5 Clutter Clearing tips

5 Clutter Clearing Tips

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I am a bit of a clutter clearing fanatic. I think this is because of my parents. There aren’t candidates for Hoarders or anything but the following things do exist in my parents house:

  • A drawer full of every single card ever given to us
  • I once ate some sugar flowers, only to find out they were from my parents wedding cake!
  • A roof (it’s not an attic) full of boxes of… I don’t actually know what.

I think the problem I always had with this, is although I could see why these things were important, I couldn’t see the point in having them hidden away where literally no one could see them. What’s the point? Beautiful and sentimental things should be on display, where people can look at them.

This thinking has led me to do several rounds of clutter clearing in my adult life. Before I moved in with Mike, I went through everything I had kept from high school (diaries, notes, that book I wrote with my best friends). I threw almost all of it out. My mum is still appalled about this, but I seriously read through all the notes and all the diaries, and found nothing I:

  1. Wanted to remember or reminisce over
  2. Wanted any of my children to read. Ever.

Seriously, it was shallow, vacuous and full of boys. I could never see myself wishing I had kept them. Five years later I still feel the same.

When we moved to Brisbane I did a similar purge, except this time I extended it to include all of my belongings. I got rid of random things I had collected (statues from cheap stores, kitchen goods I never used) and did another purge of random cards, notes and letters. Again, nearly three years later I still feel no guilt.

Clutter clearing isn’t about minimalism or living with less. It’s about getting rid of things that don’t add anything to your life, and keeping things that do. Trust me, you will feel amazing.

Here are my 5 tips for effective clutter clearing:

1. Just start: Okay, this is the obvious one, this is the one that appears on any article for doing something new/difficult, but seriously, you just have to start. How? Okay, here’s the plan:

  • Do not buy any organising equipment (boxes, files, folders, vacuum bags). You can once you’re done and you know what you need to store. Do have some garbage bags on hand. I got this tip from Gretchen Rubin.
  • Decide who will receive any donations.
  • Pick a room.
  • Identify storage/clutter catching areas (cupboards, under beds, bookshelves)
  • Go shelf by shelf and start making decisions; keep, donate or throw out.
    • Throw out: Anything broken that you either cannot be bothered repairing or can’t be repaired
    • Donate: to charity (where all of our clothes go), friends or family
    • Keep: Only things that are useful, you use, you can display or you will make the effort to look at

2. Be brutal: Be honest. Sentimental things are fantastic, they connect you to the past and help give you a big happiness boost. That said, they only do this if you actually ever look at them. When I did my big clear out of my high school mementos, I thought seriously about who I wanted to read them (no one, not even me), where I would store them (in a cupboard out of sight) and whether I would seriously, seriously, ever make the effort to look at them (no, I would not). Into the bin they went. That said, I still have my senior jumper, and I still wear it ALL THE  TIME in winter. Often I wonder what happened to some of the people in my class, and I often feel sad that repeated washing has removed all the paint hand prints/quotes/signatures that once covered it. Stop and think: will you ever make the effort to look at this object (and by “make the effort” I don’t mean, flip through once a year when you happen to clean out/look in the cupboard/shelf that they are stored).

One last tip: Never feel obliged to keep things that mean nothing to you because you think others will judge you (my high school diaries are a great example, but other things might be your wedding dress, Christmas cards etc).

3. Listen to feng shui: Okay, so Feng Shui is occasionally a bit hokey, but there is one tip that I think is genius, and have to share. Never store anything under your bed. Ever. From a Feng Shui point of view it’s really bad for your chi. From a – I don’t believe in Feng Shui – point of view, look at it this way: As a teen I had piles of stuff under my bed (it’s how I used to clean…) and not a week would go by when I wouldn’t get into bed without thinking about/worrying about the mess under the bed. It weighed on my mind, and stressed me out (on a low level, but it was always there in the background). It probably does the same for you too. Clear. It. Out. Find new places for the stuff. Get rid of stuff. Just keep the space under your bed clear of anything. The only thing that is under my bed is my cat (not all the time of course)

.4. Put things on display: I think the point of owning beautiful things is to use them and have them. I have a friend who has a Chanel scarf. That she keeps in a box under her bed. What’s the point? Putting things on display will imbue your house with life and memories. Once you have cleared anything you don’t want to keep, start thinking about displaying the things you do. Put photos on a shelf, mementos on a nice tray. This can extend to even the simplest things. I love our kitchen because most things are on display; my food processor is on the bench, my beautiful mortar and pestle is nestled next to the hob, and my cook books…well they take up almost one whole wall. Once you have cleared the clutter, the things you are left with should enhance your life and bring you joy, and having them on display is a great way to constantly remind yourself of that!

