 items in the wash.

The first list looked like this:

1.       top
2.       trousers
3.       dress
4.       top
5.       dress
6.       top
7.       dress
8.       tshirt
9.       tshirt
10.   tshirt
11.   tshirt
12.   tshirt
13.   tshirt
14.   trousers
15.   trousers
16.   trousers
17.   trousers
18.   trousers
19.   trousers
20.   shorts
21.   shorts
22.   shorts
23.   shorts
24.   cardi
25.   cardi
26.   cardi
27.   cardi
28.   woolly jumper
29.   green hoodie

First attempt:





This was the extra things I hadn't included:
  • Rain coat
  • Sandals
  • Red crocs
  • Green ‘shoes’
  • Pink wellies
  • Red wellies
  • Hat
  • Hat

 I then had another look in sheer frustration and running out of time and made this revised version:




  1. top
  2. trousers
  3. dress
  4. top
  5. top
  6. dress
  7. top
  8. top
  9. dress
  10. tshirt
  11. tshirt
  12. tshirt
  13. trousers
  14. trousers
  15. shorts
  16. shorts
  17. shorts
  18. shorts
  19. cardi
  20. cardi
  21. cardi
  22. cardi
  23. wooly jumper
  24. green hoodie
  25. + whatever’s in the wash…. Tbc…





The final pile! I have put these into a small vacuum bag and they'll be stored somewhere. IP has been wearing this particular size for a long time and has actually just gone back into smaller clothes because of Potty Training so she could actually get a lot of use out of some of them!


The other thing I did was empty the 2 changing bags and read what Minimalist Mom's book says on what you need for a baby. I had A LOT of rubbish in these bags! The one on the right was a wedding anniversary present for me and kept in the boot for a while. The left one was for getting the bus, etc. I will probably add a few things to the list and I can't really pack them yet as I haven't washed Munchkin's clothing, but it was good to at least empty them and get an idea of what was there... (The pile on the left)



So I plan to come back to it, probably over the weekend, pretty quickly. I've done most of the washing at the moment, it's just drying and then needs putting away and then double checking what's there. 

Sorting the Craft Cupboard...

I was dreading this. It was a job that needed doing but I love doing craft stuff or as DP put it 'I'm the arty farty one' so it's taken a long time for me to get my head around the idea of actually getting rid of craft stuff. 






At the moment. I think I might need to revisit this one but for now it's done. I do make cards quite a lot with IP as thank you's etc so I've kept the bag of blank cards. Other folders are ideas for the future - I've had them for a while so may get rid of them - 'stickers' for making cards and then there's a bag with paint supplies in it. IP hasn't liked paint before but she also hadn't liked play doh and this week suddenly wanted to play with it (at playgroup). However playgroup do messy play every other week and she goes to creche 3 afternoon's a week so bearing in mind Minimalist Mom's approach, I'm thinking the same. IP has some colouring books and crayons. There's also a shredder and the bag at the back has nappy cake supplies...


I didn't do anything with these boxes - the top right is Christmas and seasonal items so if they're not used in December I'll get rid of them. The other 2 boxes are sewing related. Again, I haven't figured out a time limit yet but I will put one on it...


Afterwards the mess that I needed to sort out!


The table is clear now and I've sorted homes for the potential donations (IP's playgroup or a local school). I had to finish this task pretty quickly as I ran out of time before IP got home from creche. Having just written this post has made me rethink getting rid of some more items. I've had the folders of 'ideas for the future' crafts for ages, probably years and never actually made any of them. Maybe if I don't use any at Christmas (when I plan to purge the 'seasonal' box) I'll do the same with the folders...

The sewing ideas I've also had for ages and again, *sigh* still haven't done any of them. But those are sentimental items so I won't get rid of them any time soon, I'm just frustrated that I haven't 'got round' to making what I wanted to do (thinking of making a blanket out of various things) but I'm not ready to get rid of them yet... (Thinking a conversation with DP about sentimental items may be in order)

Thursday, 4 July 2013

IP's Bath Toys...

I mentioned the other day that I realised I had completely missed IP's bath toys. Well I've got into the habit of buying ducks for her and although she does play with them, it's maybe not that much. So I have put all the other toys into the toy holder we/DP actually got her as a present, a couple of sponges. And the ducks are currently on display. Yeah, I don't wanna bin them yet! :/




I did a bit more sorting out - there was a box of donations - and now wish I could get rid of all the other baskets in the bathroom. Unfortunately I don't think it'll happen anytime very soon...

Part 1: Sorting IP's room & Munchkin's clothing, etc.

I promised you photo's and I said this evening would be a good time to do it so I thought I'd do it now before I forget! :) 

So this was before: 



I then emptied all the bags of clothing onto the floor, chucked the bags to one side and various other things and then put the Ikea bags on the bed and had a clipboard to hand. I also wrote on pieces of paper and slipped under the bags what the size of clothing was in that bag...


I really wasn't feeling very well this day so had to keep stopping to drink and if I felt particularly rough...


The 3 Ikea bags!


About half way through...


The other stuff that still needed sorting! :(


Now that IP is potty trained, she's back in her 12 month clothing because her bottom is skinnier. So I found some of her old clothes to try on. That's the pile in front, the Ikea bags are all sorted...


I think this was at the end but the last few days have blurred together now! ;)


This was at the end, the bags on the floor were 'donations':


Clothes that need either destaining or dying. I've since changed my mind on the latter! :/


So in each Ikea bag is a different age group of clothes and then divided into 'neutral' and girly. I know someone having a little girl so I will check and give her the clothes that are good enough. Anything else will go in a charity clothing bin. And I started today washing stuff for Munchkin! This may seem early and not that exciting but IP was so early we didn't do this for her so it was an exciting milestone for me...

I plan to follow The Minimalist Mom's book's (I've purchased the book) suggestions on what to have for a baby's first year. Some of it I won't do as we already have a lot of stuff from IP but things like clothing it should work with...