Search Results for: christmas

15 Tips to Help You Complete your Christmas Shopping in Only One Day …

15 Tips to Help You Complete Your Christmas Shopping in Only One Day 001



Preparing and shopping for Christmas can be frustrating and overwhelming and if you’re seriously limited for time, it really is possible to get your shopping done in a single day. This year I’ve got less time than I would normally have because I’ve just returned from 2 weeks holiday so, if you’re in the same situation … fear not because I have some fantastic ideas to help you complete all your Christmas shopping in only one day. It’s totally possible and for those of you who are now questioning my sanity … No, I haven’t lost my mind! Let’s go!


  • Write a list of who you need to buy for, set a budget and then decide what you will buy. This is the most important part and it’s all in the planning. Know what you are going to buy BEFORE you get to the shops so you don’t wander around aimlessly. Do your research on the internet or use your weekly shopping catalogues to locate the items you want to buy for the best price and don’t skip over things on your list vowing to buy them later. It doesn’t matter how small the item is, leave nothing out so you can achieve your goal of finishing in a single day.


  • Shop online to save time, money and petrol. I have a friend who does all her Christmas shopping without leaving the house and the Postman does all the work … love it! Just remember to allow time for delivery.


  • Arrive early at the Shopping Centre so you’ll have plenty of time and you have no trouble getting a car park. If the car is close by you can return easily to drop off parcels. Alternatively, take advantage of “Parcel Pickup” where it’s available and collect everything when you’ve finished shopping.


  • Set a time limit to finish your shopping and you’ll be more likely to get it all done. Retailers have loads of tricks up their sleeve to encourage you to linger for longer like beautiful smells, gorgeous product displays, special deals/offers and catchy music … stay focused and get the job done!


  • Visit the bank and withdraw only what you plan to spend. If you’re cash is limited, you’re more likely to stick to your list and your budget. Not only will this motivate you to stay on track, it will save you time wasted on browsing and impulse purchases.


  • Group your gift purchases together by shop e.g. if you need to visit Kmart, Big W, Myer, Target, etc. make a list for each shop so you can grab everything in a single visit and not have to return to that same shop again. If you can, try to limit your shopping to a single Shopping Centre so you’re not driving miles and miles going to lots of different places.


  • If you do need to drive somewhere to pick up an item, call ahead first to make sure the item’s in stock and try to get the item put on hold for you. You can waste a lot of time and petrol travelling to buy things only to find they’re sold out.


  • Leave the kids at home so you have no distractions and can finish your shopping quickly. Shopping with hubbies and friends will also slow you down … so fly solo!


  • Dress comfortably and sensibly … you’re on a mission which you don’t want to abort because of sore feet and blisters or because you’re too hot, cold or uncomfortable. Think about taking a small handbag so the weight of carrying a loaded larger one doesn’t make you tired. Hopefully you also had a good sleep the night before.


  • Eat before you leave home so you don’t get hungry. Skip sugary food that will see you crashing by mid morning and instead have a filling, healthy breakfast. Stopping frequently to grab snacks will only hold you up and eat into your valuable shopping time. Take a muesli bar, nuts or piece of fruit in your handbag and don’t forget to take a bottle of water. Having said that, do plan to have a lunch break. You’ll need to recharge your brain as well as your body and having a healthy lunch will give your frazzled brain some downtime.


  • Stick to your list and remember … no distractions! If you bump into friends, politely explain that you’re trying to finish the shopping without the kids and you only have limited time … good friends will understand. Remember also to stop once you’re at the bottom of the list. It’s so easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season and start adding little things to “fill out” presents … don’t! Finish what’s on the list, congratulate yourself for a job well done and go home.


  • Don’t get caught up in long queues. If you’re in a Department Store that has multiple checkout points on different floors, go to a quieter section like the furniture area, where there are no lines and fewer customers, so you can get in and get out fast.


  • Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure by thinking you have to buy extravagant gifts or search for hours for “just the right thing”. If you’re absolutely stuck, a Gift Card is perfectly okay and a wonderful gift. In fact, I have lots of family and friends who prefer them because they get to choose exactly what they want and can wait until Boxing Day when most things are either half price or greatly reduced. If you want to jazz up the gift card include an inexpensive item like chocolate, soap, stationery or a home made, baked item.


  • Embrace DIY … making some gifts yourself will reduce the amount of time you have to spend in the shops. Making your own gifts also means you don’t have to worry about Shopping Centre opening hours and you can manage your time working after the kids have gone to bed. And if you think you’re not talented enough, think again! There are so many great ideas and the internet is the perfect place to start for easy tutorials that will give you step-by-step instructions or videos. Bake some biscuits, a slice, a chocolate treat like Rum Balls or make a cake. Have a go at making some jam, chutney or pickles. If you can sew, put that talent to use. If you’re crafty there are literally hundreds of things you could make like jewellery, knit or crochet something or frame a lovely photo you’ve taken. You could even make vouchers for a service you could offer like housekeeping, babysitting, gardening or childcare … the possibilities are endless.


  • Finally, believe you can do it and don’t leave your patience and sense of humour at home. Christmas shopping is stressful and can bring out the worst in people so when you venture out have a positive attitude, cut others some slack and remind yourself how thrilled you will feel when you arrive home with your mission accomplished.