That said, some things are better stored, but don’t just shove them on a shelf somewhere! Mike and I wrote many letters to each other when he was in basic training. We learnt so much about each other (and ourselves) through those letters. These days I have them bundled up (one bundle for him, one for me) and in a pretty box. Yes it’s in a cupboard, but I love knowing they are somewhere safe to maybe (maybe) show our children one day.

5. Maintain: Every six months I do a deep clean. I tackle it over a few weekends, only doing one or two rooms in a weekend. During this clean I:

  • Clean windows
  • Dust everything
  • Vacuum (with carpet cleaner)
  • Mark down any repairs that need doing
  • Note down decoration thoughts
  • And, most importantly I do a quick clutter clear

I get rid of broken things (like our steam mop), I tidy files, I find new places for decorations and I make notes about ways to improve storage. A good example is our reading room/my study. I really need to buy some folders to store my documents and bills and work out a better, or really any method, for storing all of my seeds.

Ricotta fritters

Ricotta fritters

I take lunch pretty seriously, it’s not just a handful of nuts. It’s a possibility for sandwiches, for olives and maybe for these fritters.

These fritters come from the first cookbook I ever bought; Jamie’s Italy. I read it obsessively, and I can pretty much mark my love of food and cooking from that purchase.

Ricotta fritters

Add a seasonal salad (I went with roasted Brussels sprouts with some bacon) and you are, as they say, made in the shade.

Ricotta fritters

Ricotta fritters

(Adapted from Jamie’s Italy)

Ingredients

250g fresh ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon plain flour

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 large egg

Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

  1. Put a nonstick frying pan on a medium heat. Combine the ricotta, 1 tablespoon of parmesan, flour and egg in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Add a splash of olive oil to the preheated pan and add a few tablespoons of the mixture. Try not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the fritters for a few minutes, then carefully flip the fritters with a spatula and cook for a further minute on the other side.
  3. Serve immediately; seasoned with a sprinkle of sea salt and parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

Fig and almond cake

Fig and almond cake

This is meant to be a crustless tart, but I think Donna Hay magazine were kidding themselves when they said “tart”. This is definitely a cake. Not a high rise multi layered cake, more of an everyday cake. I’ve made cakes like this before pre blog; a lemon version and a chocolate version. They’re simple and fast, which meant unlike normal I didn’t do any prep before dinner for dessert.

The hero of the cake is the fresh figs. I’ve eaten figs before (most memorably with fresh honey and buffalo mozzarella at 5th Element; see below) but have never cooked with them myself. With autumn finally showing its face and figs in season now was the time.

5th Element Restaurant

Picking them up from the local greengrocer was quite the hilarious adventure in being overly careful. I put them in a separate bag to the other fruit and veg, and then put that bag in a bag with my contacts, and then carried that bag with me in the car rather than having them in the boot. Figs are $20 a kilo after all, I did want to waste a single one!

Fig and almond cake

Fig and almond cake

(Adapted from Donna Hay Issue 74)

Ingredients 

130g unsalted butter, softened, chopped into 2 cm pieces

¾ cup caster sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 ½ cups almond meal

½ cup plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 cup flaked almonds

4-6 figs, quartered (depending on size, I only needed 4)

¼ cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Lightly grease a fluted loose bottomed tart tin with butter and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl place the sugar and citrus rinds. Using your fingers rub the rind through the sugar to help release the flavours. Add the butter and beat using an electric mixer for 8 minutes, or until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and beat for a further minute until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, almond meal, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and using a spoon stir to combine. Fold the flaked alsmonds into the batter. Spoon into the tart tin and use a spatula to spread until smooth.
  5. Arrange the figs on top of the almond mixture, pressing down lightly. Place the tart tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  6. Immediately after removing from the oven use a pastry brush to brush the cake with honey. Serve with cream.

Rhubarb rice pudding

Rice pudding with stewed rhubarb

Last Friday I took a study day to finish an assignment. I am incredibly insanely grateful that my work is one that offers study leave for people studying degrees that add to the business (I’m studying a Bachelor of Business which OF COURSE is relevant to any business). It also felt glorious to get up, go for a run and then have time to make myself breakfast.

I had something very specific in mind. I wanted stewed rhubarb and I wanted rice pudding. I didn’t want a baked rice pudding though, I wanted something that was a lot more like a sweet risotto. Creamy, sweet, comforting. I knew the recipe existed, I just couldn’t remember where. After a few minutes searching through my recipe collection I hit pay dirt in the Joy the Baker cookbook and it was on.

