6 of my Favourite Free Crochet Patterns

6 of my Favourite Free Crochet Patterns

Winter is fast upon us here in Tassie.  I must say I don’t really mind.  I used to love summer, but now with children it can just be rather inconvenient.  Also, cooler weather means I can get my crochet on!

I love free patterns, who doesn’t?  Here are some of my favourite.

This blanket is delightful and once you’ve done a few circles you won’t even need to look at the pattern.  I made 2 of these last winter for my sisters twins, she tells me that they get a lot of comments, mostly ‘Oh did a great Aunty Crochet those for you?’ Haha.

Deb's Crafts: Bouncy Ball Baby Blanket Free Crochet Pattern

These booties are cute, quick and easy, maybe not 10 minutes quick as the URL suggests but all done in one evening kinda quick.  😀 This pattern makes a newborn size but I have adjusted the size just by making the sole longer and adjusting the rest of the stitch counts to suit.

free crochet patterns baby booties

I love this pattern.  In a single colour it is beautiful.  I am not to good on using different ply to change the sizing but I used some 8ply with a 4.5 (I think) hook and it made a perfect 6-12month size.

Ravelry: free baby vest pattern by Annelies Baes (Vicarno)

Now I must admit I am not really into the whole pumpkin theme 😂 but…this pattern is great!  Minus the stem and leaf!  This pattern makes quite a small beanie but if you measure from the centre top of the head down to about the ears, that is how wide you want to make the body of the beanie.  Does that make sense?  This beanie you make as one rectangular piece, seam that together into a cylinder and then join in together the top.

Crochet Baby Beanie-Free Pattern

How beautiful is this basket!  This pattern works really well and is super easy to adjust the sizing as you are making the base.

Free Crochet Basket Pattern

This chevron blanket pattern is easy to follow and I learnt a lot while making it.  I thought that crocheting a ripple would be difficult but it was suprisingly straight forward.  Once I had completed a few rows I did not have to follow the pattern, I could see where I need to increase and decrease for the highs and lows of the ripple.  You do need to register with Lion Brand Yarn to access the pattern but it’s all free and worth your while 😀

Love this color combo too!  Lion brand free crochet pattern. Thick and quick #wool

What’s on your crochet to do list this winter?

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Developmental Hip Dysplasia, Information for Parents

The information in the following post is based on my own research and experiences as a Mumma.  If you have any concerns about your child I urge you to get it checked out.        Diagnosis the younger the better!  🙂

2 of our 3 daughters have Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips, DDH.  I had it too, so luckily we were on the look out and in both cases caught it early when it is easy to treat.  Read more about our youngest daughters Hip Journey here.

The more research I do however, it seams that far too many cases are missed and not diagnosed until the child is a few years old.  Treatment of DDH can be relaitively straight forward and the younger the baby the more effective, fast working and non-invasive the treatment is.  When left undiagnosed though this is unfortunately not the case.  Late diagnoses can mean longer treatment times, surgery and a large plaster cast.  it also means restricting a child who is used to being on the move as apposed to a small baby who does not know any different.

DDH basically means that the hip socket has not developed as it should have, sometimes causing the Femoral Head to sit in the wrong position in the socket, be dislocated or ‘click’ when moved.  There are varrying degrees and it is called Developmetal Dysplasia of the Hips because cases can get better or worsen with age.

These images from the International Hip Institute show the range of severity that can occur.

human hip joint as it should appear

Subluxation when the ball is not aligned properly with the socket. A mild form of hip dysplasia    Low Dislocation when the ball is just outside of the socket. A more serious form of hip dysplasia.    High dislocation - the ball is completely removed from the hip socket. A severe form of hip dysplasia.

Here are the main risk factors for DDH.

  • family history
  • female
  • first born
  • breach position
  • 4kg + birth weight

It seams crazy to me that parents are not made more aware of DDH.  Many of the warning signs are easy to pick up on if you know what you are looking for and early detection and treatment is always best.

