Friday, November 30, 2007

A Blue Christmas

There is a Christmas tree which stands 20 feet tall in the lobby of our office, its branches heavy with baubles and bows, presents stacked at its base ready to bring festive joy to those less fortunate.

But this week, the hundreds of fairy lights twinkling a welcome have failed to captivate the staff and visitors passing by. Instead, their gaze has fallen on a small side table displaying a soft-focus photograph of a middle-aged man and an open book half-filled with messages and signatures.

The man is a well-known journalist who died this week at the age of 46 after being diagnosed with brain tumours just two months ago. His wife and children, aged 11, 14 and 16, will find comfort in the words of condolence the book contains when it is presented to them after his funeral on Friday.

As everyone points out, Christmas will be tough for them this year as they begin to come to terms with the reality of grief and loss. The first Christmas without a daddy, the first New Year as a widow. They are not alone. Their story is repeated in households and communities all around us where people face the festive season lonely and hurting. The depth of their sadness somehow heightened by the focus on joy and celebration around them.

Christmas and New Year are a time of reflection; taking stock before embracing the future and planning new beginnings. For those who are hurting, either through death, divorce or the breakdown of a relationship, it’s a double-whammy. The season is made bittersweet because they cannot share it with the one person they want to be with.

So can I urge you to spare a thought for anyone in your world whose heart is heavy this Christmas? Shun your fear and embarrassment to include them in your plans – whatever that may look like.

Or just let them know that you’re there holding them up and cheering them on.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Recipes

With the Christmas Season well on it's way it's time to start baking. Today we are giving you 2 great recipes that are loved by everyone (young and old), are great gifts to give plus they freeze well so can be made well in advance!!!!

The first recipe is FUDGE from Belinda and it looks yummo!! The second is a CHRISTMAS COOKIE DOUGH recipe (those yummy sugar cookies) from Jo who is a great of thefamilyroom. I have to tell you, these sugar cookies are amazing. They are so good my children actually requested that I email Jo and ask her to send us the recipe. She has made them with my kids and they LOVE them.

Jo is an amazing cook/baker and I'll let you in on a little secret......She's given us a few other recipes to share and they are absolutely divine and I might ask her if she will spoil us and give us a recipe every 2nd month as a treat! Here's hoping :)

So, Christmas baking here we go:

Christmas Fruit and Nut Fudge by Belinda

125g butter
395g can of NESTLE Sweetened Condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Nestle Melts dark
1 cup cubed sponge finger biscuits
1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted almonds
1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted cashews
1/2 cup halved red glazed cherries.

1. Place butter, NESTLE sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar in a pan.
Stir over a low heat until butter has melted. Bring to the boil,
simmer stirring for 3 minutes.
2. Add NESTLE melts dark, stir until combined and chocolate has melted. Stir
in sponge finger biscuits, nuts and cherries, mix well.
3. Spoon mixture evenly into foil lined 12cm x 23cm loaf pan, cool in
refrigerator until firm.
4. Turn out, cut into squares or slice to serve.

Christmas Cookie Dough by Jo

2 cups butter (softened)
2 cups icing mixture
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
5 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

(Preheat Oven to 180'C (160'C fan forced))
1. Cream butter with icing sugar.
2. Beat in vanilla and eggs.
3. Mix together flour, salt and baking powder; add gradually to butter mix.
4. Chill for a couple of hours until mixture is firm enough to roll out.
5. Cook cookies on greased cookie sheets. Bake in a 180'C (160'C fan forced) oven for 8-12 mins. Remove as soon as they start to turn slightly brown on the edges. Leave on tray for 2-5 minutes, then onto cool surface.
(Do not leave on tray for too long, they will continue to cook.)

You can decorate them with icing (the kind with egg white in it to make it go hard) or they also taste great drizzled with a little chocolate. Get the kids involved and maybe buy some of those cute decorating bits from the supermarket ~ make them your own!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The War on Drugs

Yesterday seemed to be a day (for me) of being bombarded with drug related topics, reports and conversations.

As I was driving back from dropping the kids at school I heard a report that said only 50% of parents talk to their children about illegal drugs and only 30% talk to them about prescription drugs. I didn’t know where they were going with the prescription drugs but the report carried on saying that a new trend was growing within children, teens and young adults and the usage of prescription drugs.

