Tuesday, 28 April 2015

All aboard the decluttering train!

Are you already on board the decluttering train? Or are you unsure what it's all about?

Decluttering is clearing out any unwanted, under-used or multiple items that have accumulated in your home to create space and order.

It sounds pretty easy doesn't it?

If you answered yes then you are a natural de-clutterer (sorry, I'm not sure if that is a real word!) and I can save you a seat on my imaginary decluttering train.

If you answered no then you are most likely one of two things - either you are a realist and you know exactly how many things you would have to go through to declutter and you can't be bothered or would find it overwhelming OR you are a hoarder and you hate letting go of things. I guess you are unlikely to jump on board without a very convincing argument. Here I go...

I have always been good at going through my things and clearing out what I didn't like or need. This was one of the benefits of travelling weekly between mum and dad's houses from quite a young age. I also moved around a lot as a young adult. Travel helps you to shed yourself of things that don't have real value in your life. When you are packing to move interstate it helps to travel light. Heck if you are moving house often (I was averaging at least once a year for about 10 years) then it also helps you to clear out things too. Less things make for less packing!

By definition my uncluttered life (haha, I wish!) truly began when a family friend gave me a book called Unclutter: Simple techniques to organize your life. At the time I had zero appreciation for the book but a few years later I came across it and recognised how useful it was (both the book and the concept of decluttering!).

Apart from the practical benefits of clearing out stuff you don't use to create space and order (I have found a pretty amazing website that devotes itself to this concept, to check it out follow this link) there is a philosophy behind uncluttering your life. It relates to the feng shui principles of energy (or qi) moving around your home and workplace.

If you have too much stuff around you it is believed to hold you back in areas of your life. By holding onto things you don't use or need you are clinging to material possessions, which is not healthy. This is believed to transfer to areas of your life and "clog" up, or prevent, positive opportunities from happening. Feng shui associates spatial directions with parts of your life (e.g. southeast is associated with wealth, east is associated with health, and southwest is associated with relationships). When those areas in your home are cluttered it is thought to negatively impact your life in the associated zones.

It follows that if you unclutter your home and clear out the junk in those zones then you create space and invite new positive experiences into your life. Since there are likely to be emotional or physical causes for that clutter accumulating it is important to work out what is likely to be the cause and to try and address it. There are also ways to cleanse the space (such as hanging mirrors, ringing bells and putting out pot plants) to prevent the clutter returning.

Decluttering should be done responsibly with minimal waste. It is important to clear out items in a way to maximise their potential for reuse. Your trash (or lovely items that you don't use) may just be valuable treasure to someone else. There is a karmic notion that if you give or donate your things then more positivity will also come into your life from the good deed you have done.

"clearing clutter is an enjoyable experience - for every box load of unwanted clutter you throw out or give to someone in need, you will be rewarded with more and more tangible evidence of positivity entering your life"

p7 Unclutter: Simple techniques to organise your life (Beattie and Stevens)

Since we live in a pretty small home we try to minimise our clutter constantly. I have found using the techniques in Unclutter really useful to help me decide what to throw out. I will be writing subsequent posts aimed to help with starting to, and then managing, decluttering your home.

Despite my efforts to convince you otherwise, you might still be doubtful about the benefits of uncluttering your home. One of the main benefits that I have found is every time I purchase something I stop and question whether I really need it. I wonder if I will use it enough to justify having to find somewhere to put it in my home. This is a great money saving device. I also like to be able to look around my home and know where everything is supposed to go. A place for everything and everything in its place. This is my never ending goal. Having a toddler around makes it especially challenging.

I'm not 100% sure about the feng shui philosophy behind decluttering but I have found that as I clear out items I find it easy to acquire, or I am even given, the things that I need. I believe that decluttering has opened up my life to new positive experiences and opportunities. I am a big believer that you create your own experiences. As I clear things out I think about positive things on the horizon, which means that it is likely to become a reality.

What do you think? Are you ready to jump on board?

Photo source

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Tips to make a delicious curry - every time!

