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Posted by Mama Max - - 0 comments

It's that time of year again, folks! I'm talking about that time of year when you have a lot of people to buy gifts for to thank for their help throughout the year... teachers, neighbors, babysitters, cleaners etc... The thing is that this can often get expensive and so it is always nice to find a great idea for a relatively inexpensive gift that punches above its weight! This year I have 5 teachers to buy for now that the twins have started school and so things are getting even costlier!

Last year I made a cookie mix in a mason jar to give to the Big One's Teacher as a little gesture of thanks at Christmas... it was a cute little extra to go along with the gift card we gave her! However, the cookies were a one time only gift... once the mix was used that was it. So, I was looking for something that had a bit more longevity! The answer came in the form of the brilliant 1-2-3 cake in a mug mix I made earlier in the year thanks to a Pinterest find. I love this easy mix for its simplicity and relatively guilt-free treat! What better?

To make 5 gifts you will need...

  • 5 x 16 oz (1 US Pint) mason jars ... I bought mine in the Dollar Store!
  • 2 x box mixes of Angel Cake
  • 2 x box mixes of another cake variety (I used Betty Crocker Devil's Food Chocolate cake)
  • 5 x Xmas themed mugs (again from the Dollar Store)
  • 5 x tablespoon measures (again from the Dollar Store)
  • Ribbon in a Christmassy colour
  • Adhesive labels to stick on the jar (see link below)
  • 5 x brown paper gift bag
  • Brown paint
  • Red Paint
  • Black marker

First off, make up the cake mix in a gallon sized freezer bag.  See the details here. Carefully spoon the mix into the jars, shaking to settle if necessary.  Close the lid carefully, and tie a tablespoon measure around the neck of the jar with the ribbon ... tie in a bow. Decorate the paper bag... we made reindeer handprints!

Label the jar with an adhesive sticky label... write the instructions on the label.  You can use the printable attached here with the sticky labels below.

Put it all together in the gift bag with some shredded paper and colored tissue paper!  Et voila!

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I have waxed lyrical about my obsession with Pinterest before... but it's really starting to become a problem. I am getting dissatisfied with perfectly functional areas of my home because they don't have perfectly coordinated accents and creative & ingenious storage solutions. The thing is, that functional does not equal pretty.

someecards.com - After spending three hours on Pinterest, I now need a chalkboard, burlap, and a very rich man who can buy a mansion with a laundry room in the closet.

Take my laundry room slash cloakroom slash downstairs bathroom. It is what I like to refer to as an organised mess. There is:

  • a cupboard above the washer & dryer to store cleaning supplies. Check.
  • a row of hooks for coats & bags. Check.
  • storage shelving for shoes. Check.
  • a basket for dirty laundry and a basket for clean laundry. Check, and check.

But it's still a mess and quite frankly an eyesore. Unfortunately, this utility room opens directly from my open plan kitchen and dining area so everyone gets to see it. It is also where our downstairs toilet it is located, so most visitors need to actually venture in there. Cue embarrassed me. So after a recent depression-inducing browse through Pinterest, I decided to something about it. I felt there was no harm borrowing ideas from the grand schemes displayed by people with A, lots more money than me; B, no kids; and C, domestic help!!! I would just adapt them to suit my budget and lifestyle! :-)

Firstly, I took stock of what I had in this area and made an inventory of the things that needed storing and a list of activities/functions that the room had to serve. I employed this strategy recently when organising my kitchen junk drawer. While I call the area a laundry room, it is in fact much more than that. Functions carried out in the area include: laundry & ironing; storage of coats, hats & scarves, umbrella, bags & shoes; storage of cleaning supplies & equipment; storage of DIY items such as lightbulbs, flashlights etc... It is also where the washbasin for the downstairs bathroom is located!

Ultimately, what I needed was storage that worked! The biggest investment was replacing the wire cube shelving with some cupboards from the Stuva range from Ikea. I chose these because they are sturdy, well built and spacious, allowing laundry baskets to be stored on the shelves comfortably.

However, they are also not one-trick ponies! They are actually a range designed to be used as furniture in a child's bedroom. You can buy hanging rails for the interior to turn them into wardrobes. This is important to me as we rent our home and as expats are likely to move on in the next couple of years... I want multi-function furniture that can be re-purposed in other parts of the house! Taking inspiration from many of the aforementioned Pinterest gems, I purchased some extra laundry baskets to aid the sorting process. One is for the clothes ready to put away in the boys' closets upstairs. One is for Him Indoors & myself! The other is for items that require ironing. Each basket is labelled using some nifty box labels I found in Target (far more practical than fancy chalkboards)... these are similar!

The square Sterilite ones fit the shelves perfectly and they come in white or beige!

Another great aspect of this range of furniture from Ikea is the option for deep drawers.  These are perfect for storing shoes of all sizes (including the boats that Him Indoors wears)!!!

For taming the clutter in the wall mounted cupboards above the washer/dryer I bought a variety of plastic baskets and bins and sorted the contents of my cleaning storage cupboard, making things easier to find.