According to the study and the report children, teens and young adults are finding that these prescription drugs are easy to come by either at home or at friend’s homes. Also, they are inexpensive because they aren’t paying the prescription price….the parents are. In an effort to trick parents they are finding that ‘mixing’ the drugs and making home-made cocktails gives them a better high and allows them access without it being obvious that medication is missing. These cocktails are proving to be deadly in some cases and highly addictive.

After that report and a few others I heard during the day I was at the gym working out and whilst doing so I like to watch TV (it keeps my mind off what I’m actually doing). I watched a show many of us are familiar with called ‘INTERVENTION’ and my heart was ripped out of my chest through the story of this young boy who started smoking marijuana at 12 and then moving onto harder, heavier stuff as he became inoculated to the ‘lighter’ drugs.

This boy was destroyed and his family in ruins. During the documentary he repeated how he needed it to dull the pain of life. He had been hurt as a child through divorce and other circumstances and to protect himself and hide he turned to drugs ~ he felt safe there and didn’t even care if it killed him. Very, very sad!

I tell you this today because we hear about the war on drugs on television, the newspaper, the Internet, through friends, etc. And one thing we hear through the people affected is that they never thought it would happen to them. I urge you today, be open with your children, whatever age they are and know that you MUST protect them. In doing so it will mean that at times you will be very unpopular with those in your care. Remember good parenting ISN’T about a popularity contest and we must not be afraid to do what’s right when it comes to thier lives. Love you children, communicate with them, be open and honest and don’t be afraid to show them what drugs CAN and WILL do to them.

This is a war, it is real and sadly the opportunities to engage aren’t far from our front doors. Be aware of your children’s friends, watch for changes in routine, personality, food intake and sleeping habits. These can all be signs that something is happening.

We believe in you and hope that this will alert you to the dangers that surround our children. Love them, protect them and remember we’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason…….Listen to them and be available.

Susan J Sohn
(for more familyroom discussion on drug related issues see our recent podcasts)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Helping Hands

A few years ago, we were inspired by an item on TV to create the unique piece of artwork pictured here.

We grabbed a big square canvas from the bargain shop, loaded up on acrylic paint, then set to work making our handprint masterpiece.

My three children had a ball coating each others’ fingers in eye-catching primary colours and stamping them onto the canvas. They curled their fingers around the edges of the frame for extra dimensional effect. Our homemade art still takes pride of place on the study wall – a permanent reminder of a moment in time.

With Christmas coming, I thought I would share our little project with you because it’s not only a fun holiday activity for the kids, but it would also make a beautiful gift for a family member.

Happy painting!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Making Christmas great, for someone else…

Tis the season to consume!! There’s the food, the alcohol, the expensive gifts, that one more present for the kids’ stocking just so everything looks perfect, the school concerts, 1000 Christmas cards and…I could go on and on.

For many of us this can be quite a stressful time and we need a good holiday at the end of it all to recover! (See the Family Room Christmas survival guide for tips to making it easier!)

One thing I often think about as my kids are asking for every latest gadget and game is how excessive this whole exercise can be and how we so often lose the true meaning of this great season. Family, memories, generosity, a celebration of faith - how do these get reduced to the latest MP3 player or designer perfume?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no scrooge and I’m all for giving and receiving gifts (and love anything from L’occitane just BTW), but can’t help wondering how we could do it all better and take some of the focus off getting stuff.

Something I started doing a few years ago in an effort to bring back some balance to the silly season was visiting the websites of Tearfund, Compassion, Oxfam, Salvos or World Vision and looking for ways that I could contribute to the great work they do, at Christmas time.

This year I went to Tearfund and bought some mosquito nets for children in Africa ($10 each) and some packs of school supplies ($5 each) for kids in India.

They send you a card telling you what you’ve bought, without the price, and there’s a nice pic and some info. I’m planning to give them to my kids and some of their cousins, with their other gifts. With my kids, we’ll have a talk about living grateful and will spend some time talking about how life is for so many others.

Other organisations can put your donation no matter what the size, towards Christmas gifts for children living in poverty or could purchase life saving medicines or resources for families to be able to create their own incomes.