Here are some of the main signs of DDH

  • uneven creases in the thighs or buttock (suggesting that the Femoral Head is sitting in the wrong position)
  • a stiffness in one or both legs as you rotate the legs outwards (as when nappy changing)
  • one leg appears shorter than the other  (suggesting that the Femoral Head is sitting in the wrong position)
  • crawling with one leg dragging
  • walking with a limp (if one hip affected) or waddling type movement (if both hips are affected)

The signs above are more noticeable if one hip is affected more than the other causing asymmetry.  Bi-Lateral (on both sides) Hip Dysplasia can be more difficult to detect.

While there is nothing that a parent can do that will cause DDH there are some things that can be done to reduce the risk/severity if a child has a predisposition or mild DDH.  Basically a safe position for the hips is in abduction, that is, the knees are spread apart rather than being held together.

“The bones of an infants hip joint are much softer than an adult hip joint It is easier for an infant’s hip to become misaligned (subluxate) or dislocate than an adult hip. This is because an infant hip socket is mostly soft, pliable, cartilage. Whereas an adult’s hip socket is hard bone.”

Source – The International Hip Dysplasia Institute

I hope you have found this post informative and that you can help me spread awareness of DDH.

The following websites have useful information.

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute

Better Health Channel

Kids Health, The Childrens Hosptial at Westmead

Josie’s Journey with Hip Dysplasia

I knew from before Josie was 2 weeks old that she was going to be our second Hippy Babe.  Esther also inherited my Dickie Hips so I knew what to look out for.  I can not pin point the first time I noticed, but Josie’s thigh creases were not even.  I knew what this meant and I was fairly prepared when the health nurse confirmed at her 2 week check that her left hip felt stiff (just as her big sisters had 18 months earlier, only that time I was not prepared, not at all).

Developmental Dysplasic Hips, DDH, is the medical term.  I tend to say Dicky Hips or Clicky Hips when explaining it to people.  I don’t at all mind talking about it but it’s just one of those terms that many people have never heard and will need an explanation of anyway.  It basically means that the hips socket has not developed as it should have, sometimes causing the Femur to sit in the wrong position in the socket, be dislocated or ‘click’ when moved.  There are varrying degrees and luckily my girls have both had relatively mild cases with shallow hip sockets but stable joints, that is, the Femur does not dislocate from the socket.

These images from the International Hip Institute show the range of severity that can occur.

human hip joint as it should appear  Subluxation when the ball is not aligned properly with the socket. A mild form of hip dysplasia    Low Dislocation when the ball is just outside of the socket. A more serious form of hip dysplasia.    High dislocation - the ball is completely removed from the hip socket. A severe form of hip dysplasia.

Standard procedure here is to do an ultrasound scan at 6 weeks old if a baby has a high risk or is suspected of having DDH.  We were booked in for this scan from birth as a precaution but I was not willing to wait all that time doing nothing when I knew that a  Pavlik Harness  would be very effective at such a young age when babies are growing so rapidly.

I got an appointment to see the Orthopeidic Surgeon when Josie would be 4 weeks old.  Try as I did, Radiography would not budge, 6 weeks for the ultrasound it was.

In the mean time I used double cloth nappies on Josie day and night to hold her legs out in a position similar to the Pavlik Harness.  This is no longer used as an official form of treatment but I could not wait around and do nothing.  Who knows if it helped but it made me feel better.

All of a sudden Josie was 4 weeks old and the Orthopeadic Surgeon confirmed she had DDH.  I explained my fight with Radiography to get an ultrasound scan done earlier, he agreed with me, lead us up to Radiography and explained that Joise would be having an Ultrasound…NOW!  I was quietly chuffed that a Surgeon was agreeing with me and fighting me case.  The ultrasound confirmed what we already knew and by the end of that outing Josie was fitted with a Pavlik Harness for 23 hours a day for the next 8 weeks.

As I write this now, 6months from the harness first being fitted I don’t remember it being too much of an issue.  Sleeping wasn’t fantastic but she was generally happy.  I found the worst part for me was that she wasn’t all nice a squishy anymore.  All those straps made her feel big, bulky and stiff.

The weeks passed quickly but by the end I was well and truly sick of the harness and looking forward to it coming off.  The ultrasound date came and I was delighted by a following appointment with the Orthopedic Surgeon where we were told her hips now looked normal. Harness off.  Squishy baby back.  Delight!

‘Yes her hips are fine now’ I would explain to people when they asked.  This is what we believed to be true.