Rice pudding with stewed rhubarb

The first mouthful of this was almost too… everything. Too sweet, too rich, too tart. All at once. By the second bite though, the flavours started to balance out, and by the third bite I knew I would have to force myself to stop.Rice pudding with stewed rhubarb

Rice pudding with stewed rhubarb

(Adapted from the Joy the Baker cookbook and Donna Hay Issue 74 respectively)

Ingredients

Stewed rhubarb

250g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 2cm pieces

¼ cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick cinnamom

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Rice pudding

2 cups of water, boiled

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup basmati rice

1 ½ cups milk

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

20g unsalted butter

 

Directions

 

  1. In a saucepan combine the rhubarb, caster sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon stick and lemon juice. Place on the stove over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until the rhubarb is very soft. Once cooked place in a bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile combine the rice and salt in a separate saucepan over a high heat. Add the boiled water (this will decrease cooking times) and cover. Cook, checking occasionally until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is al dente. This will take around 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the rice from the saucepan and set aside. Rinse out the saucepan and place back over a low heat. Add the milk, sugar and cinnamon and cook until just warm, whisking to combine.
  3. Add the rice back to the pot and cook, stirring often until the rice is creamy and the milk absorbed. Stir through the butter.
  4. Serve topped with the stewed rhubarb.

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P.S. Happy Easter/Equinox! I will spending it hanging out with Mike, cooking dinner for friends and…doing a lot of homework (sigh)

Chai Latte

Chai latte

As my archives suggest; I’m a bit of a chai addict. I’ve put chai flavours into pancakes, cinnamon buns, french toast and waffles. Plans are afoot to make chai flavoured muffins in the near future.

So it seemed strange that I haven’t actually shared my recipe for a chai latte. I love to make a pot in the morning and taking it into my study.

Chai latte

What’s great about this recipe is it is made with all milk; I did this for two reasons:

  1. I love my chai to milky and creamy.
  2. This way I could take my cup and my tea pot with me to my study without also having to take milk with me as well to add to my tea as I topped it up.

Chai latte

Chai Latte

(Adapted from A Beautiful Mess)

Ingredients

2 black tea bags

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 – 2 teaspoons brown sugar (to taste)

½ teaspoon cloves

1 ½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoons nutmeg

Pinch of ground black pepper

Approximately 2 cups of milk

Directions

  1.        Measure out enough milk to fill your tea pot (this works out to be almost exactly 2 cups for me but it may vary slightly for you).
  2.        If your teapot can be placed directly on the stove fill it with milk and place on the stove. Bring JUST to the boil (what is known as a rolling boil). If you aren’t sure how hot, put your finger in when it starts to feel a bit too hot to drink straight away, remove from the heat.
  3.        If your teapot cannot be placed directly on the stove heat the milk instead in a saucepan until it reaches a rolling boil (refer above) and then pour into your teapot.
  4.        Add the tea bags, spices, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. Place the lid on the teapot and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes. Pour into a cup to serve. If you’re feeling a bit fancy sprinkle some cinnamon on top!

Leek and cheese toasties

Leek and cheese toasties

I love a good toasted sandwich, and am amazed by how many good, and really elaborate recipes there are out there!

This definitely falls into the slightly more complex side of things; we’re cooking leeks slowly until soft, we’re adding beer and making a roux (of sorts). And of course we’re adding lots of cheese.

It’s all in good fun though, and with a long weekend coming up you have plenty of time to make this and spread it over bread.

Leek and cheese toasties

Leek and cheese toasties

(Adapted from Donna Hay Issue 62)

Ingredients

40g unsalted butter

1 leek, trimmed, halved and sliced in 2cm pieces

1 brown onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ cup pale ale

1 tablespoon plain flour

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon mustard powder

2 cups grated cheddar

4 slices of crusty bread

Directions

  1.        Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a low medium heat.  Add the leek, onion and garlic and cook for ten minutes until soft.
  2.        Add the beer and cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced. Sprinkle over the floor and stir for 2 minutes until mixture starts to thicken.
  3.        Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Place back on the heat and add the mustard powder and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
  4.        Meanwhile preheat your grill on maximum and place your bread in a toaster for a minute (this isn’t to “toast” the bread, this is more to make it a little bit crunchy and stop the leek mixture from making the bread squishy, trust me you don’t want that).
  5.        Spread a medium layer of the leek mixture on each piece of bread and place under the grill for 5 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. Allow to cool for a minute or so.

Rhubarb and apple crumble

Rhubarb and apple crumble

Remember how I said I would make one crumble a month? Well this is Miss April. She’s a bit sweet, but a bit tart as well.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe in the latest Donna Hay magazine; although the recipe in question is for a pie. So you get all the joy of a pie filling, without all dough making and chilling and rolling. Realising this has been a bit of a revelation to me, and I’m now combing my pie recipes for inspiration for crumbles (next month’s is a doozy let me tell you).

Rhubarb and apple crumble

This month though, rhubarb and apple are stewed with orange juice, and then cooked under a ginger spiced crumble. The filling gets those delicious chewy bits around the edges and the crumble is almost a solid layer of crunch. Essentially, yum.