I love the idea that the focus is taken solely off this season being about me and mine and extending it to others who live with the sort of need I can only imagine.
There are so many ways we could do this, from inviting someone lonely to Christmas lunch, or taking the kids to visit a nursing home and chat to the golden oldies, or having them make cards for those in your world that would be so touched, and by something so simple.

However you choose to do it, your family will be so much richer for making the effort and making Christmas great for someone else as well as a special time for you.

Fight the consumerism, reach out to someone else and enjoy the process this Christmas…

Lv Jane

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Dream Table

In our home we have a ‘dream table’. Affectionately named so due to the creative splatter of paint, glue, glitter, etc, that has become part of its appeal. As much as I love art, I have never wanted my home to look like an art gallery. Stark walls hosting minimal content begging constructive criticism from an obscure leather bench seat in the centre of the room. No thanks. I’ll leave that to the experts.

In my home, I’ve always wanted people to feel welcome and comfortable. Lazy lounges, stacks of cushions, piles of magazines, fresh flowers and endless cups of coffee in oversized mugs. That’s more like what you’d find in my home. More than aesthetics, my main aim is to put my family at ease and create a haven, especially for my daughter Mannie. She needs to know that this is her home, that she has full run of the house and that she never need feel like a guest.

So years ago when my beloved study table began to show traces of her artistic footprints, rather than grab the gumption/stain remover and scrub away, I stopped and thought to 20 or 30 years ahead. These are the things that I will wish I could look back on to recall those precious irreplaceable moments like her working so intently on making a birthday card for her great grandmother or writing me a love letter on Valentine’s day when she was six. To treasure the varnish on my table all paled into insignificance when weighed up against the dreaming spirit in my girl.

Hence, we started calling my study desk the dream table. A place in the house that Mannie can truly dream up anything and take steps to get there, no holds barred, even if it only involves sticky tape and coloured paper. I couldn’t count the letters that have been written on it or the pieces of ‘art’ that have been masterfully executed on it.

Obviously this is confined to the one area in the house, as the thought of creative mess all over my home doesn’t really do it for me! Yet I will never regret not reaching for the gumption/stain remover on our dream table.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rocky Road Cups

In preparartion for the festive season thefamilyroom will be providing you with some great family favorites that can be made ahead. These are great to make with the kids or encourage your teenage children to roll up their sleeves and have a go! When finished enjoy a few and pop the rest in the freezer for Christmas.

Rocky Road Cups
(This recipe makes about 25. Prep time is 20 minutes and cooking time is 5 minutes).

What you will need:
Double-layered paper patty cases
125g slivered almonds
2/3 cup shredded coconut
100g packet mallow bakes
100g packet red glaze’ cherries
1 cup Rice bubbles (or Krispies as we know them elsewhere)
375g packet white-chocolate melts.

Preheat oven to 180 or 160 for fan oven.
Spread the slivered almonds on an oven tray, and bake for 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool
Combine the almonds, coconut, mallow bakes, cherries and Rice Bubbles in a large bowl.
Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the Microwave (be careful not to overcook or burn, this happens very quickly).
Add to other ingredients in the bowl, then stir until well combined and everything is coated with chocolate.
Spoon mixture into the patty cases, then place them into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

These are loved by young and old. The recipe is SUPER simple to double and don't be afraid to do so because before you know it, they will be gone.

Enjoy and remember to keep an eye on our Christmas Plan, it will truly keep you on track and help you stay sane before and through Christmas.



Thursday, November 15, 2007

thefamilyroom Christmas Plan

Well here it is the ANNUAL FAMILYROOM CHRISTMAS PLAN. This Calendar is designed to help you plan the weeks ahead allowing you to sneak into the festive season well prepared, relaxed and ready for fun with family and friends. Our hope is that all of us are able to de-stress the season simply by being a little more prepared this time round.

This is an 8 week plan however we are only 5 weeks away from Christmas so we decided, what the heck, let’s put the weeks that have already slipped by in. That way we can all check back and make sure we’ve covered those bases already. It's a little long but don't worry it's worth the read.

Make sure you take notice of our TIP for the week and our TO BUY grocery list ~ these are two extremely helpful bits you don’t want to miss.

Enough from us for now, sit back and enjoy the read (play some Christmas music while reading....get into the spirit:))

Week 1: Get Ready!

