The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 18th August, 2017.

What a week!  Overall the week went too fast and my legs couldn't keep up or that is how it feels!
But... two huge things happened.  The first is that we do not need a new air conditioner and it cost $180  all up to be back up and running.  The service guy went over the whole thing throughly and said the last man that serviced it told us a bunch of lies.  This unit should last us at least several more years.  This is like winning the lottery since it would have cost us thousands!  And we also have heating again!

The next big thing is that we have approval for a pay out on our floor insurance and have one form to sign this afternoon before the money is paid into our account.  So I shouldn't count my chickens before they are hatched but the money should be paid then and I can go ahead and book in the new floors!  Since the floors we want are a lot cheaper than the floor we had this means we have money left over to build up our emergency fund as well!  And it means my planned kitchen re organise can happen as we put all the furniture back in after this work is all done.

Both of these things are a big relief and help! So this was a big week that is for sure.

Otherwise... some of the ways I built up my home this week were:

I made a beef casserole from beef on a half price special.  It was really good and the left overs went straight into pies.

I freeze them this way, slightly under browned, so when I put them in to oven next time they will not end up too brown.

I made two more batches of yoghurt.  I decided to compare methods and ingredients.  To make vanilla flavour I added some vanilla paste and some sugar.  I also invested in a yoghurt maker so that the only electricity I need to use is to boil the kettle.  

This came with the one litre container and I have a jar that fits that makes half that.  So I can make either amount.  I am looking for two jars that will sit on top of each other then I can make two containers set in the pot.  I am loving this!  It is a staggering saving too.

I had a few op shop deals.  One was some jars for my pantry.  

There were from 50c to $2.  They will help me set up my spice cabinet when I find it! 

Also I found another teacup set for $5.

Drinking tea from a nice cup is one of my daily lovely things.  So now and then one gets broken.  This is how I get them though.  Some simple pleasures in life are  easy to add to your day.  To me this makes all the difference! 

I also found a large heart shaped baking tin for $2. I thought this would be nice also for heart shaped pies! 

I used up two packets of the spice mix I made to cook Vicky's Enchilada sauce.  Oh my goodness!  It made much more than the three jars I used to buy and saved about $12!  And it tasted beautiful!  
I simmered the chicken for quite a while and reduced the sauce.    Then I made up three trays of enchiladas...

We had them for dinner and also a lunch.  I froze a tray and gave a tray to Lucy for their dinner.  She messaged me to say there were DELICIOUS.  Truly they were miles better than with the jars of sauce.  So this is something else struck from the shopping list. Thank you Vicky! 

I serve the with a green salad and they look so nice! 

I made soup with left over veggies.

Lemons and garden parsley were sent home with Mum when she went back to the farm.

Lamb shanks were made into a curry.  This turned out really good which was lucky as I cooked 6 this way. 

I made 16 Naan Bread which also used up some of the yoghurt I have been making.

I used more yoghurt in a big batch of raita sauce and free mint from the garden.

And I made two loaves of bread which I need to slice up today to freeze.

I think that is about it.  Everything else is the usual stuff!  Yesterday Harper came over for most of the day.  We watched a ballet performance on you tube and she didn't move a muscle. It went ages and ages and at the end she clapped furiously then said "more!!" so we watched it again!

I don't have a clue how much I saved on my Vicky Challenge, I will work it out over the weekend. It was quite a bit though.

I hope you had a good week!  How did you build up your nest, save, get ahead?

This afternoon I have to go and sign this form.  There is a large secondhand shop really close by so I will check it out incase my spice cupboard is in there!
Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Christmas Challenge. Mid August. 2017.

My Christmas cupboard is looking really healthy!  It is a combination of things I have made, bargains I've found and even some op shop finds.

Yesterday I called into an op shop (thrift store) and came out with another very good basket for making up a hamper gift. I get these when I see them and this was a big one for three dollars. It would hold a big cake, jars of jam, or one of my cleaning gifts with wool wash, miracle spray, cleaning cloths and so on.

