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.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The garden of your life.

Today is the last day of the year. 2014 is coming to an end. This is a time of thinking about the year we have had. Goodness, when I write down all the important things that happened this year it is a long list! When I write down all we achieved that is a long list too! And my list of the ways we were blessed is a huge list and I'm sure there are many things I take for granted too and should be grateful for! Writing things down really makes you think about them and truthfully if I didn't do this I would have forgotten many amazing things that happened this year!

Tomorrow is a fresh new year. A planner with nothing written in it!  Just now it looks perfect and full of possibilities!

Planning is important. So important! The proverbs 31 woman didn't lay on the lounge all day she was one busy woman. She was a planner. She considered a field and bought it. She didn't wake up one morning owning a field. She considered it, planned it.  She has considered what to make and sell, what foods to bring from far away places, what needs doing so her family is ok in the depths of winter. Once winter arrives she is not afraid because she planned ahead and is all ready for it! It wasn't all a happy accident, she planned it!
To do all she managed the Proverbs woman was a big planner. You did not mess with this woman. If you suggested to her she spend her hours on line gambling I'm pretty sure she would not have listened to you! 

We reap what we sow! If you plant turnips, turnips are going to be what comes up. Which is excellent if you love turnips!
What do you want growing in your garden? If you want a garden full of hollyhocks and roses they are what you need to plant. And what do we need to weed? What weeds have come up in your garden that you know you don't want taking hold?  This is a funny one. A weed will creep in and you don't even notice it. But they are sneaky! Suddenly they have a strangle hold on on everything! Well, your garden out the back and the garden of your life are much the same thing.

Years ago a weed in my garden was soft drinks. In considering changes this year I remembered this. It was many years ago. And it wasn't very much maybe I bought two bottles of soft drink a week. But I decided to stop that. I can't even guess how much money that has saved me over ten years or so or how many chemicals from my body (and my families) and how many calories! Oh my goodness those numbers would be huge! 

If you are going to plant seeds plant the seeds of the virtues. Plant more faith, hope and charity. Plant seeds of things that are going to build up your faith, build up your family and home.

Every new years I give myself a pep talk. I look around for others to give me a pep talk! We need that. It is like if we were elite sports people but we didn't have a coach. We would probably slip into laying on the lounge and get ourselves the sack! Nope, we need to keep on track, set goals and plan.
If you are on a ship and about to set sail you need to chart a course! Or you could set off and see what happens I guess. But there sure are places I'd rather end up than others!
Similarly you can chart a course and then not bother to navigate daily and end up no where near where you were meant to be! We have to keep a close eye on the progress... 

So get out your pen and paper and start listing what you want more of and what you want less of and come up with a plan! If you have things that are just too daunting try the Flylady method of setting a timer and getting stuck into it for 15 minutes a day. Put on music and go for it. You will be amazed that even after a week you are winning!

I still cannot think of any better way to keep yourself on track than reading Lanie's Letters. The key she had was that our goals and our efforts should be focused on what we should be doing and finding great happiness in it. We need to know what our mission is. We need to know how important it is. We need to know there is no one else that can do this like we can. At least partly thanks to Laine when the girls were small I knew exactly what my mission was. There are a lot of people who want to distract you from your mission! They want your time, your money and they don't care about the welfare of your family. This is what advertising is! No! You have to be the guardian of your home and family. And yourself. If you don't know what your mission is how can you stay on track?

Do you know what the Bible says about how important your job is? The world likes to tell you that you are wasting your time rearing children, wasting your time in your home. Have a read up and you will see that taking care of little ones and all the things of a household is work that will affect GENERATIONS. Don't be swindled out of this. Gather and keep encouraging words in your heart.
We might have children that have grown up (like me) and the Bible tells us what we can be doing with any spare time we might have. Our lives are so full! I hear all the time about empty nest syndrome etc. If we open our Bibles we discover we have important work to do and how vital that work is. We also need to be thinking how we can look after ourselves and our health to keep on doing our work for as long as we can. To be well enough to enjoy it! Now not everyone enjoys good health in which case we do what we can! If you would like more inspiration on things to do when you don't know what to do have a look at what Kelley did this year. Well, one of the things Kelley did! The Pillowcase Project. In the current post she takes you inside the childrens' hospital and it is a very worthwhile read.