One of the main things I love about cooking is creating a unique dish. Making curry is a favourite since I use different vegetables, or a different ratio of spices, which makes it a bit of an adventure each time.

There was a time when I would never have considered making a curry from scratch. I would have picked a pre-made sauce off a shelf in the supermarket, thrown it in with some meat and vegetables and that would have been the end of it. The reason I make my own now is that it is easy, cheap and delicious. After you stock up on spices then you are set for many (even hundreds) of curries whenever it takes your fancy. As I have already said, I actually quite enjoy the cooking part too.

Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert on cooking curries. I started cooking curry by randomly throwing spices into the pot and letting them work their magic as they simmered away. This would result in either a delicious meal or an average tasting dish. I rarely found the meal to be terrible, despite my lack of knowledge, so I can attest to cooking curry as being quite a simple thing to do. I encourage you to give it a go!

We often make vegetarian curry but the tips below apply to making meat curry too. I recommend the vegetables and the flavour being the main stars of the dish and to treat meat as an add on if you do use it. This is how we often use meat when we do eat it. As a protein source as part of a dish, rather than the key element. Since meat is resource intensive, and expensive, this results in a diet that has less impact on the environment and it saves money too.

Over time I have learnt to do a few things to make sure my curry turns out well, sometimes even spectacularly, every time. On a recent trip to Adelaide I made curry for the family and my mum wanted to find out how I had done it. This was what gave me the idea for this post. I have decided to share these tips with you too - please use them well.

Lizzing Lightly's Curry Tips

1. Use enough oil

In these weight obsessive times we often don't receive good advice like this - use enough oil, butter, ghee or whatever it is that you are using to fry up your ingredients. I tend to use olive oil since that is what we have on hand. Ghee is the traditional choice for Indians so if you're going for the authentic flavour then use that. I find that having enough oil means that the spices don't stick and burn in the pan. This improves the curry flavour by releasing the spices on the heat in a moist paste. I probably use around 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil. If it starts to dry out after I add the spices then I throw another couple of tablespoons in.

2. Use lots of spice - don't be scared!

I tend to use some or all of the following spices in my curries: coriander, cumin, garam marsala, indian curry powder, turmeric, ginger powder and fennel seeds. It is important to use lots of these spices to get enough flavour in the dish. Forget about using a few teaspoons. A few tablespoons is what you should be using. I tend to choose a couple of tablespoons of the dominant spices (for example cumin, coriander and garam marsala) and then less of the others. The spice mix needs to be fried up in the cooking oil or fat after onions, garlic and chilli have been sautéed. Remember number 1: use enough oil to keep the mixture moist.

3. Use the right vegetables to give it some texture

Some vegetables stew down to give a brilliant texture for curries. I recommend using pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato and/or potato. This thickens the sauce and holds the spices throughout the dish beautifully.

4. Balance sweet and salt to bring out the spices

My mother (coincidentally!) was the first person to give me this advice and it was seconded by a chef at a pub that I worked at - use sweet and salt to balance curry spices. Sweet can come from anything - honey, jam or chutney. I often add a bit of sour too by adding a squeeze of lime or lemon. Then salt to taste. Keep tasting and adding sweet, spices and salt to find a balance that you like.

5. Give it enough time to simmer

This can take as little as 30 minutes with a vegetarian curry on a high simmer or a couple of hours if you are stewing meat. Look for the right texture with a thickened sauce and make sure all of the elements are soft and tender.

6. Use plain yoghurt or raiita and cook some pappadums

As a final touch I recommend that you buy some pappadums and plain yoghurt to make your curry a real treat. One of the funnest parts of eating curry is dipping pappadums. If you have gone a little overboard with the chilli then the yoghurt will cool the dish down. For an added treat consider making a raiita with cucumber or buying some chutney to go with the dish. My tip for pappadums is to buy the cumin ones. They are delicious.

So there you have it - they are my tips to creating your own delicious curry. I hope they motivate you to make one for yourself.