• Set a holiday budget for gifts/food and other expenses that everyone agrees on.
• Purchase Christmas Cards.
• Purchase your wrapping paper, ribbon and tape.
• Mark all end of year events on your calendar. e.g. School presentations, Christmas parties and work functions.
• Write your gift list – break it down to family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours.
• Send out invites to any functions you are hosting.
• Think about what your family can do for a charity this Christmas - get the kids involved.
• Purchase and send your overseas gifts (if necessary).

TIP : Keep an eye out for specials from now on as this will save time and money. e.g. batteries

Week 2: Making a Start!

• Write a holiday shopping food list – use our week-by-week guide and add your family favourites to the list.
• Clean up the back yard or basement and get it ready for the holidays
• Create a space in the house for gifts and wrap as you go (rather than doing it all on Christmas Eve).
• If you are hosting a Christmas event - prepare menu and make a list of things you will need. e.g. ingredients for Christmas cake, stuffing etc. (Check your pantry first, it will save doubling up on ingredients).
• Santa letters should be sent out about now if you want a reply. Check with your local postal service (remember to include a return address).

TIP: Get the kids involved in cleaning jobs, more hands make light work.
To buy this week: Candy Canes, Nuts, Crackers, Chips, Pretzels, 2 Bottles of soft drink, 2 Bottles of wine

Week 3: Gifts and Decorating!

• Consider your gift list and who you’re buying for. Check out ebay, online stores, local markets and other avenues for great gifts.
• Purchase more gifts. (If it works well for you, use a lay-by system.)
• Book baby sitters for December & New Years nights out now. A few weeks before Christmas and they'll be scarce.
• Book your carpet cleaning for post holiday clean up.
• Check Christmas lights and decorations – replace whatever needs replacing.
• Shop for non-perishable food items and store in a place that won't be raided by hungry teenagers before Dec 25th.
• Begin to declutter house for Christmas decorating and entertaining.

TIP: Online stores tend to get more expensive the closer you get to Christmas as people leave their shopping to the last minute.
To buy this week: Fruit cake and baking ingredients, Sparklers, Extra Sunscreen and Aeroguard (for the Aussies) extra mittens and hats for everyone else.

Week 4: Half way there!

• Continue to declutter your home, garden/basement in preparation for Christmas.
• Order and pay for your turkey, ham and or seafood.
• Purchase or make and wrap gifts for teachers.
• Send Christmas Cards out.
• Re-check your gift list and purchase more gifts if needed.
• Check your artificial tree or order your fresh tree.
• Bake your fruitcake & other goods that freeze well.
• Put up your decorations. Save the tree for next week!

TIP: Write letters (or get the kids to) while you still have a little time up your sleeve to include with your gifts. The gifts may not last a lifetime, but your words will.
To buy this week: Batteries for toys, Non-perishable items, Canned food items (sauces, salad dressing, mustard, etc.), Cooking Oils, 1 bottle of soft drink, 2 bottles of wine

Week 5: Time to decorate - it‘s feeling like Christmas!

• Play Christmas music from now until well after New Years
• Purchase more gifts.
• Set up artificial Christmas tree - make it a special time with family.
• Hang fairy lights and external decorations.
• Get your photo with Santa earlier rather than later (avoid the cues).
• Invite family and friends to school plays, etc.

TIP: Turn your Christmas tree decorating into a huge family event with great food and festive drinks. The kids will love it.
To buy this week: Shortbread, Biscuits, Panettone, Frozen Deserts, 4 Bottles of Soft Drink, Chocolate, extra coffee and creamer

Week 6: It’s all Under Control – Relax!

• Make sure cameras and videos are in working condition and batteries are charged.
• Send a Christmas email to overseas family & friends and provide an updated fun family photo.
• Purchase more gifts.
• Book in any hair/beauty appointments for the family.
• Clean the bbq.
• Put up your freshly cut Christmas tree and decorate. Make it a special time with family.

TIP: Make sure you have 'room' in your home for those dropping by over the next few weeks. Invest into some spare chairs, extra glasses and a couple of more little presents for your surprise visitors.
To buy this week: BBQ supplies (fill gas, matches, extra foil roasting trays) for the Aussies maybe and extra baking tray for others :), Foils and plastic wraps, Napkins, Plastic cups and plates for kids, Canned Juice x 2, 2 bottles of wine, Paper Towels

Week 7: Now it‘s feeling like Christmas!