We all have twenty four hours in a day and seven days in a week. It is amazing what you can do and it is also finite. There are times that we have to make tough choices as we have to choose what to say yes to and what to say no to. Girls, we have to be tough on this. If we are weak and say yes to everything our family is going to suffer, we are going to be a mess. Our goals and dreams will be forgotten and replaced with someone else's. 

My lovely friend Mimi says we are the guardians of our homes and budgets. Laine said a similar thing... she was not going to let anyone de rail her from her mission. You are the CEO of your company and if you watch soap operas all day things are not going to go well!
If you were the boss and you were hiring someone to take care of your family would you hire you? Or would you sack yourself?! If you knew how important your job was you would be making the most of every minute.

So here are some of my goals for 2015!


To build up my pantry (cellar) and establish at least three months food supplies plus emergency supplies such as fist aid, candles etc.

To build up our emergency fund.

To make sure I have an hour and a half of busy physical exercise. This can be swimming, walking, gardening, housework...  I love it if our exercise can also make our homes sparkle and our gardens grow!

To turn my craft room into a craft cupboard and make the room into a little nursery as I am going to be a Grandma. 

To study up on being a Titus 2 woman and use Lanie's Letters as a year long bible study.

To make all of the birthday and Christmas presents for 2015 and get started now.

To join Samaritans Purse childrens' gift boxes.

Some of the weeds...

To use my time well. I got rid of a fair few wasteful things in  2014 and gained time. More of doing that!

Stop buying anything unhealthy and tempting and bringing it into the house.

To minimise the things that discourage me and drag me down. That is most often seeing negative articles or hearing people talk this way. We are to think on nice things and we are responsible for that. Replace anything that drags your spirit down with good stuff!

Whatever it is develop a plan. One of my key strategies is to know I will say yes to things that I should be saying no to! I used to be terrible with this. So whenever I am asked to attend something, donate to something or whatever I have practised and I say that I have to consult my diary and if I am available I will get back to the person. This is a life saver. My Mum was a big yes sayer! She just couldn't say no. She developed a system where she would blame the doctor. So she might say "I would love to but the doctor says I need to keep the children home" or some such thing! lol. But, you know, our hearts want to say yes, we feel guilty and we end up all over the place. And we mustn't! So I defer to my diary or else blame my husband! If it is someone about money I might say "I would have to discuss this with my husband" and I won't budge. And after all that would be true if it was significant. But that's one plan that works for me. 

Another is not to rely on willpower. My willpower is awesome during the day. Then it goes dormant at night apparently. So if I have biscuits in the house (for instance) they won't bother me during the day. But late at night they will cry "eat me" from the cupboard. So rather than rely on my dodgy willpower I just don't buy biscuits and I make them only for special occasions and gifts (and give them away promptly). You can beat yourself at your own game by not bringing the tempting thing into the house. Really that is easier. Don't set yourself up for failure. Set yourself up for success!

Even the biggest goal is made reasonably do-able by breaking it down into small daily tasks. Then you will achieve it! So break it down and work out what you need to do daily or weekly and write that in your planner. If you sit quietly once a week and look at your gaols, why you want them, why they are important, and keep that focus, you will get there.

Sharing your goals with someone can be so helpful. My friend Helen and I are building up our pantries together. We have decided we are both going to do this in 2015. This will be on the blog most weeks. Doing this we have great fun and end up talking about it and what we did. That is so helpful in keeping on track! Many things become really good fun when you have someone to travel the journey with. We can all share our goals and encourage each other. That is one of the things that "building each other up" is about. (1 Thes 5.11) I will be out doing something and will think "Oh, I can't wait to tell Helen about this!" :)

I will show you my planner in the next week as I set it up. 