Are you a big curry fan? Do you tend to order it as take away, buy pre-made or create your own? Do you have any tips of your own to share?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Leading by example and being proud of your beliefs

I was chatting to a like-minded person at Living Smarties recently about how the people around us notice that we do things differently because we care about the environment. We have both observed that it often motivates them find ways to protect the environment too.

It was a brilliant conversation. We also talked about that uncomfortable feeling you sometimes have when you want to do the right thing for the environment, but you feel self conscious because you don't want to make anyone feel awkward or to stand out too much by being different.

My Living Smart friend remembered hearing an older woman speak up at a workshop recently, saying that she has gotten to the point where she doesn't care anymore. She wants to act in the ways that she feels are ethically right and (pretty much!!) to hell with anyone else if they aren't on board. My Living Smart friend and I thought it was a liberating way to think. It does raise an interesting point. Why do we sometimes feel uncomfortable about doing things differently to protect the environment?

We discussed my friend's workplace and how they use styrofoam cups instead of real cups. This horrifies my friend who has brought in her own mug and uses it instead (note: doing things differently). She has only been working there for a few months though and doesn't want to "rock the boat" and be pushy in her approach to trying to change things.

There are a couple of issues of concern here. One is the waste generated from single use disposable cups being used by not just visitors to the workplace but staff too. The other concern is the impact of styrofoam on the environment as a toxic and non recyclable material. I reviewed 6 local government websites across Perth (Perth, South Perth, Bayswater, Rockingham, Kwinana and Gosnells) and 4 of the 6 do not accept styrofoam in their domestic recycling collection.

As far as I am concerned styrofoam should be banned. I think it is in many places but sadly Perth is not yet one of them. If I get take away served in a styrofoam container that is it - I am never to return to that establishment.

It was so inspiring to chat about ways that my new friend's workplace might be able to switch from styrofoam. I am so admiring of her motivation to take on creating this change despite it not being her paid role. It was great to be able to suggest some ideas to help her to connect with colleagues and create change as part of a team. I don't often find I am able to discuss my work experience in such detail so I really enjoyed it.

After this discussion I am further convinced that influencing and encouraging others to protect the environment requires individuals to lead by example and demonstrate how. This is something you have to do naturally and because you care. It is obvious when you are making a show of doing something and people are not fooled by it. When you do it because it works for you, however, and it adds value to your life, that is inspiring. People are likely to, therefore, be inspired. They can see the benefits that they can also have if they take on a new way of thinking about, or doing, things.

Going back to the point of why we can feel uncomfortable about openly caring for the environment. I guess it's because it doesn't fit with the mainstream culture of buying and disposing of things. Ok, I'll say the C word: "capitalism". It is so ingrained that we buy, use and throw, rather than make, mend and repurpose, that it challenges our way of life. Heaven forbid the economy take a back seat. Even for a second.

I do think times are changing though and I am going to make it my mission to be more proud and less pained while I help to pave that new path.

What inspires you to create change in your life? Do you think leaders are important?

Lizzing Lightly

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sustainability Game Plan - Setting some goals

To try and stop myself from being pulled in a million different directions at once I have decided to set some goals (or more specifically, eleven goals) for myself. I am hoping that it will help me to start and then continue to work on projects, make some changes and try some new things that I have been wanting to do for awhile. I will share my experiences each time I tick off a goal. I will also share any entertaining events that may occur while I am attempting to achieve one of these things.

1. Organise our family schedule

We have just started to make a huge effort with goal number 1. We were kindly given a family organiser calendar for Christmas. I got it out at the end of March, which shows just how organised things have been in our house so far this year! Not only have we planned out jobs, appointments and commitments but we have also planned meals through the week too. This is a huge change for us. So far it has helped me to set firm boundaries for what I need to do each day. This is helping me to find time to relax and we are fitting in some more family activities too.