• Purchase more gifts.
• Send cards for students and gifts for teachers to school.
• Bake Christmas biscuits with the kids and allow them to decorate and deliver to neighbours.
• Check that you have everything you need for your table settings.

TIP: Remember to replace the water for your fresh tree regularly.
To buy this week: Bon Bons, Tea Lights, Candles, Table Decorations, 2 bottles of Champagne, Garbage Bags

Week 8: Jingle!

• Purchase remaining gifts from your list - Christmas is just around the corner.
• Make time to sit down and enjoy some Christmas movies with the whole family.
• Take a Christmas Lights tour of the decorated homes either in your suburb or head into town.
• Finish wrapping your final few gifts.
• Go along to your local church or community Carols by Candlelight with your family.

TIP: Phone someone you haven't spoken to in a while, wish them Merry Christmas and remember it's not about you.
To buy this week: Fruit, Vegetables, Salads, Bread/Buns, Dairy Products (milk, cream, custard, Ice Cream, cheeses), Eggs, Bacon, Stuffing ingredients, Juice x 2, Pavlova/
Pumpkin Pie filling or your favorite desert, Dips

Christmas Eve – Merry Christmas – You Made It!

• Pick up Seafood.
• Cook your Turkey and whatever else can be made in advance.
• The only other thing you should be picking up today is bags of ice.
• Sit and relax by your Christmas tree with your family for a few hours listening to Christmas music and have a laugh. Make sure you get an early nights sleep. ENJOY!!!!

After Christmas:

Take advantage of the post Christmas sales and shop for cards, paper, decorations and other bargains that can be used for next year.

Take note of the things that were a success and change ideas that didn’t work.

Take down or recycle your Christmas tree.

Pack tree and ornaments away carefully and neatly. It will make things easier for next year.

Discuss with family, your plans for Christmas next year.
Email or send pictures of the day to loved ones and relatives that could not join you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saving Time in the Bathroom

I bet you wondered what this post was going to be about and truly it is about saving time in the bathroom ~ it has nothing to do with what you’re thinking about!!!

I’m talking about time management! Something I do to save valuable time is keep Clorex Wipes (cleaning wipes) and Windex Wipes under the sink in all of our bathrooms or powder rooms. This allows me, and those in my family to do a quick wipe and tidy up at any time and it takes less than 30 seconds and vavoom the bathroom is sparkling clean. Use the wipes around the toilet and in a moment all problems are solved.

I find quick tricks like this can add minutes back into your day to focus on the things that are important. Why don’t you share some of your great time saving tips with us and help everyone gather back a few precious moments everyday.

Susan xoxo

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pizza Made Easy ~ USE YOUR HANDS!

Okay, it is therapy time with Annie!

Have you found yourself a victim of the 21st century? Do you think baking bread means buying the par baked buns from the supermarket and cooking them for 4 minutes?? Does your recipe for homemade pizza consist of one frozen pizza and a bag of grated cheese? If you have answered yes to any of these questions then I have great news for you ~ you don't know what you're missing!!!!

Today I'm going to share my pizza dough recipe with you (and the toppings to accompany) and you are going to be equiped to host a pizza making night that is fun for both young and old. The children love to get their sleeves rolled up and create, the teenagers like to build and challenge each other and the adults...well we pretty much fall in both categories.

I recently made a huge batch of dough for my son Oskar’s 11th birthday party. We cleared off our dining table, covered it with flour and gave each child a ball of dough and let them at it (there were 11 kids!). They had heaps of fun (and made their own dinner!). Have a go and enjoy I promise you’ll be hooked ☺


Pour one cup of lukewarm water into a bowl. Add to it two sachets of compressed yeast and one tablespoon of sugar (this “activates” the yeast).

Meanwhile, oil your oven trays and prepare your toppings.
Measure 3 cups of bread making flour (I use Anchor Bread and Pizza Flour) into a large bowl. Add a good pinch of salt and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of flour and mix it in.

Now for the fun bit!! Sprinkle your kitchen bench/countertop with flour and plonk your dough onto the surface. Now get kneading. Have both hands opposite each other and fold the dough from right to left. Turn the ball a quarter of a turn and make the same movement. This warms the dough and incorporates air into it. Knead your dough for about two minutes. This is a great upper arm and ab workout as well so knead away!!