Think about everything you have to be grateful for and about your dreams and goals for 2015. Be a planner and take steps every day to plant the seeds that you want to see grow in your garden. Sooner or later you will see them bloom! 

(This angel was my Christmas present from Andy! She is now in the garden and I can see her from the kitchen. He picked her out for me himself it was all a complete surprise! I was just amazed as I had always wanted an angel like this!)

Have a very Happy New Year! xxx

Monday, 29 December 2014

Our farm Christmas.

How was your Christmas? We were away as we always have Christmas at the farm and the whole family gathers there. My Dad is a farmer and my parents home is still the centre of the family and "home".

We arrived there on Christmas Eve. Most of the family arrived Christmas morning and there was a massive number of us with extended family who also brought family!

Mum has everything ready with the dining room set up a couple of days before. There were two huge tables ready to fit everyone. And her tree is in the corner of the lounge room with presents underneath. By the time we all added ours the floor was covered!

When everyone arrives presents are exchanged. There is a huge flurry of activity and excitement! It doesn't matter if you are young or old! This has been the same for the girls for every year of their lives. Not much has changed. My Dad often spend the day assembling toys, finding batteries and all of those things but now the youngest child is my brothers daughter and she is nearly a teenager.

This is my Dad with Lucy. This is special as he has been waiting for Lucy to have a baby for so long, he was like "WHAT'S taking so long?"  They were married in March and expecting in May but still what could possibly be taking so long!? So I guess Dad is keen to be a Great Grand Father. Years ago Dad had a major heart attack and wasn't meant to survive. But here he is and he still works full time and goes faster than most 30 year olds! I can't keep up with him anyhow! For the girls growing up my Dad was like their Dad too. He was really the number one man in their lives. I am so thankful of his good example. He would walk through fire for them and they really adore him. His speech at Lucy's wedding was really a highlight of my year. You know, when something is so precious you just count your blessings and am thankful as it would be too much to hope for and yet it happened...

Mum cooks a traditional roast lunch. Turkey, ham, ducks, stuffing, roast vegies, cranberry sauce and the whole works. And two Christmas puddings. Here she is dishing up a pudding...

The puddings are made a month or more in advance and Mum also makes some for gifts. Her puddings are famous! Another one comes out on New Years Day to start the year well!

Dinner is all the cold left overs (and about three days after which is glorious!) Oh and we brought home turkey and ham with us for a couple of meals too.

In the evening we went for a drive. Last Christmas I posted a heap of pictures of us all feeding my brothers deer.

This year at sunset we drove, fed the deer and looked at some Wedge Tailed Eagle nests. We saw two eagles up close but they were too quick for me to get photos of.  This is Kato feeding a deer. My brother keeps giant bags of carrots on hand just for the deer. They are crazy on carrots!

Andy and Chloe feeding the deer...

This is me standing next to a nest that has fallen down. It got so heavy the whole branch broke. That mass of sticks on my right is a nest on its side. Its really almost as big as me. After this the birds made a new one up a bit higher.

As I'm walking away you can see the new nest they built up the top of the tree... by now the light is getting bad as the sun is almost gone.

As the sun set I took a few photos. These giant nests still stood out in the trees! It was really beautiful.

By the time we got back to the farm house and all ready for bed we were all tired! It was a long day! But a good one and I am counting every blessing. 

And now we are home and back to it! My new diary/planner is out and these few days are lovely to think about the wonderful year we had and start to think about the new year. I will post again as usual for Feather your Nest Friday and next week we will start on the 2015 stock the pantry (in my case cellar) and emergency preparedness challenge. I really want to go from the beginnings of this to a well stocked cellar by the end of the year. It will be a big job!