A major improvement was in de-cluttering the coat hooks and putting a basket for the school backpacks on the floor below. This helped remove some of the bulk on the hooks. I labelled each hook for a member of the family so that the kids can take ownership of their own items. I found this worked brilliantly for some stair baskets I set up. To label each hook without damaging the walls I used some brilliant Post-it Labels. I also invested in a wall rack to organise the brooms and mops that were cluttering up the corner. This has made a huge impact on reining in the clutter.

I used suction hooks to hang things like the clothes horse off the side of the dryer.

One of the best investments I made was to get a countertop ironing board. As with many ironing boards I found the pad that it came with was a little thin, so I also invested in a universal fit felt pad. I have another suction cup on the side of the wall mounted cabinets to store it when not in use, but it really doesn't take up any space so is actually easy to leave out.  It really streamlines the laundry process too, as if an item needs a quick iron I can do it as I pull it out of the dryer. I added an over the door hanging rail to help with this.  I store hangers here to put ironed items on.

One of the most effective things I employed in cheering up the room (without being able to actually decorate) was to pin a piece of bright patterned fabric to the wall behind the washer & dryer!! The fabric was only about $5 a yard from Ikea and really creates an impact... I love using cheap fabric for cheap & easy DIY wall art on a big scale!



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This is just a quick post to share one of my most recent ideas with you... a quick, cheap and easy way to add lights to a cake. I was recently asked to make a fire truck cake for my friend's son's 3rd birthday party and so commenced a bit of an internet trawl for ideas... there really are some amazingly talented cake makers and decorators out there. One fire truck cake in particular caught my eye as the creative Mama who had made it had roped in her Dad to make real working lights for it... brilliant!!! Whilst I admire the ingenuity, I wasn't going to risk electrocuting the party guests with my no-doubt shoddy efforts at electronics.

However, inspiration struck mid-week whilst out trick-or-treating on Halloween. Lots of the kids were wearing glow sticks... as bracelets, necklaces and even just attached to their loot bags! Glow sticks are great... while the liquid and broken glass inside the glow stick isn't something you'd want your child to come into contact with, the exterior is tough and safe for them to play with (as long as they aren't treated with excessive roughness).

A quick rummage in the dollar section of my local Target came up trumps for the fire truck cake. I found a pack of two 4" glowsticks (one red & one blue) that came with attachments and string to make them into pendant necklaces. I was able to use the red one on the top of the cake to resemble the lights on the front of the truck and it looked very effective when the lights were turned out and the candles lit!

This idea could be used in many different ways ... it would be perfect for lightsabres on a Star Wars themed cake! And the fact that glowsticks are available in lots of different colours and sizes (from 1.5" to more than 22") allows for massive creativity!

How would you use glow sticks on a cake?

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Posted by Mama Max - - 3 comments

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Posted by Mama Max - - 3 comments

I am the Queen of Over-Catering. I can't help myself. I think it's because I was a guest at a memorable (for the wrong reason) event where the catering was woefully inadequate to the point where people were jostling over the last sausage roll at the buffet. It was utterly cringe-worthy and has left me scarred for life! So I nearly always end up with a glut of food after I have hosted a party. This Halloween is no exception and it wasn't helped by some last minute illness-induced cancellations. Oh boy.

So, I ended up with a large quantity of lasagna, cannelloni and pizza to use up. I froze what I could and sent Him Indoors and the Big One to work/school with packed lunches of pasta & pizza for the last few days. But I still had rather a few slices of cold and frankly unappetisingly dry pizza left in the fridge that would look at me accusingly every time I opened the door. If there's something I hate more than under-catering, it's wasting food!

Thankfully, whilst I was trying to convince myself that the pizza wouldn't be so bad once reheated and slathered in ketchup, I was struck by inspiration. Bread pudding. After all, what is pizza other than bread with tomato sauce and cheese on top! However, bread pudding is usually sweet with sugar and dried fruit... would a savoury version work? The answer is a resounding and delicious 'yes'!

You will need...
  • leftover pizza
  • eggs (1-2 per slice depending on the thickness of the crust and size of the slice)
  • milk (about 1/2 to 1 cup depending on the number of eggs used)
  • Parmesan (approximately 1/4 cup, plus some extra for the top)
  • seasoning
  • Optional: oregano
  • Optional: extra vegetables/cooked meat.

First off, you will need an oven-proof baking dish that will accomodate your pizza neatly.  Lightly grease the dish with butter or oil and set aside.  Then simply cut your cold leftover pizza into chunks about an inch or so square.  Spread them evenly in the ovenproof dish.  You can add extra vegetables or cooked meats to your pizza if you'd like.  I used bell pepper and mushrooms (although only on one side with the mushrooms as my kids are fusspots)!

Then beat your eggs and add the milk, Parmesan, seasoning and herbs.  Pour the eggy mixture over the pizza until it is all coated.  It doesn't need to be swimming in it, but you will need enough liquid so that all the pizza will fully absorb it.  You can always beat a few extra eggs and add if your dish looks too dry.  Cover the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour so that the pizza has a chance to fully absorb the liquid and go soggy. You could even leave it overnight so that you have a pre-prepared brunch dish just waiting to pop in the oven!  

Sprinkle a handful of Parmesan over the top and season before popping in the oven at 350'F (180'C) for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

You can either serve hot, cut into slices and served with a nice green salad.  Or it's good cut up and served cold too!


The Shabby Nest
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