So tell me, are you up for the challenge or have you already finished your shopping?

Christmas Planner … Free to Download …

Christmas Planner 001


Christmas is such a wonderful, magical time of the year and the best gift you can give yourself is a holiday season that’s prepared, organised and stress-free. So, to help you do this, I’ve created a Christmas Planner and the best news of all is that it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE.


I started using a Christmas Planner many years ago and have spent a lot of time creating lists and worksheets to help me get organised. It has proven to be a valuable resource that eliminates frustration, keeps me on track, ensures I stay on budget and keeps everything sorted in a single folder. Over the years it has grown as I have added more lists, ideas, activities and anything else that relates to the festive season and, now I’ve decided to share what I’ve created.


Below is a list of all the Printables I’ve created and your only task will be to decide which ones will work for you and your family. Then, simply print them off and add them to your Christmas Planning Folder. This allows you to completely personalise your folder without the need to purchase a whole planning kit full of pages you may or may not use. It will also reduce the likelihood of you forgetting something or becoming overwhelmed.


Simply click on the “Free to Download” box on the right hand side of the blog, click on the Christmas tab and then explore the printables that are available, which include:


  • Address List
  • Advent Calendar Activity Ideas
  • Advent Calendar Budget
  • Advent Calendar Gift Ideas
  • Advent Calendar Notes
  • Budget Planner
  • Calendar – November
  • Calendar – December
  • Christmas Card List
  • Christmas Card List for Kids
  • Christmas Crossword
  • Christmas Day Timetable
  • Decorations Inventory
  • Christmas Eve To Do List
  • Events Planner
  • Christmas Family Traditions
  • Christmas Grocery Shopping List
  • Guest List
  • Christmas Handmade Gifts
  • Christmas Jokes for Kids
  • Layby Tracker
  • Menu Planner
  • Christmas Notes
  • Online Purchases Tracker
  • Present Shopping List
  • Recipe Planner
  • Stocking Stuffer Ideas
  • Christmas Travel and Packing Checklist
  • Christmas Wish List


Available soon for the kids will be two letters to Santa and two letters from Santa. … so stay tuned for those.


So let’s get started.


  • Head off to Big W, Kmart or Officeworks and purchase a folder. I liked the J. Burrows A4 Insert Binder folder because it’s sturdy and has a clear plastic cover where you can insert a Christmas Planner Cover Sheet. I have created five different Cover Sheets for you and you will find these with the other Printables. Simply choose the one you like, print and insert into the cover of the folder. This folder comes in a variety of sizes and I bought the AR 2-ring binder (because I have a 2 hole punch for the pages) and it will hold up to 200 sheets so that will definitely be big enough. This folder cost $2.99.


Christmas Planner 002

  • I also purchased 2 clear, closable, plastic pockets. In the first one I have a pen, pencil, rubber, small calculator and white out and this makes these items accessible. In the second one I keep receipts all together in one spot in case I need them for returns. The receipts are also a great idea to help me with budgeting for the next year.


  • I then added a couple of plastic page inserts to hold things like pictures from catalogues, printouts from the web, etc.


  • I also purchased some plastic dividers (10 pack) from Big W at a cost of $5.37. Now you can find cheaper dividers but I went for the plastic ones that were extra-wide so that they still stick out beyond the width of plastic page inserts. I then labeled each divider. I separated my folder into the following categories, however, you can divide yours up whichever way you like:


  1. Budget
  2. Wish Lists and Shopping
  3. Food
  4. Events and Guest List
  5. Christmas Cards, Santa Letters and Address List
  6. Advent Calendar
  7. Activities, Craft and Hand Made Gifts
  8. Decorations, Family Traditions and Travel
  9. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
  10. Notes and Miscellaneous


If you want to be organised for a stress-free Christmas, grab a folder, download your free Christmas Planner Cover Sheet and start planning. So tell me, do you like to plan early or do you tend to leave everything until the last minute?



Christmas Family Traditions …

Christmas Family Traditions 001


Christmas is a special time of year to spend time with family and friends and creating family traditions is a wonderful way to build lifelong memories. Family traditions are simply the things we do year after year that have meaning, purpose and significance for us. Every family will have different traditions that reflect their personalities, culture, budget and spirituality and having traditions is a delightful way to bond and reconnect with the people in our lives.


As an example, one of our family traditions is our Annual Pudding Day. It’s usually held in mid November every year (it happened yesterday) and my family comes together to make our puddings using a recipe, which has now been passed down through five generations. Everyone travels from near and far, ingredients are mixed by hand, puddings are wrapped in calico cloths, boiled in large pots and then hung in the garage for 6-8 weeks and everyone has to have a stir of the pudding for luck. It’s a magic day, one that we all look forward to and much fun and laughter is shared by everyone.

Christmas Family Traditions 002

Christmas Family Traditions 003

Traditions don’t need to be complex or expensive and here are some great ideas to help you build your own family traditions:


  • Christmas decorations for the kids. Each year buy one ornament for each of your children until they leave home. When they then have their own trees, they can take their ornaments and memories with them.


  • Viewing the Christmas lights. One night where the family drives around together to see all the lovely Christmas lights on display. The areas or streets are usually published in the local newspaper or available through your local Council.