2. Try a moon cup

This is something that I have been thinking of trying for a couple of years now. It is amazing how much negativity surrounds women trying alternative menstrual products. They are definitely not something that is discussed openly. I recently read this fantastic account of a mum trying a moon cup for the first time.  It has provided me with some additional, and probably much needed!, motivation to buy one and give it a try.

3. Phase out plastic in the kitchen

Since I am increasingly worried about the environmental and health impacts of having so much plastic surrounding us I try to minimise the plastic I use, particularly single-use items. I am a proud participant of Plastic Free July and I have found it easy to apply these ideas to many areas of my life. I have decreased my use of cling wrap to practically zero. I have also stopped buying water in plastic bottles. I use a glass re-usable bottle that I carry most places with me. My next step is to reduce plastic storage in the cupboards by using glass jars and any suitable up-cycled containers that I can find.

4. Decluttering the house

This is an ongoing job since we live in a small house.  However, with the change of season I am particularly focused on clearing out Turtle's and my own clothes. I will gift items to friends if they need them, sell things on Gumtree or donate them to charity. There is no plan for things to be thrown in the bin unless they are really worn out. Even then there might be a use for them as rags.

5. Increase my yoga practice

I am currently doing 1 to 2 yoga practices a week unless there is a big disruption, such as Easter long weekend! Since I am considering doing a yoga instructing course in a year I would like to increase my practice to 2-3 yoga session a week. The idea will be to keep increasing in frequency until I am practicing daily (gasp!).

6. Make homemade muesli bars

I have had one try at this already and, although it tasted delicious, the mixture didn't stick together. We ended up with a kind of trail mix of muesli bar, which was (luckily!) very well received. My main motivation to make homemade muesli bars is to provide nutritious snacks for the family without the packaging of bought muesli bars. I am aiming to create a yummy treat that isn't too sweet.

7. Make my own bread

I am keen to make my own bread. We don't have space for a bread maker so I don't want to buy one. I  want to bake a traditional loaf that is simple so that I could realistically do it regularly. If I set my mind to this goal I am sure I can easily achieve it. I was even given a recipe by a friend awhile ago that is apparently quick and simple. Baking bread has just not been at the forefront of my mind. Clearly it did not make the top of this list either but since it here I am feeling confident I will get to it soon(ish)!

8. Continue to increase the garden's productivity

This is something that Mr Fix It and I are very committed to but we are limited by time. We have recently scheduled a gardening day a month to try and help with this problem. At the moment the vegetable garden is in transition.

There is some basil that still needs to be harvested (I feel a batch of pesto coming on). The corn crop we planted in late summer didn't yield any corn unfortunately. However, the late zucchini crop is going well. We harvested our first zucchini a week or so ago and they are producing a lot of zucchini (big delicious zucchini!). I have just planted some snow peas since Turtle was getting quite upset that there was nothing for her to eat regularly from the garden. The eggplant is still producing baby eggplants and she gets upset every time I take them away while she tries to eat them raw. We are still getting some strawberries too, all of which Turtle is eating immediately after they are harvested.

The kale and celery in the back bed are infested with aphids so we are planning to rip them out and refill that whole bed since the soil has sunk. So there is definitely some work to do here.

9. Make a toadstool stool and other up-cycled toys, mending and crafts

I recently saw a post about making a toadstool stool and I am inspired to make one. The other ideas in that post on how to up-cycle kitchens and toys are brilliant too. Goal number 9 also includes crafts to make gifts and mending things to extend their life (including dog beds!). This is such a broad and fun area, I hope that I find some quality time to make some things (which will rely on goal 1 going smoothly!).

10. Reduce our water use at home

Occasionally our toilet pipe makes funny sounds that we think could mean it has a leak. I have been meaning to properly check out this problem and, while I am at it, check to see if there are any other opportunities to save water. Our water use has gone up a lot since we put in the garden and again since we had Turtle. It's time to see if we can change that.

11. Stop buying products that contain palm oil

I recently changed peanut butter brand since I found out the popular name brand that I was buying contains palm oil. Palm oil production requires huge areas of important forests to be cleared. This has significant environmental impacts, especially removing habitat for many endangered species. To find out more about this issue follow this link to Say No to Palm Oil.

