Mummy stuff - storing toys

Kids toys seem to be a major barrier to a decluttered and organised house, and 13 months ago, I had no idea just how many toys we would accumulate! To be honest, I have hardly purchased any toys for Miss M, simply because I've been given so much! I have come up with a system to storing all these toys (which will constantly change as the toys change!) which makes tidying up after she's played with them so easy. 

Obviously the less toys you have, the less you have to pick up, and what I've heard from friends with older kids is that they tend to play with the same toys anyway (so they would hopefully play with their toys more if they had less). Another trick too, is having a certain place for everything. 

We don't have a playroom, and our house isn't massive, but I've been able to utilise the space we do have. I pick up after Miss M twice a day - during her morning and afternoon naps. There's not point in tidying up her toys any more than that, because it's a game to her - Mummy packs her books away, and Miss M pulls them all out! You have to laugh lol. 

In our loungeroom we have a 16-cube storage system from Bunnings which holds our DVD's, and on the bottom row are 4 fabric boxes also from Bunnings which hold some of Miss M's toys. 

The first two boxes are soft toys and dolls:

The 3rd box has her play food in a container, and her tea-set in another container. She can't open these yet, so I just take these out when we are playing with them. 

In the 4th box are stacking cups, dolls clothes, her toy vaccum, and containers with instruments and dominoes. 

We have a small bookcase with all her small books (board books on the bottom rows she can reach, and paper books (that she will attempt to rip!) are up the top). Miss M loves flicking through her books, and we read some together each day. 

As her bookcase is so small, her larger books are kept in a $9 wire basket from Kmart which sit beside the 16-cube storage system. 

Also in the loungeroom are her chairs and table. The chairs were only $5 each from Kmart (blue is available too) and I picked up the table (which is actually a side table) really cheaply off a local buy swap and sell site. Underneath is another $9 wire basket which has a few toys Miss M likes to play with often. We only have one puzzle so far, so I've sat this on top. 

In our sunroom, we have added in this storage unit for more of Miss M's toys, and beside is a pram and a Little People dollhouse (all given to her!)

I'm not as worried what ends up in each of these, as long as they fit neatly inside. There are Fisher Price toys, things to stack, sorting games, a train, a toaster and kettle etc. 

Over the other side of the room I have lined up her ride-on wooden truck, lawn mower, shopping trolley, camping chair and high chair. These are easy to keep lined up (so far!)

As detailed in last week's post, this is Miss M's busy bag container, which she will have lots of (quiet) fun with when she's older. 

That's it for her toys, except for a couple in the car. I am hoping to keep the toys she has to a minimum, and give away a toy each time she is given a new one (which will help her learn to give later on as well). I'm hoping if we always have a home for her toys, that they will continue to be easy to tidy up each day.  

Mummy Stuff - Busy Bag Swap!

Last year a friend of mine organised a 'Busy Bag Swap!' Busy Bags are activities that, depending on the age and ability of your child or children, can be done independently, and generally quietly. They are also excellent for developing fine motor control and creativity in kids. The busy bag swap was a fantastic idea, where we all created 1 activity (x14 as this was how many were participating), placed them in snap lock bags, and met up and shared our creations. Instead of creating 14 different activities (which could have been time-consuming, and costly, though it doesn't need to be), we were able to share the load, and receive a variety of busy bags! 

The busy bag swap is simple to set-up - my friend used a Facebook event, and added lots of mummas, and asked for expressions of interest. Those that were interested remained in the group, and using Pinterest and Google, we all found an activity we wanted to create, and let the group know so that we didn't double up. The date for the meet-up was set about 2 months in advance, so that we had plenty of time (something which can be in short supply being a mum!) We met up at a park, where the kids were able to play, and the adults could swap the bags and have a chat! 

I purchased a cheap tub from The Reject Shop to store Miss M's busy bags. It has enough room for me to create more in the future (or if we decide to have another swap!) At 13 months, a lot of the bags are beyond her ability yet, but I have chucked in some magnetic letters she enjoys sticking on the fridge. 

Here are all the bags:

On the top row, from L-R are: 
 - magnetic letters ($5 from Kmart)
 - a memory game (made using images, a printer and a laminator)
 - a matching game (using a printer, laminator, mini whiteboard marker)

On the bottom row, L-R:
 - a threading activity (using a variety of beads and pipe cleaners)
 - a wool drawing activity (using sandpaper and wool)
 - a colour matching activity (using coloured paper, a printer, laminator and pegs)

On the top row, L-R:
 - a threading activity using ribbon and coloured paper (laminated) with punched holes
 - a threading activity using balls with holes and pipe cleaners
 - an 'ice cream' colour matching activity (using coloured paper and paddle pop sticks)

On the bottom row, L-R:
 - paddle pop sticks with magnets (can be used to create pictures on the fridge)
 - pipe cleaners and printed shapes (can be used to create the shape using the pipe cleaners)
 - washing line activity (using a thick bit of string, pegs, and felt 'clothing' - kids can create a washing line and 'hang out the washing')

 - a threading activity (using a printed picture with punched holes, and pipe cleaners)
 - a picture matching activity (using printed laminated pictures)
 - a playdough creation activity (using printed pictures and playdough)

I was so impressed with all the different and interesting activities everyone came up with, and can't wait until Miss M is a little bit older and can enjoy them! My friends with older kids have all said that they love them! 