  • Christmas Carols. Most towns and cities hold Christmas Carol evenings. Simply take along your rugs, chairs, snacks, candles and torches and share a lovely evening singing Christmas Carols. If you can’t make it to an organised event, get together with family, friends and neighbours and do something similar at home.


  • Christmas Feast. Go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner on Christmas Day and let someone else do the cooking.


  • Secret Santa. Instead of spending a fortune at Christmas, have your own Secret Santa. Before Christmas, pick names from a hat (or bowl) and set a $ limit. Each person will buy one present for one other family member.


  • Christmas Shopping. Turn your family Christmas shopping into an event. Take the kids and do it all in one day or evening.


  • Open One Present on Christmas Eve. The kids will love this one and it helps to build the excitement and anticipation.


  • Christmas Clothing. Buy everyone matching pyjamas or shirts for Christmas Day. It will get everyone in the spirit and lead to some wonderful photo opportunities.


  • Christmas Tree. Make an event of putting up the tree. Choose a day when everyone’s available, play some Christmas music and have a bit of fun. When you’ve finished the tree, decorate the rest of the house and let the kids also decorate their rooms. We also have a tradition where the kids take turns each year putting the star on top of the tree.


  • Make a Gingerbread House. This is a wonderful activity for the family to complete together and the end result will make everyone feel very proud. Alternatively, bake some Christmas treats like Rum Balls, White Christmas, Boiled Fruit Cake, Shortbread, Christmas Cookies or something similar.


  • Read a Christmas Story. The Night before Christmas, The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and other festive stories are perfect to read before bedtime. If you want to make this a bit special, turn on the Christmas Tree lights and camp out by the Tree for a Christmas Slumber Party with hot chocolates and Christmas treats.


  • Make a Donation to a Giving Tree. These can be found in most major shops like Target, K Mart and Big W. Shoppers are encouraged to take a tag from the Giving Tree and to purchase a gift for a child or adult of a certain age and then place it under the tree. We have enjoyed doing this for as long as I can remember and the girls gain so much reward from the act of giving selflessly to someone else and, in fact, this would be one of our favourite traditions. If your budget won’t allow a gift for a Giving Tree that’s perfectly okay so perhaps you could consider donating your time instead to either a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food bank or some other charitable organisation in the community. If you’re feeling particularly generous, why not do both.


  • Attend Midnight Mass. This is a beautiful tradition celebrated by many families.


  • Create an Advent Calendar. Use one to help the kids countdown to Christmas.


  • Make your own Christmas Crackers. Gather up your craft supplies and goodies to fill the insides and spend a fun afternoon with the kids getting these ready for Christmas Day.


  • Visit Santa and get an Annual Family Photo. You will really treasure these when the kids grow up and after your visit to Santa, sit down together and write him a letter.


As you can imagine, there are loads of traditions that families start to give life to the joy and magic that is Christmas, traditions that make Christmas special and that help create beautiful memories for children to take into adulthood.


So, tell me, do you have any special family traditions and, if so, what are they?

Christmas …

Christmas … it’s the most wonderful time of the year! But for many people and families it can also be extremely expensive and stressful. To help relieve some of that pressure and get you super organised, I’ve created a fantastic Christmas Planner.

First, choose from one of five gorgeous Cover Sheets to create your Christmas Planner Folder. Next, explore all the different Checklists, Planning Pages, Worksheets and Activity Sheets that are available and choose the ones that will work for you and your family. Finally, click, download and print … absolutely free! These are a gift from me to you … Merry Christmas!

Please Note: These downloads and printables are free for personal use only. Once printed, the colour may vary from the colour seen on your computer screen. These products may also be printed in black and white by adjusting the settings on your computer and have been designed print on a standard A4 page. If you would like to share any of these items on your website or blog, please contact me first. Thank you.

Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter …

Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter 001


This week we celebrated Christmas at work with a staff lunch in the office. We had already attended the “official” work Christmas Party but the lunch is a more casual tradition with everyone in the office asked to bring a plate of food to share and celebrate. We ended up with a fantastic variety of food and enjoyed a delicious lunch with great company.



One of my “go to” offerings when I’m asked to “bring a plate” is a sandwich platter. Rarely does anyone ever double up with the same thing and I always find it’s enjoyed and appreciated. So, here are some simple tips to help you produce an amazing sandwich platter:



  • Buy the freshest bread possible. I usually buy my bread fresh from the bakery on the morning I’m going to make my platter … it really is my secret for an awesome sandwich platter. Choose a loaf (or loaves) that are as “square” as possible because it will help you cut the sandwiches as uniformly as possible which will help with your presentation.


  • Create a “rainbow” of colour by choosing ingredients that will look bright and appealing … if it looks good, people will eat!


  • Make sure there’s a lot of variety in the fillings on the sandwiches. Everyone has different tastes and should be able to find something they like if there is a range of flavours to choose from.


  • Don’t be too heavy handed with flavours, sauces and spices. Keep it simple and let the beautiful ingredients speak for themselves.


  • Pay attention to the “construction” of your sandwiches. Spread all the fillings to the edge of the crust so your sandwich remains stable and holds together when on the platter and add “wet” ingredients like beetroot and tomato in the centre of the sandwich (away from the bread) to prevent soggy sandwiches. It’s really personal preference, but I tend to leave the crust on my sandwiches when cutting them in triangles as it gives a more solid base so the sandwich remains upright.



Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter 002-2



  • To remove excess moisture from wet ingredients like beetroot, tomato and cucumber, lay them between two pieces of paper towel to soak up the excess before placing them onto sandwiches. Roma tomatoes also tend to have less liquid than regular tomatoes and are, therefore, ideal for fresh sandwiches.


  • Don’t butter the sandwiches … not everyone likes it and if there is enough flavour in the fillings, it won’t be missed. It will also be cheaper to construct your platter.


  • Prevent your sandwiches from drying out as they’re being made. As each sandwich is finished, place it on a plate, cover it with plastic wrap like Gladwrap and refrigerate. Alternatively, place the sandwiches on a plate and cover with a tea towel until they need to be cut.


  • Avoid ingredients people may be allergic to and, at the very least, tell everyone what’s on the sandwiches so they can make and educated choice.


  • Work with dry hands. This may sound obvious but because you’ll be working with lots of different ingredients, you’ll most likely be wiping down cutting boards and knives frequently as well as washing your hands often. Wet hands and fresh bread definitely don’t mix.


  • Try to make your platter on the day it will be eaten, if time permits. A lot of preparation can be done the night before, like mashing eggs, grating carrot, etc. but the secret to an awesome platter is definitely the fresh bread purchased on the day.


  • When it’s time to cut your sandwiches, be sure to use a large, sharp, serrated knife to cut cleanly and I would also recommend cutting one sandwich at a time. It is more time consuming but it will prevent crusts from tearing away from the bread when it’s so fresh.


  • In terms of presentation, I prefer a simple plain white platter because it lets the vibrant colours of the sandwiches stand out and be a feature rather than getting lost in a “busy” colourful pattern on a plate. The way you display or layout your sandwich triangles will also depend on the size and shape of the platter you select. I usually just lay out the sandwich triangles in straight lines … quick and easy is the name of the game for me … but you can be as creative as you like.



Simple Tips to Help you Produce an Amazing Sandwich Platter 003-2



Here are my favourite sandwich fillings when making a platter, although the possible combinations are endless:



  • Turkey (finely sliced) and Cranberry Sauce


  • Chicken (finely diced) and mixed with fresh corn, celery and mayonnaise


  • Curried egg with alfalfa sprouts


  • Tomato and cheese with corn relish


  • Ham and Avocado (mashed and blended with some squeezed lemon juice to prevent the avocado browning)


  • Hommus, beetroot, carrot and cucumber


  • Tuna with shallots and mayonnaise


  • Smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers


  • Salami with semi-dried tomatoes and lettuce


  • Roast beef (shaved) with chutney and spinach leaves


  • Corned beef with pickles



So tell me, what do you make when you’re asked to “bring a plate” and do you tend to go for sweet or savoury?



Bon Voyage … My Sweet Girl …



My house is feeling a lot emptier than usual … 5 days ago, I said farewell to Miss 18 as she embarked on a Gap Year to the UK. I’ve known it was coming for such a long time but it still managed to creep up on me until suddenly it was no longer something that was going to happen in the future … instead it was happening NOW and then, just as quickly, NOW became yesterday … and she was gone!


Her Gap Year was organised by her former school. There are 14 students in total going and they have each been placed to live and work in a school in the UK for a year. The school where Miss 18 will be working is located just north of London and is a boarding/day school for children aged 3 – 13. She will live and work at the school during term time and on breaks she will travel with the other “Gappies”. The exploring has already begun as she spends the first seven days of her Gap Year in Edinburgh.


It was a busy time getting her ready to live away from home for a whole year. She has taken only winter clothes for the moment but I’ve booked to visit during her first term break which starts at the end of March, so I’ll take all her summer clothes with me then. As well as her wardrobe, there was a lot to think about like bank accounts, mobile phones, money and insurances to name a few and a lot of documents, visas and paperwork to prepare but we got it all done.


Saying goodbye was one of toughest things I’ve ever done … excruciatingly tough … but it was also exciting. To think that she had this incredible opportunity and to imagine the experiences and adventures that awaited made it all seem that little bit easier to bear. I won’t lie though, there were tears … lots of tears … hers, mine and everybody else’s as she said goodbye to family, friends and her two beautiful sisters.


Letting go of your child that you’ve loved and protected fiercely for 18 years is always going to be difficult. It’s so easy to worry and be afraid and think of all the reasons why they shouldn’t go. But I’ve consoled myself with the knowledge that she’s smart, practical, sensible, mature, cautious and not a huge risk taker. She’s not impulsive and thinks before she acts, she knows her own mind and is not easily led by others … she will be okay. In fact, she’ll be better than okay and will grow so much personally and emotionally in this year, of that I have no doubt.


She is starting a new chapter in her life where she will move from her comfort zone and everything that is familiar. She will broaden her horizons, plunge bravely into the unknown and she will see the world. In the process, she will learn some invaluable life skills … she will have to problem solve, she will become fiercely independent and she will also become self-reliant in a way that even she couldn’t imagine. She will earn a salary from which she will learn to budget and she will learn some wonderful workplace skills as well. She will make new friends and learn to adapt to life in a new and different country. But most of all she will discover who she is and learn that she is capable and able to stand on her own two feet. I truly admire her courage … I don’t think, in fact I know, I couldn’t have done the same at her age.


