Monday, 28 April 2014

Holidays Are Coming To An End...


Today is the last day of school holidays and Term 2 begins tomorrow. Unlike some homeschooling families I know, we choose to take our holidays at the same time as the schools do. This is because my daughter attends a public high school. 

The holidays are great for some down time and I have been able to catch up on my writing and DIY projects around the home while the kids have spent countless hours playing Minecraft and Batman Arkym Asylum. I gave up  trying to navigate my way around the X-Box controller sometime around day 3 of school holidays, as this just ends up with the kids laughing at my feeble attempts and calling me a noob.

As a family we have had a friend from Melbourne stay with us, picnicked, baked cakes and biscuits, fought off colds, watched movies, slept in everyday, hunted for Easter eggs,
caught the train into the city for lunch and had many conversations about gaming, superheroes, cosplay, money and the meaning of life. As they say, all good things must come to an end.

Tomorrow we get back into our weekly routine- early mornings, daily stretches and exercise, school work,  papers to deliver, dance class, piano lessons, Scouting, Youth Group, library visits and grocery shopping. After a break, I always feel recharged and look forward to getting back into the structure and flow of our life.

But for now I'm going to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Menu planning can wait until tomorrow...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Chicken Karage Curry Recipe

My family and I love Japanese food, with our favorite dish being chicken curry karage. At least once a month we used to go out for dinner at a local food hall. There are all kinds of Asian food available there, and one of the stalls make the most amazing karage I have ever tasted. Unfortunately, when we had to take stock and evaluate the finances there was no room in the budget for eating out. The karage is $8 a plate, so with 5 of us and a couple of drinks to share it would always cost around $50.

I told a friend of mine how much we love the Spencer Village food hall curry karage. She is a fabulous cook and her specialty is Asian inspired flavors. She mentioned that the curry they use is a brand called Golden Curry and you can buy it in supermarkets. Since then I have been making my own chicken curry karage. It is pretty easy to to make and costs under $10 for my family of 5!

You will need:

500g chicken thighs
2 onions
3 carrots
 3-4 TBS soy sauce
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of corn flour
Box of Golden Curry mix
Peanut or sunflower oil for frying
 3 cups of rice

1. First dice the chicken into small pieces. Try to keep them uniform sizes so they will cook evenly. I like using chicken thighs as I find them to be more tender, but you can use chicken breast if you prefer.

2. Place the chicken in a bowl with the garlic and soy sauce. Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors mingle.

3. This is where I add my rice to my rice cooker. Now, I'm not a fan of unnecessary kitchen gadgets but, every time I used to cook rice on the stove it would go gluey. My rice cooker cost about $10 from Kmart and now I would never be without it!

4.While waiting for the chicken you can make a start on the curry. Dice the onions and carrots, and over a medium heat saute in a pan with a splash of oil. Stir regularly to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the onion begins to turn transparent, break up 4 of the Golden Curry blocks and add 3 cups of water. I buy the large 240 g pack from my Asian grocery store as it is a few dollars cheaper than at a regular supermarket. Also when buying the larger pack I have enough to make 2 meals!

 5. Turn the curry down to a low heat and continue to stir occasionally until the sauce thickens and the vegetables are cooked through.

6. In a large bowl combine the flours. Remove the chicken from the fridge and in small batches coat it in the flour. Once all the chicken is evenly coated transfer it to a plate ready for cooking.

7. On a high heat place your frying pan and a layer of the oil. Let the pan heat up. Then add a few pieces of the chicken at a time, don't overcrowd the pan. You may need to turn the heat down a bit if it is cooking too fast. Using tongs turn each piece of chicken to make sure it cooks evenly. If you are not sure cut a piece of chicken in half, if it is pink then it needs a bit longer.

8. Place the cooked chicken on a plate lined with paper towel to drain off any excess oil. Repeat the above step with the remaining chicken until it is all cooked. Now you are ready to serve.

I like to plate mine up as the restaurants do, with the rice on one side, curry on the other and the chicken down the center.

This makes me really happy, a delicious meal for a fraction of the cost of eating out!

Feel free to leave a comment or a question :)

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Help, Im Addicted To Free Samples!

Everyone, I have a confession to make. I'm addicted to free samples...

If it's free, it's for me!

I stumbled upon a Facebook page one day and saw that a company was offering samples. So I signed up and received my trial product. Since then I was hooked, if there's a freebie to be had I'm there!

Being budget savvy, I am anything but brand loyal. I go for the cheapest products (except toilet paper!) most of the time. Free samples are a great way to try new products without spending any hard earned cash. There are a few products that I have loved after trialing and I have gone on to purchase. It's also a welcome relief to get something in the mail that isn't a bill!

Over the last year or so, I have received samples of toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, make up, feminine hygiene products, perfume, facial wash, moisturizer, sunscreen, nappies, dog treats, cat food, dish washer tablets, band aids, cereal, gravy, sauces, snack bars, coffee, tea, printer paper, pencils, pens and even a t-shirt! My favorites are the beauty products as they are perfect to use when traveling.

A great website which has loads of free samples and offers is this one I write for. I regularly post links to freebies I've found on there so be sure to check it regularly. I have also received samples by liking company pages on Facebook. Another site for samples is here  by subscribing to PINCHme you will get email updates when a new sample is released. Then all you need to do click on the product you would like to sample. Once it has arrived you can provide feedback on whether or not you liked the product. By doing feedback you also gain points which entitles you to get more samples.

Why not sign up for some free samples today?
Happy sampling!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Beginning.

                                                          “The beginning is always today.”
                                                                    ― Mary Shelley

I had every intention on starting this blog 12 months ago, but time just slips by and life got in the way. So let me go back and tell you where this journey first began. December 2012, I was working as a counter hand. The company I worked for closed over the Christmas period so I had a few weeks to evaluate my work situation. I was not happy there and some changes needed to be made. Around this time my youngest children were both having difficulties at the public school they attended. My 11 year old was struggling with reading and writing and was constantly getting into fights. My 6 year old was also having issues and I could foresee him going down the same path as his brother.

I had decided the boys would not return to their school in the new year, but due to finances, private schooling was not an option. I was familiar with the idea of home schooling as several years ago when my eldest child was 8, she was the victim of severe bullying and due to she was removed from school and was home educated for a year. After this time she decided she wanted to go back to school and has been in the public school system with no problems ever since.

Over the summer, my husband and I discussed the possibility of homeschooling our boys. It was a decision that was not to be taken lightly as I knew of the challenges ahead. It would also mean a huge change in our income because for the last 5 years I have been the income earner. Due to my husbands debilitating health problems he is unable to work and it is likely he ever will again. He voiced concern that because of his illness, homeschooling the children alone may be a problem. This was when I decided I would not return to my casual job and would instead stay home and educate the boys with my husband helping when he was able to.We discussed the idea of home school to the boys, who were happy to give it a go.

As they say the rest is history. It has now been 16 months since that decision was made and my life has changed profoundly. I view things so differently, there is no going back. Fortunately I have been lucky enough to pick up odd jobs to supplement our income. As crazy as it sounds, we now have substantial savings in the bank which is something we never had before, even when I was working and earning a good wage. What has changed, you ask? I made a budget, stuck to it and stopped spending unnecessarily. These days I am ridiculously frugal, sometimes to the annoyance of my family. But a dollar saved is almost as good as a dollar earned