These last few weeks I finally made some cards for men.  I watch out for images all the time and I really liked these ones from an English magazine...

Since my family are farmers these are great. I got twelve cards all up.

I finished crocheting wash cloths (or cleaning cloths) to pair with all the soaps I made earlier in the year...

I add these to the cleaning themed baskets as well (along with the soaps) and so these are a handy addition to have a heap of!  And all my crochet cotton is now used up.

As well as the beautiful vintage magazines from Deb I had a parcel from Mimi!  She sent me lovely fine angora wool with a sparkle.  You know I love sparkle! 

I have plans for this. It is going to go into a blanket! 

With my bulk herbs and spices buy up I have made up jars of herbs and also ready made mixes and some of these are going into kitchen themed gifts...

The other day I saw bargain big wooden spoons. I love wooden spoons!  I got some of these as something else to add to kitchen gifts along with my bunches of herbs etc.

I love to be able to give away herbs and this week I gave away parsley and lemons.  Anyone who cooks loves stuff like this as it is so useful.

Something that is helping is my further afield shopping.  I feel if I have travelled further for good deals that I should make the most of the trip and go into the good op shops while I'm there.  This is really working!  I have put away some amazing gifts for 50c to $3 price range. Oh and also lovely containers and baskets to make up hampers. These are so handy to have ready to go.  I have to note... a nice basket makes a whole bunch of odds and ends suddenly look abundant and lovely.  So it might be something I baked, jars of jam, bunches of herbs, some Bay Leaves packaged up etc but all in a basket it looks so nice.  If you want confidence to do this look online at hamper gifts and notice the prices! 

How is your gift cupboard going?  I am at the point now where I am feeling ahead with gifts and in a pinch I could go to my cupboards and find a suitable gift, card and wrap for most people and most occasions.  This is a good feeling!  It is also another thing that is like money in the bank. I do not have to budget for those gifts. 

This afternoon I am going to Aldi and there is a big op shop right around the corner from there as well so I am trying to pair up these shops as a regular trip.   

I hope your week is going well!  We have had heaps of rain but just now the sun is shining and it's lovely.

Next week we will be heading towards the end of the month again so if you would like to be in Show and Tell send me your pics to   I LOVE seeing what you have been making, your ideas and even your thrift store finds and baking!  Love it all! Thank you! xxx

Monday, 14 August 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. More "Make your own" mixes and money savers.

This week we have some more wonderful money saving mixes to help out your pantry.  Gardenpat has been making some of these mixes for over thirty years!  She has eleven children (grown up) and really knows a thing or two about building a pantry, saving and making the most of what you have!  I will let pictures speak louder than words....

Many of you know Gardenpat from her comments here and her quilts.  She quilts equal her canning! Or maybe more quilts?  She and her husband have a wonderful veggie garden, build things with reclaimed wood... they are so industrious.  I love hearing what they did in a week!  And they keep on learning and recently built a chicken house and got chooks too.

So when Gardenpat asked if I would like some of her mixes that she regularly uses I said yes please!
It is a bonus that I can also show you her pantry and some of her produce!

So over to Gardenpat...

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Feather your Nest Friday. 11th August, 2017.

Thank you so much Vicky! She took over for me on Wednesday and did such a good job.  I have just had a virus I think so it has been a fairly slow week.  Lucky I got a few things done before this set in!

It was a bit of a mixed week as well.  I had some lovely things like a beautiful parcel of sparkly wool from Mimi (I will put this in my next craft post) and a parcel of vintage homemaking magazines from Deb P.   Some of these are from 1958 and they are just gorgeous.  Reading them I have found I like them better than todays magazines.  Some of the tips and recipes are really good!  The images could make amazing cards if I could cut them up but I am not sure about that yet!  Thank you so much Deb!