Undoubtedly she will make mistakes, probably lots of them but, in the process, she will continue to learn. She’ll fall down but she will get back up again, learning that she has the capacity to do so without leaning on Mum and Dad. I’m also confident a Gap Year, after 13 years of schooling will promote a more mature, focussed and motivated approach to her Uni studies once she returns.


She has been gone now for 5 days and, despite her being over 16,000 kms away, technology is helping to make the distance seem so much less. We’ve texted and face timed each other numerous times. She has called when she has felt down and overwhelmed by the enormity of what she has committed to. She has been messaging photos of each new thing she sees and does and I’m so deeply touched that she wants to share her special moments with us.


I’m also excited because I will be visiting her and travelling to England and Europe for the first time. I’ve travelled a lot through Asia, the South Pacific and America but never made it to that other side of the world. I’ve booked my flight for the end of March, courtesy of my QANTAS frequent flyer points, which I’ve been accruing like a mad woman. I’ll be away for almost 3 weeks and, although we’ve yet to plan where we will travel and what we will do, I’m simply focussed on seeing her … and yes, the daily countdown has begun. Hubby and I will visit her again in July/August and she will fly home for her eldest sister’s wedding in October before finally returning home in time for Christmas next year.


Her return won’t come soon enough but, in the meantime, adventure awaits for my darling girl … we sincerely hope she enjoys every moment! We love her more than anything and we miss her desperately! It’s going to be a long year!


Chocolate Orange Bliss Balls …

Chocolate Orange Bliss Balls 001

Chocolate and orange are a classic flavour combination and these Chocolate Jaffa Balls are not only easy to make but also quite healthy. I usually make and freeze a few varieties of Bliss Balls at Christmas time and keep some frozen. They are a great addition to a cheese platter and the perfect treat if friends drop by unexpectedly. Enjoy!

Chocolate Orange Bliss Balls …
Ingredients …
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut
  • 3 tablespoons raw cacao (or substitute with cocoa)
  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • desiccated coconut, extra for rolling
Method …
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined.
  2. Roll a heaped teaspoonful of mixture into a ball and roll in extra desiccated coconut to coat. Repeat until all mixture has been used.
  3. This recipe will make 16 – 18 balls. Store in the fridge or freeze for up to 2 months.

If you enjoy this recipe, you might also like these:

Cherry Ripe Balls 001

Peanut Butter Balls 001

Jingle Balls 001

Crispy Mars Bar Balls

Ginger Balls 001

100+ Ideas for Elf on the Shelf Names …

100+ Ideas for Elf on the Shelf Names


If you’ve decided to adopt an Elf and participate in the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition, one of your first tasks will be to name your little guy (or gal). Get the kids involved to come up with a name that you all like, but just in case you get stuck, I’ve created a list of over 100 names for you to choose from:












Bon Bon





Candy (or Candi)






Cindy Lou














Ellie (or Elly)









Frost or Frosty














Jingle (or Jangle)


















Nick (or Nicky)







































So tell me, what’s your favourite name?



Christmas Planner 001



15 Tips to Help You Complete Your Christmas Shopping in Only One Day 001



Slow Cooker Chocolate Christmas Pudding



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50 Gift Ideas for your Child’s Teachers …



It’s often said that “it takes a village to raise a child”. In other words, parents aren’t the only ones who will influence their children and kids will encounter many people throughout their lives who will all have an impact on how they grow and develop. The role of some people will be small, whereas the effect of others will be huge and, when I consider that, I think of teachers. Kids spend countless hours in the care of their teachers, so there’s no doubt about the significance of a teacher’s influence.


My girls have been so lucky throughout their school years to have been taught and nurtured by so many wonderful, caring, dedicated teachers who have left an indelible mark, not just on their minds, but on their hearts as well. The imprint left by most has been truly profound so, at Christmas time, we always like to buy each teacher a gift as a token of our appreciation and as a small way to say thank you for all they have done. You don’t need to spend a fortune and, to be honest, it’s the gifts that often cost the least and which are the result of deep thought and heartfelt, genuine sentiment that will be appreciated the most.

Here are a few suggestions (in no particular order) if you’re stuck for an idea:

  1. A box of chocolates … for anyone with a sweet tooth … perfect!


  1. Jar of jelly beans or other lollies … after all, not everyone loves chocolate.


  1. Magazine subscription … it’s so nice to have your favourite mag arrive in the letter box each week.


  1. Diary … perfect for starting the new year.


  1. A personalized letter is a lovely way for either yourself or your child to say thank you.


  1. A special drawing by your child or handmade card.


  1. A bottle of wine, champagne or beer (although I’d suggest checking School Policy first) … remember also that not everyone drinks.


  1. Wine glass(es) … whether it’s a single glass or a set of 4 or 6. If buying a single glass, you could always have it etched with your child’s name and year.


  1. Baked goods … items like cookies/biscuits, brownies, rum balls or fudge are just some of the yummy treats you could whip up when doing your other Christmas baking.