For more busy bag ideas, check out 'Organising the Four of Us' blog post - click here

January House Update 2016

A new tradition I want to start on the blog is to post pictures of our home each January, to help document the changes that might happen throughout the year. I wish I'd done this last January, as 2015 was a year of massive changes inside - we removed a wall to create an open plan kitchen/living space, and because we've gone from no child to one child, we now have lots of kids items around the house too. This idea is from Leanne at Organising the Four of Us, and you can read her January Update from last year here. 

Master bedroom
We haven't altered this room much, although I gave it a massive declutter a few months ago. The quilt, cushions, test tube vase and clock are new, as are the pictures in the frames. 

Miss M's room
We've added in the tree coat/hat stand, a new clock, a chest of drawers, and changed the layout a few times, but this is pretty much the same (I still love the colours Brendan chose for the nursery!) 

Guest Bedroom
This room also had a massive cleanout this year, as it was a dumping ground at the start of the year! I have since bought a new quilt, new cushions, new bedside tables, and the trolley and baskets on the side are new as well (all thanks to Kmart!) I really love this room now, and even though the picture doesn't show it, it's really large and bright and airy. 

No changes here except I purchased a new set of fluffy white and charcoal towels this year! 

Main bathroom
We've added in kids bath toys, plus the little stool for me to sit on when I bath Miss M, and the bath runner, which was from Lorraine Lea Linen. 

Lounge Area
This has had the most changes, as there used to be a wall basically dividing this room in half! It was so tiny, and very dark. You can read about our renovation and see before pics here. All of our furniture is new (or secondhand but new for us) except the lounges. 

No changes here, except that this room is a lot more open now after the renovation. I love my clock from Kmart, it adds a lovely splash of colour!

Pretty much all the furniture has changed in here, and is now both our dining room, and Miss M's playroom. 

The only change has been the pineapple canvases on the wall and the shelf with hooks for hats; we also started using some of the shelves as pantry shelves, and Brendan installed some spice racks for me in the cupboard!

That's what our house looks like in January 2016! The front and the back of the house were shown in blog posts I did in December. I wonder if there will be many changes next January!


A change to menu planning in 2016

In previous posts, I looked at how I menu plan each week before I do the grocery shopping. You can read those posts here and here. Menu planning is definitely the way to go if you dislike 'winging it' (which I do!) and if you want to feel organised and have everything you need for each meal. I have recently stumbled across this website that outlined a few options for menu planning - click here to read about the 6 different methods! 

1. Fly by the seat of your pants
2. Menu planning by sales at the supermarket
3. Once a month cooking
4. Pre-planned meal services
5. Weekly planning (this is what I used to do)
6. Thematic planning (this is what I plan to do this year!)

Thematic planning means that each night of the week has a certain theme, and what I have done is typed up all the options for each theme, so that all I have to do is pick from the list (without worrying if I have a night for chicken, a night for beef etc.)

I asked a question on the Skinnymixers Facebook page (a wealth of information for Thermo cooking!) about what I should call each day of the week. Here are some of the responses:

 - Meatless Monday (vegetarian meals)
 - Mince Monday
 - Mexican Monday 

Tuesday or Thursday:
 - Taco Tuesday/Thursday
 - Thai Tuesday/Thursday
 - Take-out Tuesday/Thursday (healthy versions of takeaway foods, e.g. pizza)
 - Try-out Tuesday/Thursday (new meals)
 - Tight Tuesday/Thursday (using up what is in your pantry, or cheap meals)
 - Thrifty Tuesday/Thursday (using up what is in your pantry, or cheap meals)
 - Thankful Tuesday/Thursday (leftovers)
 - Traditional Tuesday/Thursday (meat and 3 veg for example)

 - Wing it Wednesday
 - Worldly Wednesday (international dishes)
 - Warm Wednesday
 - Whatever Wednesday (free choice, or using up what is in the fridge)
 - Whacky Wednesday (new meals)
 - Wraps Wednesday 