I hope your Christmas was wonderful. Our families and lives are all so unique but this was my day! We were happy it was not a hot day, it was really mild and even rained a little bit. That was lovely. 

The year is almost over! What a good year it has been! xxx

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Laine's Letters. Christmas Blessings.

The weekend saw my daughter and her husband move into their new house! Saturday we all chipped in and helped and it was a great day. What a nice thing to be in their new home for Christmas! I am very grateful for this. Now they have a nursery to set up and Lucy can build up her new nest!

I feel almost organised and a few things only left to do before Christmas Day. At this time of the year I start thinking a little bit about the end of the year nearing. One thing is thinking of getting a new planner/diary. Last week I found one! This is exciting to me! I am going to post about how much a planner helps me get things done. But not only that but appreciate life! A planner helps you achieve your goals, make changes, stay on track and it saves you money! That can come next week though we are not there yet!

Before I ever start a new diary I do a lot of thinking about the year that has just been. Boy it was a really big year! Of all the things that were wonderful I wanted to show you something my friend Helen made for me. This was a highlight of my year. You know of course in the world it has not been a great year. There were times I felt so upset. But we need to stop and appreciate what we have to be grateful for and make new plans and dreams.

If you have followed along you might know I read a blog called Laine's Letters for most of the time my children were young. Laine was so wonderful. She was like a friend writing you a letter. So much encouragement and so many practical tips. I just loved them. But as well it was like a Bible study to read those letters. A Bible Study brought to life in the most lovely way.
I really was profoundly influenced by Laine.

Long after Laine no longer blogged you could still read her letters on line and I would pop back there every now and then until one day they were gone! The reason I had been looking for them again was to read from a new perspective. She used to talk of the role of the older women, and of grandchildren and that is where I am up to now!

My friend Helen, it turned out, had also read and adored Laines Letters. When we knew this about each other it was like finding your sister! Then next I found this out about my friend Kaye as well! We had all sat quietly reading Laines letters, here in different parts of Australia and she built up all of our lives and homes and no doubt influenced how we brought up our children and ran our households. Well, at last I had friends who knew what I was talking about!

Once these letters disappeared I was so sorry I never copied them all to keep. What a loss! I posted on face book did anyone know where I could find these letters or what had happened to them? And someone replied to me to try The Wayback Machine which is a web archive. And there they were! Thanks to Kaye and Helen copies were made! And next thing the letters couldn't be accessed there either.

I have blogged about Laine several times and this story. Laine is listed as a label (index) here on my blog for anyone also a follower.

Next thing I had an email from a lady who said she was Laines friend and that Laine had lost her letters and could we provide a copy? You know I thought sure! I couln't believe this could be true! But sure enough an email arrived in my inbox from Laine. I rang Helen and said could she please pray about this because I really found it too hard to believe that Laine would write to me! I forwarded this letter to Helen. She rings me saying "its Laine its Laine!"  You should have heard us that day! Now I feel silly!
Laine had really lost her letters as her website had been hacked and that is why is had disappeared. Laine had stopped writing because of health reasons.

Helen went ahead and printed all of Laines Letters into books for us all to have. First came "In my Home" Letters. These are about as thick as a magazine. Helen made them look so lovely.

Next came "Laines Letters". These are so thick! They are like phone books! This is a vast volume of work! There is Volume one and volume two.

This was the most beautiful gift.
And then Helen made a set and sent them all to Laine in the US and returned all her works to her! 
To me this was amazing. After us all loving Laine so much we ended up with the letters and were able to give them all back to her. Laine even loved the covers Helen had chosen and the colours.

We could not have imagined this. I am still amazed. Amazed that I would ever hear from Laine or that we could ever do something for her. It is just a miracle.

And now I am in a new stage of life with Lucy having a baby and wanting to read what Laine says.  Laines daughter is also having a baby. I was reading her letters when Lucy was little and her daughter was little and now they are both married and having babies. Amazing.