  1. A homemade Christmas fruit cake or a Lions Christmas cake if you’re pushed for time.


  1. DIY Cookies in a jar … layer all the ingredients in a jar, attach an attractive label and a tag with the recipe/instructions.


  1. Books … if your teacher loves to read, the latest novel or a book about a favourite hobby or interest could be appreciated.


  1. A book voucher for a local book store if you don’t know what your teacher likes to read.


  1. Bunch of flowers.


  1. A potted plant … either for the classroom, staff room or to take home.


  1. Pens and stationery … even if your teacher doesn’t need any for home, extra supplies will always come in handy in the classroom. Typo and Kikki K are two gorgeous stores where you might find something a little different. Resources can also be in short supply at some schools so putting together a box of things like notepads, pencils, textas, crayons, pens, anti-bacterial soap, tissues, glue, scissors, rubbers, craft paper is a good idea.


  1. Candles … so many beautiful colours and aromas to choose.


  1. Tea … either a decorative canister of their favourite tea or a selection of beautiful teas … soothing and comforting.


  1. A beautiful vase … either for the classroom or home.


  1. Soap, hand cream and other toiletries make a simple yet gorgeous gift … and they smell fantastic too!


  1. A wall calendar … to help with organization and planning. If you have the time, you could order one online including photos of all the students or school events from the year.


  1. Coffee vouchers for a local Coffee Shop or café.


  1. Scratchies or a Lotto ticket are a good idea … you can slip them inside a card or create a “Scratchie Tree” by attaching a collection of scratchies to the branches/leaves of a small pot plant.


  1. Movie tickets and/or a voucher for popcorn and drink if your budget stretches that far.


  1. A nice pen which you could even have engraved.


  1. A donation to any charity on behalf of your teacher but charities that help underprivileged children would be especially relevant.


  1. A bookmark … either bought or homemade is a simple practical gift. No matter how many I have, I always seem to misplace them and am always on the lookout for a new one.


  1. A hand-painted artwork … simply buy an inexpensive blank canvas from a discount store and let the kids create their own work of art to gift to their teacher.


  1. A small gift card to a local Department Store, Sports Store, Newsagent and so on.


  1. A gift card/voucher for a manicure, pedicure, facial or massage would be a real treat. Everyone loves to be pampered and your teacher probably deserves it more than most.


  1. A Christmas decoration is a lovely sentimental gift that the teacher can hang on their tree year after year. You could even buy a plain bauble and allow your child to write on it or decorate it with glitter pens/glue.


  1. Give the gift of your time … volunteer to help the teacher with classroom cleanup at the end of the year.


  1. Handmade jewellery is a lovely idea if you’re creative.


  1. Donate some books either to your classroom or the school library in the name of your teacher.


  1. If your crafty and can quilt, a quilted throw would be a hit.


  1. Crochet or knit a throw rug, scarf, socks or beanie if your handy with either knitting needles or a crochet hook.


  1. A photo frame.


  1. A large tote bag … perfect for transporting books and other goodies between home and school.


  1. A fruit basket … a great alternative to baked goods or sweets like chocolates.


  1. Storage containers like pretty boxes, pen cups, baskets will all help your teacher organise their classroom.


  1. A framed print with an inspirational saying or quote. (Stay tuned next year because I’m creating some wonderful prints for you to download absolutely free).


  1. A lunch box/lunch tote … it’s always nice to start a school year with a new one.


  1. A good quality water bottle.


  1. Stamps/stickers … especially good for younger kids where the teacher can use them as rewards.


  1. A satchel/case for their iPad or laptop.


  1. A personalized pencil case featuring the teachers name.


  1. A foldup, compact umbrella …believe it or not, these go astray easier than you may think and perfect for the school playground or carpark on a wet, rainy day.


  1. Buy a toy/gift and place it under a giving/Wishing tree at shops like Kmart and Big W on behalf of your teacher


  1. A CD by their favourite singer or band or a DVD of a recently released movie.


  1. Finally, get together with other families in your classroom and buy one single gift. It usually only takes a small contribution from everyone in the class and, if one person is willing to be in charge of collection and purchasing it can save time and effort and really take the pressure off. It will probably cost each individual less and your teacher will get a great, valuable, useful gift. Usually a gift card to a restaurant, major Department Store or Day Spa is a popular choice.


So, can you make any other suggestions and what will you buy or make for your child’s teacher this year?

Decluttering (Part 9) … What to do with the Items you no Longer Need or Want …




If you’re just joining the “Mrs Organised” community … Welcome! It’s nice to meet you! Before you read today’s post, however, you might like to catch up on the first 8 parts of my series devoted to decluttering … simply click on the links below:










If decluttering your home is an ongoing battle, I do hope some of my ideas have helped and, if you have followed my suggestions, you will have ended up with several piles or baskets of unwanted items. You can reread Part 5 for a refresher but, in a nutshell, I suggested you sort your unwanted clutter into one of 5 piles:


  • Keep
  • Throw out
  • Donate to Charity
  • Give to Family/Friends
  • Sell


Now it’s time to get rid of all those items:


  • The “Keep” pile is easy … these items can be stored neatly where you would like them.
  • The “Throw out” pile is also easy but I want you to get those items into the bin as fast as possible. In fact, if there’s any risk you’ll have second thoughts about any of these items and retrieve them, jump in your car and take them to the dump straight away to remove any temptation. Once they’re at the dump, they’re gone for good!
  • The “Donate to Charity” pile is also fairly straight forward but once again I would suggest you take these to your local Charity store or Charity bin immediately. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve asked myself the dreaded “what if?” question and then pulled something out of the bag and kept it.
  • The “Give to Family/Friends” pile I would suggest delivering as soon as possible or at the very least contact the relevant person either by phone or email and offer them the item. The psychology and strategy behind this move is, that once you’ve offered the item, you’ll be too embarrassed for a change of heart and will have to give it away as planned.