 - Fast Friday (fast food or quick meals)
 - Fish Friday 
 - Fun Friday (fun foods like pizza or burgers)
 - Fingerfood Friday
 - Freezer Friday (using up meals from the freezer)
 - Frugal Friday (using up what is in the pantry)

Saturday or Sunday:
 - Simple Saturday/Sunday
 - Serve-Yourself Saturday/Sunday 
 - Slow-cooker Saturday/Sunday
 - Soup Saturday/Sunday
 - Salad Saturday/Sunday
 - Skinny Saturday/Sunday (or even Skinnymixer, cooking just Skinnymixer meals - check out the website here

So many options!! As I went through all my existing meals I like to cook, I decided to just keep it really simple. These are my themes and some ideas for meals:

Meatless Monday (vegetarian)
 - quiche
 - risotto
-  zucchini slice
 - fritters

Beef Tuesday & Thursday
 - lasagna
 - san choy bow
 - rissoles
 - chilli con carne

Chicken Wednesday
 - chicken kievs
 - cashew chicken
 - butter chicken
 - chicken kebabs

Fun Friday (healthy take-away style meals, pasta and 'other meats' e.g. pork, lamb etc.
 - homemade pizza
 - homemade burgers
 - spaghetti bolognaise 
 - frozen fish, homemade chips and salad

Salad/Soup Saturday (salads as whole meals, and soups in winter)
 - thai beef salad
 - chicken caesar salad
 - bbq chicken and salad wraps
 - mango and macadamia chicken salad

Serve-Yourself Sunday (get your own easy meal)
 - we usually make toasties or just have cereal for tea! 

As a general rule, anything I make is low in fat and low in sugar (which will not suit everyone but it is how we like to eat), and even traditionally high fat and high sugar meals are made healthier - the Symply Too Good website and recipe books are a great place to start!

I will let you know how this style of menu planning goes - I'm excited to see if it makes planning and cooking a little easier! 

[Top image from]


Welcome & 2016 Resolutions!

Welcome (or welcome back) to my blog!

I started this blog only 6 months ago, and have been absolutely blown away with over 8,000 views on my blog posts, and over 800 likers on my Facebook page! Thank you to all of you for making this experience a positive one - I really enjoy writing posts, and finding interesting things to post on Facebook. 

I thought I would re-introduce myself for those who are new. I'm Sarah, I'm 27 years old and am married to Brendan, who is 30. We have a beautiful daughter, Miss M, who was born in December 2014, and who has just turned 1. She is walking, and getting into everything, and is an absolute delight! We live in Northern NSW in a house we purchased in April 2013 (when we got married), and we have completely changed the outside of the house, both front and back, as well as some of the inside. My hubby is the talented one on the tools, and I like to try my hand at decorating on a budget! He also works as a direct care worker with teenagers and is also a super-dad!

I am a secondary PDHPE Teacher, who now mostly teaches Maths! I have been working casually a couple of days a week since going on maternity leave before Miss M was born. 

What will the blog look like this year? You will find more decluttering, more cleaning, more organising, more DIY, more mummy posts and a snapshot of our daily lives. Each Thursday this year however, I will post a 'Throwback Thursday' post to a past blog past, which you will hopefully find interesting! These will be posted on my Facebook page but if you aren't on Facebook, feel free to have a look back through past posts at your leisure!

2016 Goals

This year, my hubby and I have also decided on some goals for 2016:

Our house is pretty much finished, but there are a few items left to tick off our to-do list:
 - fix the lights in the bathrooms
 - attach a new smoke alarm
 - remove out-of-date security boxes
 - replace powerpoints in guest room (they are still old fashioned brown ones)
 - finish painting new doors in Miss M's room and the guest room
 - finish painting picket fences
 - establish the gardens
 - finish the railing on the porch
 - my ultimate aim for decluttering and organising is to have not even one junk drawer!

 - focus on paying a certain amount off the house

 - Brendan is aiming to finish uni this year (he is a semester away from being a primary teacher!)
 - Brendan is also training for a competitive cycling race in May
 - Maintain my pre-pregnancy weight
 - Exercise 6 times per week 
 - Implement a new way of meal planning
 - Healthier meals/create more freezer meals

 - New computer: we desperately need one, both our laptops have almost died!
 - New TV unit: we are still using a cheap purchase off a local buy, swap and sell site

A few places on our list include:
 - Newcastle
 - Tamworth
 - Forster
 - Sydney
 - Gold Coast
 - Port Macquarie
 - Albury
 - Wagga

Ultimately we'd love to get to Darwin, Adelaide and Canada... but these may take a few years! You never know though! 

I love making a plan for how our new year will look. If we achieve even half of what is on the list, I will be stoked! I look forward to seeing what the new year brings!

Happy New Year everyone!!

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