This is one of the really special things that happened this yeat that blessed me so much.

And I am using these books all through next year as my Bible study. I need to be doing a good bible study and these are just right. So they are my project for 2015.

As I open and begin to read the words bring memories flooding back of little children at my feet and the warmth of Laines words that encouraged me.

Laine is starting a new blog next year. And if you would like to read her letters they are available again on The Wayback Machine here

Many good things happened this year. As I look back over the year it's hard not to have a tear in my eye over the beautiful wedding, my Fathers speech that day, the glorious photos that captured it,
a baby on the way, a blog that grew from nothing, a new kitchen in our home that my husband built me!

Have a beautiful Christmas. Build lovely memories and warm moments. Appreciate our blessings and help someone that needs it.

I will be back when we return from the farm and hopefully with lots of photos and left over food! 
Then it is my very favourite time... the last minutes of the year before a brand new year!

Thank you all so much for your kind comments and friendship and encouragement. xxx

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Feather your Nest Friday. 19 December 2014.

It's almost Christmas! There is so much to do!
I will have to miss next weeks post and will resume the following Friday for Feather your Nest Friday.

This week we enjoyed quiet nights lit up so prettily. Sometimes you hear people say Christmas is for children. I agree children make it special, sweet and exciting but Christmas is for young and old. There are no children here (anymore) and the lovely lights and tree are just glorious none the less. It is not a child's celebration it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  A time of hope and joy and we really need that! I hope the beauty of it leaves a tear in your eye no matter what your age!

This week I made coconut ice. I make this every year without fail! It is so pretty and makes lovely gifts. The recipe is here.
Each year I present it or wrap it a bit differently. This year I made it all palest pink, no white. I thought why not? It is a lovely soft pink milkshake colour. I serve it as sweets a couple of nights as well.

I filled up the car at $1.18 c per litre!

In the bathroom I made a shelf for looking after cuttings. With heat coming I decided I have so many cuttings that I will look after them better and made a propagation shelf. It has fantastic light and is the perfect spot. Once things have a root system I will use peat pots to get them to the next stage and plant them into the garden in autumn/winter.

I bought a small fan for the bedroom. On warm nights it;s the lack of breeze that gets to me. With a little breeze I feel fine. And often those nights are very still. We don't want the air conditioner on all night. Well, this little fan is wonderful. I sit it in the windowsill and it creates a gentle fresh breeze. On warm nights it has been great! So that relates to money saving and comfort as well.

One night I used up left overs, mainly from the freezer. Turkish bread, tomato paste, soft cheese, bacon... I added pineapple and grated cheese  and baked it like a giant pizza sub. It was yum and there were lots of leftovers. (which Andy took to work) I love dinners like that! Plus I'm making room in my freezer for after Christmas bargains (hopefully).

I have parsley, coriander and oregano going to seed. I pick big bunches of this and hang it upside down for our birds to eat. It is free food, good for them and they have a good fun time attacking it. They think it's Christmas!

I did some more Christmas wrapping. By spreading this out I do a better job as it isn't rushed. It all looks lovely. Making gifts look wonderful really doesn't have to cost more but it makes each one seem special. To me it shows love and care. Gifts don't have to cost very much.  Most of mine I have made them and the cards as well. So this would be my biggest saving over Christmas.

Today I need to face the grocery shops. Tomorrow we are helping Lucy and Kato move house! I am making rolls and a basket of goodies to feed all the helpers for the day. It will be so nice for them to be in a new home for Christmas. Lucy is in full nesting mode and just wants to get on with it!

What did you do to build up your home and save money this week? I hope it was a good week. I know there is so much to do. Plus it was a hard week for Australia and we weren't by any means the only ones under attack. It got into my dreams last night. But we can't be different we have to go on and hold our values close to our hearts and not let go. Maybe this makes building up our homes and making our homes safe, tranquil retreats from the world, is more important than ever. I think

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Preparedness 4.