  • And finally, the “Sell” pile … this one will take a little bit more work but could put some serious cash in your pocket. How much effort you go to will largely depend on the value of your unwanted items, how much time you have and how much effort you want to devote but here are some great places for you to start:


1. Garage sales

2. eBay, Gumtree or other online selling marketplaces

3. Second-hand dealers e.g. Cash Converters

4. The Trading Post

5. Classified ads in your local newspaper or magazine

6. Facebook … either share the item on your own page or on other Buy, Sell or Swap groups

7. Markets or Car Boot Sales

8. Notice Boards either at work or your local Shopping Centre

9. Other specialty websites like CarsGuide (for cars), Student VIP (for textbooks), Still White (for wedding gowns) to name a few.

10. Word-of-mouth … even mentioning your unwanted items in conversations with friends, family or work colleagues could see your items finding a new home


Just remember to be realistic with your prices, especially if you want to get rid of items quickly. With Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time to sell some stuff as your unwanted things might make a great gift for someone else or you could make Christmas a little more magical with some extra cash.


There is one more option that I haven’t mentioned earlier and that is to trade or barter your items, in other words trade an item you no longer want or need and replace it with something you do want or need. Remembeer, things that have little or no value to you may be worth a lot to someone else and vice versaq. The prize for the best example of bartering has to go to a Canadian blogger, Kyle MacDonald. In the space of a year, he used 14 trades to turn a single, red paper clip into a 2-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan. His inspiration for his adventure was a childhood bartering game called Bigger and Better. It’s an amazing story and his journey looked like this:


  1. He traded one red paperclip to a young woman in Vancouver for a fish-shaped pen.


  1. He traded the fish-shaped pen for a hand-sculpted doorknob in Seattle, Washington on the same day.


  1. He traded the hand-sculpted doorknob for a Coleman Camping Stove in Amherst, Massachusetts.


  1. He traded the Coleman Camping Stove for a Honda Generator in California.


  1. He traded the Honda Generator for an “instant party” comprising an empty keg of beer, an IOU for filling the keg with a beer of the bearer’s choice and a neon Budweiser sign in Maspeth, Queens.


  1. He traded the “instant party” for a Ski-Doo Snowmobile in Quebec.


  1. He traded the Ski-Doo Snowmobile for a trip for two to Yahk, British Columbia.


  1. He traded the second sport on the trip for two to Yahk, British Columbia for a box truck.


  1. He traded the box truck for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario.


  1. He traded the recording contract with Metalworks for one year’s rent in Phoenix, Arizona.


  1. He traded one year’s rent for one afternoon with Alice Cooper.


  1. He traded one afternoon with Alice Cooper for a KISS motorised snow globe.


  1. He traded the Kiss motorised snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a speaking role in the film, “Donna on Demand”.


  1. He traded the speaking role in the film, “Donna on Demand” for a two-storey farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.


It just goes to show that anything is possible. So tell me, if you were going to offer something to trade or barter, what would it be and what would you hope to get in exchange?


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry …

How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 001


Last month, I shared some simple tips that would be helpful if you were organising your pantry. There’s some great ideas so if you would like to read more, just click here.


My pantry has always been quite well organised but recently I decided it was due for an overhaul after I fell in love with some gorgeous red wire baskets, which I picked up for next to nothing in the Boxing Day Sales. I like to review my pantry at least once a year, as I’m always looking to improve things and my new baskets provided the perfect excuse! As my family’s needs change, I guess it will always be a “work in progress” and, if you decide to tackle yours, the most important thing to remember is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it, there’s only what works for you and for your family.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 002


My pantry consists of two large double doors, which open to reveal 5 shelves and then underneath, I have 4 large deep drawers, which I use to store baking supplies and other kitchen appliances and dishes.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 003


So starting at the top of the pantry, on the very top shelf, I tend to store items that I don’t need to access very often. This includes items for special occasions like Halloween and Christmas, plastic glasses for pool parties, large serving baskets, which are used for family barbecues and my good cutlery (a wedding gift), which is also used for special occasions and dinner parties.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 004


The next shelf again stores items that aren’t used everyday but more frequently than the items on the top shelf. Two baskets store plastic takeaway containers, which are mostly recycled to use for freezing food, one basket stores paper napkins and the fourth basket holds my rather abundant supply of cupcake wrappers because I bake a lot.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 005


The third shelf holds 4 baskets. Basket 1 stores cooking chocolate, marshmallows and dried fruit; basket 2 stores, biscuits and crackers; basket 3 stores taco shells and noodles and basket 4 stores a variety of dried pasta.