We are still stuck with a terrible messy floor and the last time I rang the insurance company we were told another two weeks..... which is up today.  I will be back on the phone I guess.  
And our air conditioner is also our heating system.  We know it is old and we know the air conditioner was slow last summer.  The service man said it needed new gas and you can no longer get this type of gas since the government banned it.  So we knew we will be needing a new one soon.  But this week it died completely and now we have no heat either.
The government also banned coal so having electricity at all this summer is a wait and see game!
I guess you can tell I am not thrilled.  Not feeling well and things going wrong are not a good combination! 

Earlier in the week I made lots of ready to use mixes (as shown on Monday).  These have been handy all week! 
First I went to our Greek Wholesaler that lets the public in.  It is a huge store, like a warehouse.  They have  giant bags of herbs and spices that are so fresh and beautiful.  The prices are so cheap compared to the tiny bottles sold in the supermarket. 

This was some of my haul when I came home! 

Then I started making up some of my pre mixes and sealing herbs and spices in jars. 

Yesterday I posted in A Working Pantry Classroom as Patsy is currently really busy.  My subject was how to store and use herbs and spices.  Little bottles don't work for me as I have big ones.  I think I am going to have a small cupboard just dedicated to these.  When my floor is finally done I can set things up in a new way to allow for this.  Then the plan is to make many more things from scratch and my own pre made mixes! 

While laying low I studied!  Gardenpat  sent me some of her best, tried and tested, mixes that she makes.  There is a wonderful list!  Cath helped me with making instant custard powder (in any flavour) and also with how to make my own condensed milk.   I need a recipe book to write all this up in now.   Next week I will post all of these recipes, they are amazing! 

I made two more batches of yoghurt.  One lot I made into something else I just made for the first time from scratch,  Tatziki Dip.  Another use for my yoghurt!  It was so easy and good. 

We had this with lamb last night.   To go with it I made Pitta Bread Chips.  This is where you cut pitta bread into 12 triangles.  Spray them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with what ever you like... I used a tiny bit of garlic powder.  Bake them on baking paper for about ten minutes on each side.  This is a really cheap way to provide chips or crackers to go with dips. 

I made pizzas and used the bargain bacon off cuts I got when shopping with Hilde. There was a lot of bacon and I cooked some up and Andy had this for several breakfasts.  

I made pumpkin soup and added cream of chicken mix I made from one of my jars. That was yum!

Mum gave me some Haloumi and Blueberries.  These got added to the menu plan.

I made two Armenian Nutmeg cakes.  This is a nice winter cake and Lucy had requested one.  So I made one for her and one for us. 

I set up my two little thrift store purses for my grocery budget and for my thrift shopping.  

This one is pale pink on the outside and has all these nifty compartments inside! 

Just perfect! 

I picked up my new glasses  which were free (until you think of the money spent on private health, but still!) 

I wrote $612 into my savings book from all the savings I generated this week.

How did you save, get ahead, build up your home?  I hope it was a good week for you!  
Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Beautiful Flower Syrups by Vicky.

Hello Bluebirds,
Annabel is not feeling well so I am sharing for show and tell today. It isn't the usual post full of all of the lovelies we see each week, but I hope everyone enjoys seeing what I have been up to lately. Since I love doing baskets for the holidays and they usually have lots of things I have made in my kitchen and I love doing themes these will fit perfectly! 
I have been making syrups. Flower syrups, but any kind of syrup is pretty easy to make. If you can do a simple syrup then you got it in the bag it is just a matter of choosing your flavors. 
With the help of my mom we picked heaps and heaps of flowers. And here we have made a rose petal syrup, a violet syrup and a lavender syrup. 

I will include a few tips that explains how I got the wonderful colors and the strong fragrance and flavor in each. 
First if you have never made any, a simple syrup is just 2x the water to sugar so if you have 3 cups of water you will need 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar and you boil it until syrupy then let it cool. 
For flower syrups you want very fragrant flowers if you want a strong flavor, but can also make it with things that have health benefits like elder flowers, rose hips, ginger or herbs that you like the flavor of. 
For my rose petal I have a rose called Chrysler Imperial that is red and very, very fragrant so gives a good taste when I have enough of them. Be sure that anything you use has not been sprayed or treated in any way with chemicals. 