Place your dough into a greased bowl (with room for it to grow) cover with a plate or plastic wrap and put in a warm place. If you don’t have a warm sunny spot to place your bowl just stand it in a larger bowl of warm water. Leave for half an hour.

Now you have a beautiful bowl of soft yeasty pizza dough! Knead it a couple of times. Divide it into two or three portions depending on how thick you like your base and roll it out.

Place the base onto the tray and top with a thick pasta sauce to which you have added a little salt and sugar. Alternatively you may have pizza base that you like, if so then use it instead of the pasta sauce.

Finish with your favourite toppings and a layer of combined tasty, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake in a hot oven (about 210-220C) for 10 to 15 minutes ~ If you are looking for a lighter option use a little parmesan and lite mozzarella and when removed from the oven sprinkle with roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and basil.

Just another familyroom tried and true recipe. Enjoy friends.

Annie x

(ps - hope you enjoy the photo, not something we do at our place but gosh it looks great!)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Health and Well-Being

Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about health and our well-being and I have come to the conclusion that everything seems to come down to balance. We need to cultivate balance in every area of our lives. Balance is what seems to keep everything operating correctly and when balance shifts anything can happen.

As all of you know I have been working my way back to health and fitness after years of being in the pregnancy/baby season. What I’m finding is that I have needed to rediscover my personal balance again. Prior to pregnancy I knew what worked for me; I knew what level of exercise I needed to engage in, what I could and couldn’t eat (freely), how much sleep I needed, how many weeks I could burn the candle at both ends, etc. Basically I really knew my body and how it worked and then WOW it was all new with baby weight, no sleep, hormones, spit up, dirty nappies/diapers, food when time permitted, chocolate, decaf coffee, chocolate ~ you all know the rest.

Well now after 10 years of being in that place, and thankfully trying to maintain some of the things I always known that worked for me I am now endeavouring to readjust and apply appropriate balance at this stage of my life. I realize that the things I once could do I know longer can (eg: eating an entire pack of maltzeers or peanut M&M’s whilst watching a movie) which is requiring me to re-evaluate balance in my life.

So my friends embrace balance, cultivate it and make it work in whatever stage of life you are at. Remember we are Body, Soul and Spirit and it is our responsibility to tend to all areas of our being.

Susan xoxo

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Organizing Your Home

Whether we want to think about it or not, Christmas is sneaking up on the calendar with vigour. Now is the time to begin planning the season so that when the time comes you can finally relax and truly enjoy the moments with your loved ones.

Soon we will be posting a Christmas Plan to help you with the nitty gritty during the countdown. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some tips for getting your home into shape before it becomes a holiday haven once again.

1. Behind closed doors…
Clear out your cupboards! It is such a great feeling knowing that you’re not going to be pelted with volleyballs, kites and suitcases when you open the hall cupboard. To avoid this happening, grab three large boxes (if you need more, feel free) and label one as ‘Give Away’, one ‘Throw Away’ and one ‘Keep’. This rule can apply to every cupboard in the house. Drop your giveaways off straight away to a local charity, as they could become timely Christmas provisions for many.

2. Spare me…
We all know that the spare room (for those who have them) can too easily become the family dumping ground if we’re not careful. If you find yourself asking, “Well, where am I supposed to put everything?” first ask yourself if everything in the room is necessary. If not, see Tip #1. If it is, install a storage system that will keep everything protected, tidy and out of view. Anyone who has the privilege of staying over will appreciate not having to climb over unused gym equipment, stacks of ‘filing’ and ‘giveaway’ boxes from last year’s spring clean.

3. The heart of the home…
The kitchen is noted by many families world wide as the heart of the home. If this is true, we should be taking every precaution to ensure that it doesn’t need a triple bypass a week before Christmas. Organise your pantry, dispose of anything that has exceeded it’s used by date and make room for the weeks ahead. Clear the benches or kitchen table of anything that isn’t kitchen related. Somehow it’s much more enjoyable to eat Christmas breakfast without having to look at a pile of oil splattered phone books or that old favourite again ‘filing’.

4. Please take a seat…
During the Christmas break, our house is flooded with guests. Some invited and some not. Allow your home the chance to enlarge its hosting capacity by simply investing into spare chairs, a few more plates and drinking glasses, back-up snacks, a couple more pillows/blankets, etc.