The fourth shelf is around chest height so on this shelf I store items that I use all the time. These baskets are smaller than the other two shelves so there’s also room for a small plastic crate where I store an assortment of containers that are suitable for lunchboxes. This crate has a handle and wheels, making it easy to pull forward, which is great because I access it nearly every day. Basket 1 holds smaller bottles of different sauces; basket 2 holds things like jelly, custard powder, gravy powder and the like; basket 3 holds anything drink related like Salvital, tea, coffee and drinking chocolate; basket 4 holds honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, etc. and basket 4 holds brown rice and basmati rice. This shelf and the two shelves above both have room on the sides at the front. These spaces have been perfect for storing things like plastic cups for the kids, a large jar of mixed nuts, extra tea bags and sometimes a small pile of tea towels.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 006


And lastly, the bottom shelf, which is about waist height, is quite a tall shelf but I’ve still been able to maximize the space. I use a lot of platters and large bowls so I’ve been able to stack these quite high in one corner. Not only does this make them more accessible but it also means I don’t have to bend into the back of a low deep cupboard. In front of my platters I’ve created enough room to store my 3 main rice jars. I keep Jasmine Rice, Arborio Rice and Long Grain Rice in these. I used to keep these containers on my kitchen bench as they’re very attractive but I moved them to the cupboard to reduce visual clutter and also because they gathered dust on the bench. In the middle of this shelf I have a large blue wire basket where I store all my large bottles of salt, sauces, vinegars and oils, etc. The tall basket is great because it keeps all these items together and the tall sides prevent anything from toppling or being knocked over. Next to this there is a narrow space which is ideal for storing paper towel, a straw container and an Allens Lolly container. I feel quite lucky to have one of these. Many years ago, I used to run a School Tuckshop and this container was given to me by a supplier. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy one of these but it’s perfect for store-bought snack food like Muesli Bars. A lovely basket or container will do the job just as well. Lastly on this shelf I have a little chrome shelf unit that I use to store tinned food. The three shelves have allowed me to use every ounce of the height and it fits perfectly underneath the shelf above.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 007



How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 008


You may or may not have noticed that I have no flour, sugar or other baking ingredients stored in my pantry. These are stored in the four lovely deep drawers down underneath and you can read more about that here and here.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 009


I don’t store my herbs, spices, food colouring and other similar items in the pantry either. We’ve managed to create a set of small shelves above the rangehood, which is perfect for those and you can read more about that here.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 010


I’ve also utilised a small space between the fridge and the wall. I found a narrow set of chrome shelves on wheels, which fits the space perfectly. I use it to store additional tinned food as well as our selection of cereals. If you’re curious, you can read more here.


How I’ve Organised my Kitchen Pantry 011


The other noticeable thing about my pantry is that I haven’t used any labels … yet! Whenever I’m organising a new space, I usually don’t label anything until the very end and often not for a few days or even weeks. This gives me the flexibility to keep moving things around until I’m totally happy … then I go crazy and label everything in sight. I’m actually not sure though that I will label much this time because those lovely red baskets allow me to see everything so easily.


I’m pretty happy with my pantry now. I have similar items grouped together, which makes it easy to find things and also helps enormously when I’m preparing my weekly shopping list. I can see what I have at a glance and reducing waste because I don’t overstock or double up on things I already have.


It is a big job to organise a pantry but it’s definitely worth the effort. So tell me, are you happy with the way your pantry is organised and does it stay that way for long?



Lamb Pasta Salad with Lemon and Garlic …

Lamb Pasta Salad with Lemon and Garlic

If I had to nominate my favourite meat it would hands down be lamb … so I’m always looking for creative ways to serve it. Last night I created this simple salad that was light, fresh, loaded with veggies and absolutely delicious!

This dish is perfect for dinner but I think it would also make a fabulous dish to serve on Christmas Day. Did I also mention it was quick and easy … let me know what you think!

Lamb Pasta Salad with Lemon and Garlic …
Ingredients …
  • 2 -3 cups pumpkin, cut in small chunks
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • ½ yellow capsicum, chopped into small chunks
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups dried pasta (I used spirals)
  • 600 – 700g lamb leg steaks
  • 12 large snow peas, topped and tailed and cut in half diagonally
  • 250g punnet red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Method …
  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Place pumpkin, Spanish onion, capsicum, zucchini and olive oil in a roasting dish. Season with salt and toss. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 – 25 minutes.
  3. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water until al dente. Remove from stove, drain and place in the bottom of a large serving bowl.
  4. While the pasta and vegetables are cooking, cook the lamb steaks in a hot fry pan for approximately 4 minutes each side. The steaks should be nicely browned all over but still slightly pink in the middle. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice into thick slices.
  5. Combine the lemon juice, curry powder and garlic in a small jug and stir to combine. If you find the sauce a little tart, add ½ a teaspoon of sugar and stir.
  6. Add the snow peas, cherry tomatoes and roasted vegetable to the pasta. Add the lemon sauce and stir through.
  7. Add the lamb, mix to combine, garnish with the coriander and serve.

If you enjoyed this lamb dish, you might also enjoy these:

Slow Cooked Lamb Korma 001

Lamb Steaks with Orange, Honey and Ginger Glaze 001

Lamb & Vegetable Sausage Rolls