For the syrup:
Approximately 12 cups of flower petals
6c. of water 
juice of 1 lemon

Combine the flowers and water in a large saucepan and simmer for 1 hour covered. Remove from heat and allow to steep over night.
Strain over a large bowl to catch the juice and squeeze the liquid from the petals. 
Put juice in a medium saucepan and add 3 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until syrup is thickened and add the lemon juice. 
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour syrup into a jar and cover and store in the fridge or can be frozen. This makes about a pint. If you want to give them as gifts then water bath for about 15 minutes so the jars seal. 

The lemon juice lightens the color greatly so you can use food color for more vibrant coloring, but my tip is I used kool aid powder just enough that I got the colors I wanted and it doesn't really change the taste. 
This can be used in drinks like tea, on ice cream or cakes or even made into jellies if you like, but my favorite is to add a few teaspoons to iced tea. My son really likes the lavender with ginger ale. 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful prudent and diligent week! 

Thank you so much Vicky!  These are gorgeous. Imagine them in a bottle as a gift!   So pretty! xxx

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Pantries and Preparedness. Money (and space) saving dry mixes.

I love this subject!  We can really expand our pantries,  our recipe selection, we can save a lot of money, time and pantry space... all with making our own dry mixes.

Actually I am amazed how much these save and help.  Equally... how much a jar of mix saves space wise.  One of my big jars of mix is equal to over 20 cans of chicken soup. The space difference is incredible.
At first I had to be convinced that these substitutes would really do the job.  The cream of chicken soup mix won me over as it is beautiful!

As the year has gone on and I have learned more I have been able to drop a lot of things from the shopping list.  Some of the things I not longer buy are bread, pizza bases (let alone pizzas!) Naan Bread, buns, raita, gravy, tinned soups, stock... and this doesn't include cleaning products as I hardly buy any of those.  Now I am eliminating the Butter chicken packet mixes I usually buy. They are just a packet of flavour base to add to the chicken as you cook. They are gone!  And also Enchilada sauce. This stuff is expensive!  And the whole family love it when I make Enchiladas. So Vicky has helped me with her family favourite recipe and I wont have to buy that any more either!  I am making progress!   Anyway on to some mixes and how they are a help and saver.

First I went to a Greek Wholesaler to stock up on herbs and spices.  The little jars in the supermarket work out about four times the cost of getting your supplies from an Indian or Chinese Supermarket or a wholesaler if you have one.   In Adelaide we have Gigannis Brothers and this is worth a trip. I also stocked up on things like tinned tomatoes.

I ended up with enough to make up lots of mixes and fill up some jars with some of the herbs I use most.

We had an earlier post on this subject.  You can find that here Jar Mixes.  There are some recipes in this post and in the comments. There is also a link to a wonderful free book of endless mixes to make and what you can then make from them.  Just follow the links!

The first mixI made up a new supply of was Cream of Chicken Soup.
This is the recipe I used:

2 cups powdered milk,
3/4 cornstarch,  (if you want to be gluten free I would just leave this out)
1/4 cup chicken stock powder,
4 tablespoons dried onion powder or flakes,
1 teaspoon basil,
1 teaspoon thyme,
1 teaspoon parsley,
1teaspoon papper.
Mix all together.

1/3 of a cup = 1 can of chicken soup or one packet of dry mix soup. To use in the place of a can of soup add 1 and a 1/4 cups of water.

I tripped this recipe so I got around 20 cans equivalent.
Over the weekend I made sweet potato soup using just onions, sweet potato and a third of a cup of this mix then blended.  It is so nice!

Then I made French Onion Soup Mix.  This is great in quiches, baked potatoes, in meat loaf and over pork chops.

