Honey Joys

Given that I have already packed most of my cookbooks, my electric mixer and most of my mixing bowls, I was pleased that my son asked for honey joys rather than cupcakes to share with his class on his birthday tomorrow.

I don't know if honey joys are an Australian thing or whether they exist all over the world. Even in Australia they have different names; our family has always called them honey joys but in Adelaide we have discovered that they are also known as honey crackles.

We love honey joys because they are delicious and very, very easy to make. They are also inexpensive. They are a good first recipe for children, so long as help is provided with the oven and stove.

The recipe below makes about 25 honey joys.

Honey Joys

3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
4 cups cornflakes
25 patty pans (paper cake cases)

Preheat oven to moderate (180C/375F). Measure cornflakes into a bowl. Combine honey, butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until butter is melted. Bring to the boil then take off the heat. Pour over the cornflakes and stir to combine.

Spoon into paper cases and bake for 7-10 minutes.

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Bubbles for Relaxation

After a long day in Grade One it's important to unwind.

Drawing a picture of a house in a storm is a good place to start. Especially when you need a piece of 'art' for show-and-tell in the morning.

Playing with your Lego blocks and spreading them over every inch of your bedroom floor is also relaxing. That is, until Mum tells you it's time to tidy your room.

Dinner can be pleasant, except that Mum keeps reminding you to sit nicely and not to eat your spaghetti with your fingers.

But the best way to relax after a tough day is in a bubble bath. And your Mum agrees!

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Moving Tip # 5: Take Time Out with Your Family

You know how it is when you're packing to move; you can get so caught up in all the details - packing boxes, organising new schools, arranging for the mail to be redirected - that you forget to stop and relax.

One of the things I wish we had done before leaving Melbourne was visit our favourite places and say good bye to them. It would also have been good to have made time to visit some of the places that we had always wanted to visit, but never got around to.

If I had my time over again I would stop all the packing and worrying for one day each week and go somewhere with the family just to be. I would pause more to hear about how they felt about the move. And I would try to be less frazzled about the whole thing - even though it was exceedingly stressful.

This time we are only moving about 500 metres so we aren't really saying good bye to anything, but I am mindful not to let the move take over my life - well, no more than absolutely necessary, anyway.

So this is my moving tip for the day: take time out with your loved ones. Savour the place you are leaving. And spend a little time dreaming about the future together.

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Surrounded by Boxes

I hope I'm not boring you with all this talk of moving house. The thing is, when you are in the process of moving it hard to think about anything else. And everywhere I look there are the boxes as a continuous reminder.

Still, progress is being made. I am itching to get to the new house, as is the rest of the family. We will be moving in just over three weeks and we're counting the days.

Hopefully then I'll be able to think and write about more normal topics again.
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Moving Tip # 4: Label Everything Clearly

This tip is short and sweet. Many guides to moving house will suggest that you write on each box what room you want it to go to.

My tip: Also write on each box what is in it, in detail if necessary. It will take a little extra time but can save a lot of time in the end. Such as when a young child suddenly decides he needs a special toy. Now. Or you need to find where you packed the can opener.
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Valentine's Day Cupcakes

In past years Valentine's Day has mainly been an adult celebration at our red house, with my husband giving me chocolates or flowers.

Indeed, while undoubtedly causing a frantic trade in roses and chocolates, Valentine's Day is not a major family celebration in Australia. Children do not give each other friendship Valentines as they do in the States, and parents do not give their children Valentine gifts. However, this year, with the house disrupted as we prepare to move, I thought something special was in order for my long-suffering family, and especially the kids.

Hence these morale-boosting cupcakes I whipped up this morning. The cupcakes are chocolate with pink-tinted buttercream frosting. Add some little chocolate hearts and you have Valentine's Day heaven.

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day at your house?

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Moving Tip # 3: Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

Moving house provides an ideal opportunity to declutter your possessions. You have to sort through everything you own to pack it, so why not declutter as you go?

This is one reason why I prefer to do my own packing, rather than employ a removalist to do it. We have all heard stories of someone whose rubbish was packed by removalists and brought to their new dwelling.