At some stage between between 4 and 6 months I noticed her thigh creases were not even again.  I am kicking myself now but I didn’t think anything of it.  The Doctor had never mentioned that she may need further treatment or that the issue could come back.  Her hips are not going to ‘un-grow’ I thought!  I flippantly mentioned the creases to the Health Nurse at her 6 month check, still not thinking much of it.  And then she checked Josie’s hips.  ‘Yep, this one’ pointing to the left hip, ‘You need to get this one looked at, I can feel a click’.  I burst into tears. How could this happen?  What do you mean?  Why was I never told this could happen?  This must be bad.  I had a million thoughts going through my head.  I called our Orthopedic surgeon as soon as we got home and demanded an appointment as soon as possible.  The next day, thank goodness we didn’t have to wait.

I hardly got a minute of sleep that night and the next day the Ortho confirmed that he could feel a click but didn’t think it was much to worry about.  Wow, I thought.  He sent us up for X-rays to be sure.  The Radiographer didn’t think there was much to worry about either, I was feeling so relieved!  Then back to the Ortho to review the X-ray.  He explained that her hips were not perfect but that he would review when she turned one and treat then if necessary.  Umm.  Sorry.  No way!  I was not waiting until she was one and wanting to move around to put a damn brace on her.  I asked if she would benefit from wearing a brace even just part time.  We agreed she would wear a Rhino Brace for day time only and he would review in 6 (6!!!!) months.

So the Rhino Brace went on and she honestly wasn’t fussed by it at all.  Clever little lady!

I couldn’t help thinking that 6 months was just too long to wait and see.  If it hadn’t worked in that time then what?  Surgery?  And as relieved as I was that the brace wasn’t on at night, it just didn’t feel quite right.  Too good to be true I guess you could say.

I organised a second opinion.

We had that opointment on Wednesday.  This Doctor was brilliant.  Reassuring yet cautious and thorough.  He confirmed my suspicions that the brace should be on at night time and that 6 months was too long to wait before reviewing.  He is going to review in 2 months time, (when the brace has been on for 3 months) and was confident that the brace would work, he wasn’t sure on a time frame though.  He also wants to X-ray and review Esther, who had her brace off at 6 months at which time we were told there was no need to review.  Turns out there is every need to review for several years after treatment of DDH as the hips can sometimes not maintain their growth and development after treatment is ceased.  Esther will have an X-ray next week.  I feel sick thinking about the possibility that she may need further treatment.  We will keep our fingers crossed that she is fine and cross that bridge when we come to it.

Tips and tricks for living on one income

I have been thinking about writing this post for quite some time now, my problem was that I couldn’t really pin down what it was that we do to make it possible to live as a family of 5 on one income.  The thing is that we don’t really do any one thing in particular, it’s more of a general way of life that gets us through.  We don’t budget, although I could tell you how much is in all three of our bank accounts, what we owe on our mortgage and how much we can redraw from our mortgage at any time.  I am not obsessive about it, I don’t record our spendings and keep receipts, I am just always aware.

I could sum it up by saying

  • Make the most of what you have, reuse and don’t waste a thing 
  • Don’t buy it if you don’t need it
  • Buy good quality and look after it
  • If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it
  • Don’t have a savings account (Whaaaattt??!!)

But if you are reading this it is probably because you would like some money saving tips yourself so I will tell you a little more 😉

 

Make the most of what you have, reuse and don’t waste a thing 

Think about the environment.  You will almost certainly reduce your waste, get more out of what you have and therefore not need to buy as much.  Only run a full dishwasher, have shorter showers and shallower baths, wear clothes again when you can (yes, I know, near impossible when you have little people wiping their snot and sticky fingers on you all day long), use cloth nappies (unless you have a babe in a hip brace, damn it!), wash out ziplock bags and take away containers (well, just don’t eat take away if you want to save money…).

Save Food.  If you are having a Roast Chicken pinch every last scrap of meat of that Chook and use it in another meal, use it in sandwiches for lunches for the next couple of days or freeze it for another time.  Then you can boil up the bones with an onion, garlic, a carrot and some peppercorns to make some stock and you can freeze leftover gravy in ice cube trays.  If you have some manky veggies in the back of the fridge, chuck them all in to make a soup.  Meal planning will help you plan to use up leftovers, reduce waste and avoid overbuying at the supermarket, take a list!