This recipe is:
1 cup dried onion flakes,
2 teaspoons onion powder,
2 teaspoons garlic powder,
1 teaspoon celery salt,
1 teaspoon pepper,
2 teaspoons parsley,
1 teaspoon salt,
1 teaspoon turmeric.
Mix together.

One quarter of a cup = 1 dry packet of French Onion Soup.
I also made this x 4.

Last night I made a Sour Cream Quiche using my yoghurt as a substitute. I added  a couple of spoons of this mix to it.  This was really good! So fast!

We love Butter Chicken. This is a meal worth making up and left overs are even better. By the time you have rice, salad, yoghurt (or raita) and Naan Bread your meat component goes a really long way.
I am using this recipe which is simple and you can substitute low fat evaporated milk for the cream if you want. This is another recipe which will also use some of my yoghurt! Win!  Up to date I used a packet mix from the supermarket to make it!   These are not cheap and if you read the fine print there are some questionable ingredients.   So I found a recipe from a great home cook that I like and that is easy.  This is the one I am now using....  Butter Chicken. 

Following this recipe I made up my ready to go spice packets. I used dried ginger and dried garlic.  Remember dried is different to fresh so I used less as it is more concentrated.   But now I have them made up it is quick and easy to make this meal.

I stored all the little packets in a big jar labelled Butter Chicken.  The savings compared to the ready made packs from the supermarket are enormous!  We are having this for dinner tonight and Wednesday night.

I did the same with Vicky's Enchilada Sauce.  This was the same situation. I was buying jars of the sauce and they are expensive.  Now I haven't made this up yet!  But I trust Vicky!

Here is her recipe...

3 T. vegetable oil- I used olive
1-1/2 T. all purpose flour
3 T. chili powder
2-1/2 c. chicken stock
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar

heat oil in a saucepan. Sprinkle flour over oil and whisk until mixture is smooth and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in chili powder and continue to cook for another 30 seconds.
Whisk in the rest of the ingredients and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.

The mixes I made up are all the dry ingredients plus I used dry chicken stock instead of the  2 and a half cups.  On my jar I have written to add that liquid in.

A while back I shared how easy it is to make Enchiladas! And they freeze really well.  The recipe and steps are on this post here.   Thank you Vicky!

We are having this next week so I can report back how it went! 

There are so many pre made mix recipes available, it is just a matter of working out which ones you would use the most!   I have made up the things I seem to used endlessly.  Cream of chicken soup is my number one... it goes into most of the soups I make and tuna mornay so I always need it. 

But as with the Butter Chicken and the Enchilada mix you can just take any recipe and make up the dry ingredients into ready to go packets or containers.  It will make busy nights easier and if you are like me and have been using purchased jars or packets changing over to a from scratch recipe will be healthier and save money as well.   It is a matter of what recipes your family loves.   Possibly think of things you would make more often if not for all the herbs and spices you need.  Your mixes ready would overcome that. 

These could also make lovely kitchen gifts.  I had a lot of extra ingredients so I have made up some jars of beautiful fresh herbs to go in the cooking themed hampers I make.  

Everything we learn to make ourselves helps our pantry.  As the year goes on I have been able to eliminate more things form the shopping list!  

Vicky wrote something that I have to share:

The reason I always add things I have been given into my savings total for the year is because we are supposed to count our blessings! So I literally do that. It adds to the household and saves and reminds me that I am to be grateful for what I receive. 
I hope everyone is having fun with their savings and are proud of their accomplishments. My husband has really seen the value in my endeavors and enjoys seeing the things he does as well and how much it saves us each year so he is quite on board and even says could you imagine how much more a year we would need if we didn't do the things we do? And he is right!

Don't underestimate the massive savings of doing things yourself. Each new thing you learn is a huge benefit!

I want to learn my own Tikka Masala recipe as that is another one I buy a packet mix of.  So that is next!

What would you like to learn to make from scratch?
What pre mixes would be most helpful in your household?
If you have any easy from scratch recipes or mixes you make up please share!