5. The way you look tonight…
Please do not feel the pressure to redecorate your entire home or go broke in an effort to impress Martha Stewart. You know she’s not coming anyway! Definitely make an effort with your home, take pride in it and get you family involved, but all it takes is simply rearranging a few things, adding a few touches and making room for those you love.

Let’s get started now because before we know it, we won’t have the time.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Big Brother

I've always wondered what it would be like to have a big brother. I've always wished for one to be "over protective of me," always looking for me. I've even tried to have older male friends replace that desire by being big brother-ish.

I actually do have a big brother. This is him. Only his name is Scott. He was born June 7, 1982. He lived to 23 days.

My brother shared the same syndrome as Elliot. A syndrome called Trisomy 18 or Edwards Syndrome (for more information check out

I hope that through this video and my brother's little life you will be moved to live differently. You will choose to value everyday and choose to BE who you are meant to be in this big world.

Life is a precious gift!


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Lint of Life

Susan likes to tell me I’m a tech-head, and although I hotly deny it, I fear this blog may just confirm that it’s true!

Recently, I was scanning my computer for spyware – that’s the nasty stuff that downloads itself from the internet when you’re not looking, hops onto your PC hard drive and lodges amongst your files hoping to hijack your personal information and pass it on to the highest bidder.

It’s these malicious little viruses that can steal your credit card details and land you with a bill bigger than Ben Hur.

Now, I don’t want to scare you, but to my horror the scan detected a whopping 800 pieces of spyware, and its little brother adware, hiding out on my hard drive. Thankfully, once I knew they were there, I could zap them with the click of a button, but I got to thinking how much “virtual spyware” my family – particularly my children – might gather in the course of a day.

By “virtual spyware” I mean the harsh words and negative comments that we all hear on our journey and which cling to us despite our best intentions. The stuff we see on TV or read in the newspapers that steals our joy and tramples on our dreams. thefamilyroom girls call it the lint of life.

In case you’ve never heard of lint, the dictionary defines it as “clinging bits of fibre and fluff”. It’s those tiny fur-balls that gather on the sleeves of your favourite woolly sweater turning it from chic to shabby.

Can we scan our families, like we scan our computers, and rid them of the lint of life? Maybe communication is the answer to this human spyware. Making time to talk about what has shaped our day and nipping those cares and worries in the bud before they get a strangle-hold on our lives and spoil the view.

So the moral of my story is two-fold. On a practical level, I need to become more tech savvy and keep my computer clear of those dubious downloads. But on a personal note, I’m determined to make sure the lines of communication at home are wide open and the family is fur-ball free.


*Look out for a podcast coming soon on the lint of life

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stressed to the Max!

Hi friends,

So the busier my life becomes, and it only ever seems to get busier, I find myself feeling the affects of stress in my body more acutely and constantly having to remind myself about how important good nutrition and exercise are in the midst of craziness.

My neck hurts, I get forgetful and cranky and I don’t digest my food very well when I’m a bit edgy! Sometimes stress leaves me with a glazed look on my face and other times busy-ness can affect my quality of sleep, which leads to all sorts of new stress symptoms! I am daily doing my stretches, squeezing in 1/2 an hour on the treadmill whenever I can and remembering to drink water. I’m also writing lists to help me from getting more stressed about the different things I have to do and hoping I haven’t forgotten anything!

When we feel stressed we can get all worked up about eating properly, some of us overeat while others of us don’t eat much at all. A lot of the time, stress can lead to constipation or diarroea. Ugh. If we live in this stress zone constantly, we can do damage to our bodies that we may not be able to undo later in life.

All sorts of things are going on inside us when we’re on the edge. B vitamins, which are essential for energy and certain hormone functions (B6 is usually lacking when we get PMT) are depleted when we’re stressed as well as magnesium and vitamin C just to name a few. Lacking in magnesium can lead to headaches and muscle pain, and vitamin C as we all know is essential for our immunity and helps keeps our heart happy.

We may think that coffee, jelly snakes and chocolate are essential to our stress survival and keep us going, but poor eating habits can set us up for all sorts of other problems that will give us more to worry about! Did you know that excess caffeine in our bloodstream can affect calcium absorption?