DIY.  Get your craft on.  It can be fun and you can save a packet!!  When we renovated our kitchen I wanted something for this wall, I had kept a calendar we collected on our travels in Chile because I loved the pictures.  It was 3 years old and in Spanish but I loved the pictures.  I bought some cheap frames from a $2 shop and cut the pictures to fit. These get so many comments and they cost $6, winning!

image

Keep everything.  This leads into my next point perfectly, keep everything, you never know when it may come in handy.  I have been using the same face washers and waterproof bibs, sippy cups and baby spoons for 4 years now. These are not expensive items but why throw them out and buy them 2 times more than I had to?

 

Don’t buy it if you don’t need it

Ok, pretty self explanatory right? Basically don’t be too materialistic.  I like new shoes and clothes as much as the next Mumma and I do splash out sometimes, but the key is just don’t go overboard.  Instead of clothes shopping, have a wardrobe clean out (you might be surprised what you find!), host a clothes swap with some friends or check out local Opp Shops.  Think outside the box.  Same goes for kids clothes, toys, anything really. 

 

Buy good quality and look after it

Don’t get caught in the trap of buying cheap things thinking you are saving money.  You may save in the short term but more often than not a cheap version will need replacing a lot sooner than a good quality item so in the long term it may actually cost you more.  If you can, go without while you save for a better quality option.  I got caught with our curtains.  I got impatient and wanted new curtains now so I went and bought some ready made cheapies (knowing in the back of my mind they would not last the distance!).  That was 3 years ago, and you guessed it, now they are stuffed!  

 

If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it

Number one rule, don’t have a credit card.  If you have cash flow issues because you get paid monthly or irregularly, set up 2 bank accounts with an automatic transfer so you get ‘paid’ equal amounts each week or fortnight rather than one lump sum.  If you have a credit card to collect points for a reward system, set up an automatic transfer so that the card is paid off before you are charged any interest. 

Avoid buy now pay later schemes.  Yes it’s nice to have that stuff now, but if you can’t afford it now, how do you know you will be able to afford it in 12, 24, 36 months time?  And if you do end up paying interest on these plans for whatever reason you will get stung!  They are tempting I know, if you go ahead, read ALL the fine print, TWICE! 

 

Don’t have a savings account

WHAT??? You say! Why have money sitting in a bank account doing nothing?  Put it into your mortgage.  If you are lucky enough not to have a mortgage  find a high interest savings account, a term deposit or invest it.  We have a home loan with a redraw option.  We can redraw whenever we like for free, it is brilliant.  All our money is plowed into our homeloan, reducing the interest we pay and we still have access to the money when we need it.  Having said that, don’t get too excited and redraw whenever you feel like a shopping spree!  This also means that you can be ahead of your weekly repayments.  This  is a huge weight off our shoulders, knowing that if something happens we do not have to make a repayments for X amount of time is a great feeling!  Even if you can only afford $20 a week on top of the minimum repayment, it is worth doing!

What are your best money saving tips?

 

Boobie Balls

If you are breast feeding and wanting to increase your milk supply then this is the recipe for you 😊. There are many recipes for Boobie Biscuits out there but I wanted the benefits of increased milk supply without having to eat too many biscuits, leading to an increased body, if you get my drift.

These balls do actually work in increasing milk production, I know, I’ve tried them. It’s the brewers yeast that is the key ingredient in aiding milk production, do not substitute this for any other kind of yeast, the flaxseed meal is also important.

100g almond meal

100g dates finely chopped

10g coconut oil

30g oats

10g honey

3tsp brewers yeast

3tsp flaxseed meal

30g milk powder

1Tb boiling water

coconut and or extra almond meal to roll balls in

1.Mix all ingredients except water in a food processor until well combined.

2.Add water slowly while food processor is on.

3.Form into balls and coat in extra coconut, almond meal or leave plain.

You can adjust the amount of Brewers yeast in this recipe. The more you use the more your milk supply will be affected. It does have quite a strong taste though, think…Vegimite! In this recipe you can’t taste it and I don’t mind a little more, make one batch and see what you think before tampering 😜

Kids Scrappy Pants

I have found a new favourite pattern, well to be precise a good (and very clever) friend got me onto it. Quick Change Trousers from Handmade Beginnigns, 24 Sewing Projects to Welcome Baby by Anna Maria Horner.