Can you join me on one or more of these goals? I would love to know if you are working towards anything similar or different.

Lizzing Lightly

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Real Homemade Easter Eggs

This was a simple, fun and cheapish activity that I did to make unique Easter eggs for Turtle and her mates at mum's group.  I also sent a couple to my niece and nephew in Adelaide.  They are real eggs that have the inside blown, they are dyed green, filled with sultanas and chocolates and then decorated and wrapped.

Wrapped and ready to go - Real Homemade Easter Egg

How to make Real Homemade Easter Eggs (Total 3 hours)

Step 1: Blow the eggs (30 minutes)

This got easier with each egg and I didn't use a scalpel as suggested in the link, just a metal skewer. It was really easy to jab a hole with the skewer and make it bigger.  I left the eggs to dry in the carton with a piece of paper towel to soak up any water.  It would make sense to dye the eggs immediately (step 2) if you want them to have colour and then dry but I did it the next day.

Step 2: Dye the eggs (30 minutes)

I made four times the the recipe provided in the link to immerse eggs completely and gain better coverage in half the time.  Using blown eggs made it easier because they fill up with dye water and sink... so no stressing about them bobbing around in the dye and getting a patchy coverage.  I could fit three eggs into the bowl too so that cut down on the time it took considerably. The dye is quick to take but I decided to keep each egg in for about 5 minutes on each side (as suggested) to get a good effect.  The plain eggs seemed to absorb the dye much better than the speckled eggs.

Step 3: Fill the eggs with treats, decorate and wrap (up to 2 hours)

This was the most creative part of the project. I found it quite hard to cover the holes at the end of the eggs with stickers as suggested in the link. They just wouldn't stick! I luckily bought some stars that seemed to stick down the bigger stickers that struggled to grip around the egg curves - especially on the speckled eggs which have a rough surface. I decorated a couple of the eggs in egg cups which meant I got much better coverage for the decorations. However if I waited until each dried (around 5 hours) then it would have taken forever to do 8 (ahem, after my accident - 7!) eggs. So I laid out newspaper and decorated the eggs lying on that. They stayed in place really well and dried without smudging. I found using glitter paint pens really easy.

To wrap I cut up the egg carton into individual holders and wrapped the eggs with recycled cellophane and ribbon.

Lessons learnt

I would probably glue stickers or decorations over the holes next time to make sure they stick properly.  I didn't want to get out glue this time since I thought it might get too messy but I think it is worth doing it so they stay on.

Be careful and don't forget you're working with fragile materials! Haha, lesson learnt by dropping and smashing one of the eggs.


I had the eggs in the fridge already and was, coincidentally, planning to make Japanese omelettes so that meant they were all eaten straight away.  I had to buy the metal skewers (~$7) but they will definitely be useful for many barbecues and meals to come.  I had green dye in the house (from a St Patricks Day party a couple of years ago) and so decided to keep things simple and make all of the eggs green.  Granted they did look like big olives until they were decorated but that didn't worry me.

I bought some stickers to cover the holes in the blown eggs and some glittery pens to write names and decorate the eggs for a total of $17.50.  The glitter paint pens will definitely be used for many more craft activities to come.  I also bought some mini chocolates (M&M's) for $2.50 to put into the eggs with sultanas that we already had at home.

In total the project cost me just less than $30 for 7 personalised eggs (originally 8 but I dropped one) and took a total of three hours.


I am happy that I saved on waste by not buying prepackaged chocolate eggs or foil wrapped ones. The sultanas were organic so that is a healthy and wholesome treat. I think the mini M&M's need to be changed for another treat that is more sustainable if I can find one. I will have to think about what I could do instead.  Suggestions are welcomed!

Overall I was quite happy with this little project, the treats are pretty healthy and the egg is quite exciting to crack into.  I highly recommend you give it a try at some point.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of real homemade Easter eggs?

Lizzing Lightly