Rhubarb and apple crumble

Rhubarb and apple crumble

(Adapted from Donna Hay magazine issue 74)

Ingredients


50g unsalted butter, chopped

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 2cm pieces

500g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 3 cm pieces

1 cup raw sugar

2 teaspoons orange rind, finely grated

1 ½ tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumble

⅓ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup plain flour

60g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°. Grease a pie dish or casserole dish with butter and set aside. To make the filling melt the butter in a saucepan over high heat, add the apples and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add the rhubarb, sugar, orange rind, orange juice and vanilla and cook, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes until the fruit is tender. Transfer to the prepared pie dish and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make the crumble; place the sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger in a bowl and toss to combine. In a separate bowl rub the butter through the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sugar mixture and combine. Sprinkle over the prepared fruit, place on a baking tray and bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden and crisp and the inside is bubbling.
  3. Cool for 5 minutes and serve with custard, cream or ice cream.

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I am baking one crumble a month this year, to challenge myself, to immerse myself in the season, and to just prove that there is a crumble for every month. You can check out all of the recipes here.

 

Hot cross pancakes

Hot cross pancakes

Easter is fast approaching, and one of my favourite things (aside from the total lack of stress surrounding Easter) is hot cross buns. Growing up my mum had weirdly specific rules regarding when food was acceptable to eat; but she considered hot cross buns exempt from any rules aside from get as many in your mouth as you can get your hands on.

So I ate many hot cross buns; ranging from awful to sublime. I fell in love with the spicy sweet flavours, the citrus and the raisins. So naturally when I saw the recipe for hot cross pancakes on Joy the Baker’s website; I knew I had to make them.

Hot cross pancakes

I’ve adjusted the recipe ever so slightly; enhancing the citrus flavour and ditching the actual cross on top. Why? Well because I forgot to buy cream cheese and when I remembered weighed up a run to the shops versus just making it without the cross and the latter one. You can of course add the cross on top if you like (instructions are included in Joy the Baker’s original recipe).

Hot cross pancakes

Hot Cross Pancakes

(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

Ingredients

 

30g unsalted butter, melted and set aside to cool

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup raisins (or currants or sultanas)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 100°C and place a plate inside to warm up.
  2. In a large bowl add the orange zest, lemon zest and caster sugar. Use your hands to rub the zest through the sugar, this will help to release the flavor. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and whisk to combine.
  3. In a jug whisk together the melted butter, egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Pour the west ingredients into the dry and whisk until just combined. Add the raisins and stir until incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes whilst you melt some butter in a frying pan over a medium heat.
  4. Add ½ cup pancake batter at a time to the frying pan and cook for 4 minutes until bubbles appear on the top. Flip and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more butter when necessary.
  5. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Pear crumble coffee cake

Pear crumble coffee cake
Consider this my autumn rain dance. Only the cake version. I’m sick of the weather’s nonsense lately; the morning starts off all cool and dewy, perfect autumn weather really. This doesn’t last though, and by midday its hot and humid. Urgh, no. I want cool weather. I want to wear a scarf and tights. And I don’t want to sweat again until November.

Pear crumble coffee cake

So I’m making this cake from Joy the Baker, which is studded with pears and full of spices. It’s intensely autumnal and will hopefully encourage the weather to get its act together.

Pear crumble coffee cake

And then we ate it for breakfast. Well by ate I mean scarfed it down. We managed to finish off half the darn thing in one go. It’s really really good cake guys.

Super simple chocolate chip biscuits

Chocolate chip cookies

This weekend was a bit of a bust for me. I had a lot of stuff to do and I achieved…almost none of it. I had a list as long as my arm to get through, and it was almost as long at the end of the weekend.

I did make chocolate chip biscuits though, so it can’t be a total loss right?

This is a simple recipe. You don’t even have to soften the butter. It’s a great recipe for chocolate chip biscuits. In fact, it’s almost too simple for my taste. I’m resisting the urge to suggest you add some cranberries, or maybe some coconut?

No, resist the urge. These are just super simple chocolate chip biscuits and to quote Colin Firth, “Perfect, just as they are”

Unlike a certain person who took these photos not realising her statistics textbook was in the background.

Chocolate chip cookies

Super simple chocolate chip cookies

(adapted from Joy the Baker)

Ingredients

225g unsalted butter
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips
Sea salt for sprinkling on top of cookies just before baking

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180⁰C. Grease and line two baking trays or cookie sheets with baking paper. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  3.  In a separate bowl place the melted butter and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on a medium speed until well combined.  Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until pale and fluffy.
  4. In batches add the flour mixture, stirring well between additions. Stir through the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for half an hour to chill.
  5. Scoop out dough in tablespoon sized balls onto the prepared baking trays, leaving approximately 5 cm between biscuits to allow for spreading. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until just golden brown on top.
  6. Place on a wire rack to cool completely (but if you’re me you’ll wait until it is just acceptable to eat without burning your mouth before diving in with a glass of milk).