They are the best! They work perfectly every time, fit wonderfully and are just so cute. They are reversible which I love, two pairs in one 😉 and I do love the funky little yolk on the back in a different fabric, great for using up those scraps.

I have made two pairs already, a size 6 month for Josie

IMG_0570        IMG_0554

 

and size 24 month for Esther.

IMG_0492    IMG_0499

 

The patterns largest size is 24 month so the plan is now to attempt to enlarge the pattern to make some to fit a size 4 for Nelly. Luckily she is tall and skinny so she almost fits the 24 month size, adding a few cms to the waist and hips and a fair bit to the length should do it.

Perhaps a little boys pair of these might do for the next Facebook give away??

Stay tuned… 🙂

Into the dishwasher

I remember once I had a Norwex party (microfiber cleaning products if you haven’t heard of it, it’s great stuff!) and the consultant commented on how clean and shiny our sink baskets were. She was amazed when I told her that I never really cleaned them, I just put them in the dishwasher. You could much around with a toothbrush, but that sounds like too much hard work for me, I just put them in the dishwasher. Or of cause you could just leave them as they are only plugs in the bottom of your sink lol. As mine are still relatively new I like them to have a bit of sparkle 😉

IMG_0470   IMG_0477

This got me thinking, what else do I put in the dishwasher to save some time and scrubbing power?

Range Hood Vents

IMG_0471   IMG_0474

(How’s that for a before and after shot?!)

These have got to be the greasiest, messiest, most revolting thing in the kitchen to try and clean, eeew! You could scrub them and in the process spray greasy dishwater everywhere…nope…dishwasher!
You may want to check your user manual just in case.

Dish Brushes

IMG_0472   IMG_0476
Man these can get gross. You could bleach them or bin them if they are super nasty but the dishwasher normally does the trick to brighten them up and will kill any nasties lurking in there.

Toys

IMG_0473   IMG_0475
I have to say I have never been one to disinfect everything in sight, in fact I generally don’t clean toys unless they are super desperate. If they are plastic…think Duplo, Marble Maze, Baby Toys, basically anything washable and plastic…I say, dishwasher!

Bath Toys
As above really. Oh and next time you get new ones, plug up those pesky holes with silicone or super glue! 😉

There are some things unfortunately that are just not made for the dishwasher.

These things I do not put in the dishwasher.

Knifes.  I have good quality kitchen knifes and I used to put them in the dishwasher but it noticed they need sharpening often. I stopped putting them in there and now they stay sharper for much longer. For the same reason also…

Blades.  Thermomix and other food processor blades. Also veggie peelers and cheese graters.

Fry pans and saucepans with any sort of non-stick coating. The odd wash here and there won’t hurt but over time this will damage the surface.

I have to say thanks to my Mumma Dear, I think most of these things I do because she’s told me about it or I saw her do it growing up Xxx

What do or don’t you put in your dishwasher? They are fabulous friends in the kitchen, make the most of yours.

Work smarter not harder I say 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a plan…and then I got sucked in.

So I think I have cracked it. I am an organiser. I am not organised, I am an organisER. I write lists upon lists, sometimes I stick to them. I meal plan only to feel like something completely different on the day. As I sit here and write I am printing out a planner for next year in a bid to help me get on top of birthdays and other gifts so that I can avoid the last minute, ‘arrrr I need a present for tomorrow!!’ We shall see how long it will last into the new year.

So keeping with this theme, I have been furiously writing lists for Christmas for some time now. Gifts, shops, websites, meals, recipes, to do lists for each day and of course, the shopping list.

Yesterday I had a great plan. After the children went to bed I would go to the supermarket and do ‘the big shop’ and I would be set. My husband got home from work early, great I thought, I can finally get something done. All I had done all day was follow the toddler around with a sponge washing artwork off walls and starting (not finishing!) each thing on my Monday list. It was 4.25 and he suggests that why don’t I go to the supermarket now and then I could relax In the evening. Yes. Great idea. So I rushed out the door, list and bags in hand with ‘just be quick’ (50 minutes until tea time!) ringing in the back of my head. Ha!