Moreover, (and don't tell my family I said this) other family members are less likely to notice if something of theirs goes missing if you declutter their stuff when moving house.

Decluttering is especially productive if you know where you will be moving, and have an idea where you will put things. If you are moving a long distance and don't have a relocation allowance you may prefer to sell or give away most of your possessions as transport costs can be very high.

When we moved from Melbourne to Adelaide I hadn't seen a layout of the house I would be renting, and I thought I would only be living here briefly, so it was difficult to picture what I would need and what I could leave behind. My biggest surprise was the lack of storage in this house, which has made clutter a very real issue.

The new house has a double garage with a storage room at the back, a bigger kitchen than here (although not a particularly big pantry), an underground cellar (common in century-old Adelaide homes) a big linen cupboard and plenty of laundry storage. The main bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe and two of the kids' rooms have built-ins. We will install a wardrobe in the third kids' bedroom.

Fridays are going to be my main packing days, so I hope to make a delivery of unused and outgrown items to the Salvos every Friday afternoon for the next few weeks.

Tips for Decluttering When Moving House

  • Think like William Morris: he wrote "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
  • Be sensitive when packing others' things: despite my facetious remarks above, I would never dispose of any of my children's most treasured books or toys without checking first, even if they appear to have outgrown them. (Ugly school-made craft items are another matter entirely!)
  • 3 box packing: As you pack, have a rubbish box, a giveaway box, and a packing-to-move box with you at all times.
  • Think about hiring a skip:if you have large items and/or garden waste to dispose of
  • Shred any documents: if you are disposing any documents that include personal details, please use a shredder. Identity theft is a real issue.
  • Consider a garage sale: I have never held a garage sale but moving house is of course the ideal time to have one.
  • Think about where you are moving to: the layout of the house, if you know in advance; the cost of transportation; the climate - friends who moved from Canada to Adelaide now have no use at all for their winter gear and sporting equipment.
Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment.

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Toasted Cheese Sandwiches and Cornflakes for Dinner

Sometimes, when it's the fourth day of a heatwave and you've been at work all day, or the baby's been fretful (I remember those days well), or you've just been super busy and are at your wits end, or you're in the midst of packing to move house, then there is nothing for it but to have toasted sandwiches and cereal for dinner.

They're cheaper and quicker than buying takeaway. The sandwiches can be made almost nutritious with the addition of a sliced tomato. Add a sliced banana or some tinned peaches to the cereal and you have a nearly balanced meal. Well, so long as you don't eat like this every day.

Then with minimal cleaning up you can go and do what you really want. Like lie on your bed with a damp cloth on your brow, a novel in your hand and some chocolate (or a Lemon Ruski) within reach.

What do you prepare for dinner on those days when cooking a square meal seems an impossible task?

image is from

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Moving Tip # 2: Pack from Least Used to Most Used

When moving house always pack the things you use least first. Things that may fall in ths category are:

  • unseasonal clothing and sporting gear (but don't pack everything in case you get unseasonal weather!)
  • kids' clothes in 'between' sizes
  • seasonal decorating items
  • anything kept in a very high cupboard - if it lives up there you don't use it much
  • ornaments and pictures - they may be pretty but you are not likely to need to 'use' them
  • rarely used kitchen appliances

Conversely, the things that should be packed last are those that you use every day:

  • cutlery and crockery
  • bedding
  • special toys
  • clothes you need

Unfortunately, there are usually many items that are used every day, which is why most of us are up very late the night before moving.

You may be wondering how my packing is going. The answer is that so far I have packed one measly box. Based on the principles above I filled it with our antique silver tea services (we have two), other silverware, framed pictures and candlesticks. I was limited to what I could pack in the room where I was watching Desperate Housewives. After a long day at work it was all I could manage.

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Moving Tip # 1: Write a List

Moving house can feel like having to scale a mountain. There are boxes to pack and possibly a house to get ready to sell. There may be schools to arrange and upset family members to condole. Add to that farewell parties, organising utilities, redirecting the mail and any number of other tasks, and life for the chief packer can feel very out of control indeed.