Have a wonderful new week.  We had a huge storm all weekend. Today it is much calmer thankfully. xxx

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Feather your Nest Friday, 4th August, 2017.

It has been a cold and wet week but wherever I look there are signs of spring like blossoms on trees. This is making me start to plan for spring!

Some of the ways I built up my home this week included:

I followed Laine's advice and started following The Fundamental Home and I started menu planning. Now I have always menu planned to some extent. I can always say what we are having for dinner tonight, tomorrow night and the next night. I often write down a weeks plan.  But this is different! Now I "get it" and it's amazing.  Laine is also new to menu planning and there are going to be some posts on it.  Even Laine who would be the best saver I ever knew is now almost halving her grocery spend this way.  That is her goal anyway!  It is really exciting!

I worked on using up lemons.  I froze lemon juice.  I made two lemon cakes and sliced them up then froze the portions.  Then I made Lemon Butter to freeze.

I also worked on my pie crusts. This time I tried a sour dough pie crust recipe I had been wanting to try.  It looked good but this rule of dough having to be cold before rolling out means you need to be super strong to even roll it out!   Still the crusts looked good...

I filled two pies. One is frozen. 

So I learned more about sweet pie crusts but I still am not happy with the crust!  No wonder I was intimidated by pie crusts. It was for a reason!  Now I am going to follow what my Mum does.  She makes a warm pie crust, not trying to cut cold butter into flour and you don't need to be Hulk Hogan to roll it out.   It ignores all "the rules" and is a good pie crust.  This happened to me with scones. I could never make scones. They were like hockey pucks.  This plight lasted something like 30 years. Then I decided that if the rules don't work I will try making them another way and I ignored all the "mix very lightly"  rules.... and now I make sky high scones.  So maybe pie crusts will go the same way.  Maybe the rules are a secret chefs way of sabotaging normal people!?
Andy is happy eating the experiments anyway.

I made two focaccia breads.
More yoghurt.
6 sausage rolls. 
Sweet Potato soup.

I cooked some venison Mum gave us.

I cooked a lamb shank in the crock pot all day with sweet potato to make baby food for Scarlett.  This is full of bone broth and goodness.   Most of it went into ice cube trays for the freezer.  

This is so cheap to make and so nutritious. Also I had the satisfaction of seeing her eating some and she opens her mouth like a little bird and in it goes!  😊

At the op shop I bought two lovely little purses. One is pale pink on the outside and real leather. Inside it has many compartments and they are all floral pink fabric! It is gorgeous. ($2) 
These are to better organise my grocery money.  One will be just my weekly grocery money.  The other will be my saved fund for when I find too good to be true deals!  

Speaking of good deals.... last week with Hilde I got a nice brie for $2.  I thought I can make a meal of this!  This is for Jen in NZ.... 

Sit it on a piece of puff pastry.  Top it with some cranberry sauce and some nuts...

Pecans or walnuts are good for this.   Then wrap it up and bake it until the pastry is golden.

Let it sit for a little while before you cut it or the cheese will be too runny.  Cut it when just still warm.

I serve it with rocket, pear and sticky balsamic glaze.  

It was so yum and a nice meal... and the protein was $1 per serve. 

This week I started making up a heap of dry mixes. This one is Cream of Chicken soup.  I use this mix a lot when making pumpkin or sweet potato soup as a scoop of this gives the most beautiful flavour.

Over the weekend I am making Butter Chicken mix, Enchilada mix, French Onion soup mix...  I will put up all the recipes in a post.   The biggest savings is going to be the enchilada mix.  Enchilada sauce in a jar is really expensive... and I always need three jars as I make several trays at once.
Also these mixes leave out all the weird artificial flavours and colouring and preservatives!  I am thinking some mixes would be very nice additions to kitchen gift themed baskets.  I am making some for the girls as they both like things with all natural ingredients. 

So that was my week.  I feel happy because I have been learning a lot.

How did you build up your home this week?  I hope there were lots of little chances to get ahead in some way.  
Have a lovely weekend! xxx