So I am happily filling my trolley, quite enjoying the fact that no children were talking to me, crossing things of my list. Then I check the time, ok stress levels increasing now. Our usually peaceful country Supermarket was brimming with crazed shoppers and over flowing trolleys because all of a sudden, the Supermarket is going to be closed for one whole day and no one has any food in the house that they could possibly eat on Christmas Day. I am one of them of course…and you have seen my freezer…we have plenty of food in the house! Yep stress levels on the rise.

By the time I reaching the baking isle my calm stroll around the supermarket has morphed into a mad Christmas rush. I get to the check out with 10 minutes to spare, great! And then I realise that it is the day BEFORE payday. Yep, really organised! Stress levels rapidly increasing. So I know we have plenty of money, the only problem is that is it divided between three accounts, (I am not quite sure why) and I don’t have a clue how much is in each account. Thank goodness the same thing happened to the lady in front of me so I didn’t feel quite so embarrassed when third time lucky my card was not declined.

So never again do I rush out the door three days before Christmas to go to the Supermarket 50 minutes before tea time. Sure we all want nice food for Christmas, but all I really needed was a few extra veggies and some chocolate bars to mix into cheesecakes. Why did I do it? I got sucked in! So if you feel the need to do ‘the big shop’ today or tomorrow, can I suggest very very early in the morning or very very late at night. Probably steer clear of the 5pm rush 😉

Muuuuummmm! I’m hungry!

Children can be hungry little beggars! As in hungry now…right now! Not in half an hour when you have had time to prepare something. Now!

If you have read my freezer post here
https://mummaplusthree.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/the-world-inside-my-freezer/
you would know that having the freezer well stocked is how I try and combat this dilemma. So I have compiled a list of snacks and meals that can be frozen in child sized portions, just especially for these starving moments 🙂

Snacks first.
Freeze all these things flat in ziplock bags so they don’t stick together.
Pikelets
Banana Bread
Mini muffins
Cheese and veg muffins
Cakes and slices

Fruit or Milo icy poles (use a small container and poke in a wooden stick when partially frozen if you don’t have moulds)

Stewed puréed fruit frozen in small containers or reusable pouches.

Balls. We love balls! These Apricot Balls are the most popular thing ever in this house and I love making them because these ones are healthy, not full of condensed milk.

https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/better-homes-gardens/tv-and-video/video/watch/17973050/fast-ed-apricot-coconut-balls-ep-24-12-07-2013/

Any dried fruit could be used in this recipe and google will find you days worth of different recipes.

Another favorite is these Banana Oat Balls. Any food processor will work for these 🙂

http://www.recipecommunity.com.au/desserts-sweets-recipes/healthy-raw-cookie-dough-bites-back-school/137912

Lunch and Dinners
The easiest way to build up supply of frozen kiddy dinners is to freeze a portion or two each time you have extra when dishing up a meal. Freeze it straight away though, don’t wait until you have finished eating because those leftovers have a miraculous way of disappearing!

Pasta
Most pasta dishes freeze quite well, some may go a tad mushy when defrosted but my kids don’t seem to mind if this happens. You can also freeze plain cooked pasta and defrost and heat by covering with boiling water for a few minutes. I know it only takes 10 minutes to boil pasta but this is handy when you only want a few pieces. Small portions of Lasagne can be wrapped in glad wrap once cool and frozen, these do take a bit longer to defrost though.

Rice
Fired rice freezes well and defrosts nice and quickly without mushing too much. Risotto and other rice dishes seem to go fairly sticky but it is worth experimenting to see what works for you.

Mini Cheese and Spinach Pies (don’t ask me for a recipe, I can not ever get them right but my Mother dear always makes a batch for my freezer when she visits and the girls love them!)

Soup in small containers or reusable pouches.

Tuna Patties of course! If you haven’t seen the recipe for these on my Facebook page you really need to find it and try them 🙂

Cooked sausages in ziplock bags.