Before starting, it is well worth taking a deep breath, sitting down somewhere comfortable, and writing out a list of things that you need to achieve. Try googling "Moving house checklist" if you are unsure what you need to do - there are lists from all over the world. Set rough goals for each of the remaining weeks, but don't beat yourself up if you are unable to meet them.

I promise that no matter how well prepared you are you will be up very late the night before your move doing last-minute things. And no matter how disorganised you are, somehow the day that big truck pulls up outside your house you will be ready to go.

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We Have (Finally) Bought a House

(I thought about calling this post "A House, A House, My Kingdom for a House" but decided that one truly awful Shakespearian pun in a week was enough, so I went for a more straight-forward title.)

After house-hunting for so long that all the local real estate agents know us by our first names, we have finally signed a contract to buy a house here in Adelaide.

The house is lovely, a beautifully-renovated early 20th-century home on a good-sized block of land. There is a herb garden and room for a small vegetable patch and maybe even a few chooks. There are two citrus trees - an orange and a lemon I think - although it's difficult to tell from the few unripe fruit. To my delight there is an abundance of rose bushes.

Buying the house feels like an act of commitment to our life in Adelaide. While we were still renting it was easy believe that I could go 'home' at any time, whether to Sydney or Melbourne. However, owning a home means that we are planning to stay and put down roots.

Certainly, for the past 18 months I have felt unsettled. While fortunate to have found a rental home in a very tight market, I have never felt at home in this house. We could never change the garden, paint the rooms, have pets, or express our personalities in any other way. And I have truly missed the very dear friendships I had in Melbourne, all those wonderful people who were having babies at the same time I was, whose babies started school with mine, and with whom I shared 15 years of laughter and tears from my early 20s onward.

Now I will have the opportunity to be myself again, albeit amongst different people; to grow and nurture a garden, decorate and tend my home, and entertain. The first on my guest list will be all those lovely people who, when we were utter newcomers, invited us for meals and shared their homes and lives with us. I will never forget their kindness, and there were many of them.

We will be moving in March so the next few weeks will extremely busy with the school year newly underway and three different schools to contend with, a four day-a-week job, church commitments, loads of packing to do, and all the myriad other tasks involved with being a mother-of-four.

Over the next few weeks I will intersperse ordinary posts with tips and hints for moving house.

Thank you to all those who, through this blog, travelled with me from Melbourne to Adelaide and who have patiently waited with me through this time of transition. I look forward to sharing the next chapter of my life with you.

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To Moderate or Not to Moderate

That is the question.

I have never moderated blog comments here at Our Red House as I want to encourage open discussion. While sometimes readers have disagreed with my views on things, no one has ever been rude or offensive. The vast majority of comments are kind and friendly.

However, recently I have experienced a spate of spam comments and comments in other languages which I suspect may link to non-family friendly (to say the least) websites. I have also discovered that spammers have been leaving their comments on some of my older posts, especially the ones that continue to get large numbers of hits. It is both tedious and frustrating to have to remove these comments.

So the question is, should I do as so many others do and begin to modify the comments that my blog receives?

Factors in favour of not modifying are:
A sense of immediacy: often a dialogue will start between commenters when I am out of the room, as it were. Modifying comments would discourage this.
My time commitments: I work four days a week and rarely have much time to spend on the blog during those days - when I am home, family comes before the computer. If I modified comments I would need to check the blog more often.
Respect for my readers: by far the greatest majority of comments that I receive are positive. Many come from other bloggers whom I have come to 'know' over the past few years, and I do not wish to deter these people from commenting.
Volume of comments: While in the past, when I used to post almost every day, I could get 20 or 30 comments on many posts, this volume has dropped. It is not particularly difficult to check the comments I receive after they have published and remove any inappropriate ones.

The Decision?

I have changed my Blogger settings so that I will modify any comments attached to posts more than 10 days old (often the targets of spammers), but more recent posts will not be modified. I will review this decision every so often and decide if it is still the best course of action.

So tell me:
Do you modify the comments on your blog? What has led you to this decision?

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Happiness is...

Happiness is having a sweet six year old son who writes me messages on tiny pieces of paper like this:

And on the other side:

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