I guess that moral of the story is….in the midst of our busy lives, it’s so important to take care of ourselves and stay strong to be able to go the distance. We all know it, but I think every once in a while we need a gentle nudge and reminder.

In regards to food, remember the 5+2 principle? In a day we should eat 5 serves of veggies and 2 pieces of fruit and enough water to keep us hydrated (approx. 8 glasses). Get hold of a good multivitamin and make the effort to take it everyday. Talk to a nutritionist or a naturopath and work out what good eating looks like for you in the busy-ness of life. Most of all remember to breathe and choose to navigate these busy days well, it may only be a season. If you’re finding it really tough, talk to someone, we all go through hard times.

Ultimately, the cheesy ad is right, you’re worth it! So take care of YOU. I love Robin McGraw’s book ‘Inside my heart’. She talks about how she takes care of herself so that she can give the gift of herself to others, fit and healthy and strong, and for the long haul….

Lv Jane
Nutritionist (just in case you thought I was making it up!) : )

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bring Back the Family Photo Album

This past weekend an article in The Sunday Telegraph caught my eye. The headline read: ‘Digital’s killed the photo album star’. According to the article, the family photo album may be a thing of the past – yikes! They go on to say that experts have warned that the rise of digital cameras; computers and mobile phones could lead to the death of the family photo album. The photo imaging council (didn’t know there was such a thing), are quoted as saying that that childhood memories and moments of great celebrations such as weddings and birthdays are missing from thousands of albums around the country. In fact statistics show that many never get around to printing their pictures, choosing to keep them on their hard drive. Executive Director for the photo Imaging council, Paul Curtis says that there is a whole generation of kids from 2003 to 2005 that never managed to make it into the family photo album.

Now I am not opposed to technology in the slightest, but there is something really comforting about sitting on the couch with the family and pouring over baby photo’s, holiday snaps and pics of kids birthday parties. Sadly, my own albums stopped when my five year old turned two. Now if we want to look at photos taken over the past three years, we all have to sit around a computer screen, which, quite frankly, just isn’t the same. So I say, ‘bring back the family album’ Next weekend, I intend to select a handful of shots from my computer, print them out and stick them in albums, which will be strategically placed around the house – encouraging my kids to take comfort in the cherished memories of our past. It may be old fashioned, but as Mr. Curtis said: “It’s not a real photo until it’s printed.”

Nicki Partridge

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thought Du Jour and Mild Chicken Curry

Today is our recipe day but I thought I would add a little story with my recipe. Warning: the recipe and the story have no connection just adding my Thought De Jour as an appetizer.

Like many of you I watch the news and keep myself informed about what is going on in the world today. Sadly much of the news we hear is of pain, devastation, sadness and things that are simply wrong. I find myself in conversations and hear people say that the world is going to Hell in a handbag and that we live in terrible times.

My thinking....I think it's our responsibility, in the midst of the bad stuff, to look for the good. I'm raising my kids in this world and I'm choosing to create a great environment for them and others. I'm choosing to see the sunny side, I'm choosing to smile at the future, I'm choosing to uncover the good which is there for us to enjoy. I'm not ignoring or pretending the other doesn't exist I'm simply daring to be different.

I think it's time for all of us to stand up a little taller, to speak a little louder and for goodness to drown out or at least dampen that which is not good.

Just my thought du jour.

Recipe of the Day.... This one's for you Robert!

Mild Chicken Curry (for young and old to enjoy!)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes (give or take a few ~ I usually give a few :)

2 Tbsp Oil
1.5 Kilos chicken pieces (thighs are the best but wings and drumsticks are yummy too)
2 medium onions sliced
3 stalks celery sliced
2 Tbsp curry powder (you can adjust this to your families liking)
2 cloves garlic (I’m generous here and add more...)
2 Tbsp flour
11/2- 2 cups chicken stock
2 green apples peeled and cubed
1/2-1 cup sultanas (raisins)

1) Heat oil in pan, cook chicken in batches until well browned; drain on paper towel.
2) In the same pan add onion, celery and cook until soft. Add curry powder, garlic and flour; stir over heat until mixture becomes dry and grainy. Remove from heat.
3) Add stock gradually, stirring until mixture is smooth. Return pan to heat, stir until sauce boils and thickens. Add chicken, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.
4) Add apple and sultanas/raisins, simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until chicken is tender.

My Favorites

Clicky Web Analytics