Poached shredded chicken. This is great to put in rolls and sandwiches, mix through a salad, pasta or for a kids tasting plate. The Organised Housewife has a great recipe here

http://theorganisedhousewife.com.au/lunchbox-ideas/homemade-shredded-chicken-breast-for-school-lunchboxes/

Sandwiches. Yes sandwiches!
I only recently discovered this, but sandwiches freeze very well! Use fresh bread and fillings that will not go soggy on defrosting. So far I have tried
Cheese and Vegimite
Cheese and chicken
Cheese and ham
And they have all worked very well. Just be sure to wrap well with Glad Wrap so they are air tight. They only take a few hours to defrost, perfect for lunch boxes.

Mostly it’s down to trial and error, if you are not sure if something will freeze well, just freeze one piece overnight and then see how it defrosts.

Also a food safety note on freezing food. Wherever possible food should be defrosted in the fridge or quickly in the microwave, not left out at room temperature. Once something is defrosted it should be consumed straight away and not reheated again or refrozen. However, if something is frozen raw, defrosted and then cooked it can be frozen again.

So there you go, I hope you now have some new ideas, or some inspiration to add to or create a stash of kiddy quick fixes in your freezer.

Jam Making Tutorial

Jam is a lovely handmade gift to give as a Thank You, it is also great to make a big batch when fruits are cheap as it will last ages in the cupboard if bottled correctly. When I say ages, I mean years!  I would say that it should be right for 12 months for sure but I recently found some I the back of the cupboard from !2011! and it was still perfectly fine with no signs of mould or discoloration. Having said that I would always store it in the fridge once opened. For this tutorial I have made Blackberry Jam but the method is pretty much at the same for any Jam. I always check a recipe that has similar fruit to what I am using as some require lemon juice or water to be added. Most recipes call for equal parts sugar and fruit. I only ever use 75% sugar to fruit (because this is what my Mum does), this is sweet enough for sure. So for 1kg of fruit I use 750g sugar.

So here goes 🙂

Before you do anything else, put a small plate in the freezer.

First you need to prepare your jars. You can use any glass jars with metal lids that seal well (avoid lids that have any rust or dents). Wash your jars in hot soapy water, rinse and place on a tray.  Also wash, rinse and place on the tray a jug that you will use to pour the jam.  Place the tray in the oven at 100*c to sterilize everything.

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Measure your ingredients. You can measure the fruit straight in to pan but the sugar needs to be separate.

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Put the fruit in the pan on medium-high heat until it is simmering and cook the fruit down until it  is all softened.  I use a spoon to squash the fruit a little so that the jam doesn’t have big lumps of fruit, that’s personal choice 🙂    Remove from the heat and add the sugar.  Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, it will feel gritty until it is dissolved fully.

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Once all the sugar has dissolved return to the heat and bring to the boil.  You want a slow boil, not too rapid.  Stir regularly for as long as your recipe states.  This 500g batch of Blackberry needed 9 minutes.  1kg of mixed berry usually takes around 15 minutes but all fruits are different so find a recipe to use as a guide.

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After the suggested cooking time you need to test the Jam to see if it has set.  This is why you put a plate in the freezer earlier 🙂  Grab the plate, put a small blob of jam on it and put it back in the freezer.  After a couple of minutes take out the plate and use your finger to push the jam gently from one side of the blob towards the centre.  Watch the jam just in front of your finger, you want to see the jam wrinkle instead of just push away smoothly.  If you can see a wrinkle then your jam has set, if not put another blob of jam on the other side of the plate and repeat.  Sometimes it just does not seem to wrinkle at all, I usually give it a few more goes and then give up and bottle anyway, the jam always does seem to set once cooled, just one of those mystery things I guess…

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When your jam has reached its set point you are ready to bottle it.  You need to work quickly now, you want to pour hot jam into hot jars and then seal with hot lids.  Either pour your jam into the jug you have sterilized or dip the jug into the pot if you are making a bigger quantity, remember everything is very hot, wear oven mitts!!  If you dip the jug in hold a plate under it to catch the drips.  Fill the jars to about 1cm from the top and tighten lids quickly.  When all jars are filled check all lids are on tightly and leave to cool.  As they cool the lids will vacume on, you might hear them pop down and you will notice they concave.  That’s it, you have made Jam 🙂

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Any leftover jam can be stored in an unsterilized jar or container in the fridge, it wont last long because you will eat it!!

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So there you go, next time you come across some cheap berries give it a go, there is nothing better than home made jam.

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