I am going to post today a little bit of preparedness inspiration and then have a break over Christmas from it as we will all be too busy for extra things.
But this will provide some ideas and some reading to do for when you feel like it and want to plan for next year.

This week I went through my storage jars. I am going to collect more now. I have collected them for years. In the country I can often get boxes of old preserving jars for 50c each. They are thick strong beautiful glass. I don't want to spend money on storage containers I want to use the money on the food. If you know anyone with a cafe, hotel, bakery... takeaway food shop or anything like that ask them what containers do they throw away? Some have seriously strong buckets, lovely jars and all kinds of containers. Probably we all know someone who is throwing away jars and if we can ask them to save them for us we have an incoming supply.

I have a heap that were sold in boxes of six in the cheap shops. They are the preserving jars where the middle of the lid pops out. If you want to pretty them up or use them to give food gifts you can pop out the top, cut a picture to fit and then put it back together with the picture on the top. They look so cute. You could do any theme... (I'm thinking baby shower) but here I have made it Christmas. On some I just tore up some gingham to make bows to go with the gingham pattern on the lids. (I had this from making gingham tablecloths!)

Friends know I love jars so they often come my way. Helen gave me these gorgeous ones as a gift!

Glass is wonderful. Now I know if you live in an earthquake area this might not be so practical. But I love my jars and there are free and cheap alternatives and things we can use for storage that we can collect and they are so handy.

I was so inspired by a blog post I read on Coffee, Tea, Books and Me. Her article called When you have nothing to give was just wonderful.  Brenda mentions a couple of things that make my heart just happy. One is that when she has a little extra money she puts it into things to build up her pantry. Elsewhere on her blog you can read how this has helped them at times. The other thing is about the miraculous way you can make so many wonderful things to feed your family from a few basic ingredients.  If you have say, eggs, flour, sugar, milk... you can make pancakes, scones, cake, muffins, quiche, pie, pasta... it is amazing. then if you might add a few other things on hand the list just goes on and on. When you have no money and need a present you can bake a wonderful cake or a tin of biscuits.

Have you done that? Where things are bare or thin on the ground and you have a cook up and create all these goodies that your family just goes mad for. It is so satisfying. With our pantries stocked it is amazing what we can do.

Every time we DON"T run to the supermarket for a couple of things we save money. And time. Running to the shops for one thing is such a waste. Our pantry saves all that energy and time. Money is a valuable thing but so is our time!
Ronda has a series called Deepening my Pantry and a How I stock up series. All good reading!
If building up your pantry is on your 2015 list here is some good reading for you.

Brandy of The Prudent Homemaker has great frugal living ideas and the most wonderful pantry. They lived for a year when bad times hit from the contents of the pantry!

Food storage made Easy is a really useful site that I like.
Safely Gathered inSafely Gathered in is a website full of good reading. It covers a huge range of subjects on preparedness and is a wonderful resource.
Helen found this one and it is fantastic Survival Mom.Survival Mom This has endless reading and across the top she has a free section which has printables and downloads. I love the LDS preparedness manual.

An old favourite pantry post is from Laine. A well stocked pantry. It is very encouraging.                       A well stocked pantry.

A working pantry blog (on my side bar) is a wonderful read with so much inspiration and information on pantries.

I will resume here when we all are over Christmas and the sales are on! This is when I hope to be able to get some food put away and get the year off to a really good start.

Meanwhile please feel free to add your knowledge and experiences I really appreciate that. Any any good links too please!

I have an aim to have a very well stocked pantry plus emergency supplies by this time next year. I have some supplies now, we would be fine for a week or so. Perhaps aiming for three months supplies would be a good goal. Plus the money saving, buying only on big specials factor.

Have a good week. Nurture your family and yourself. xxx

Monday, 15 December 2014

Random acts of Christmas kindness and easy pickles!

Usually I post on Mondays and today I am very late! Chloe went to Sydney for a wedding that was light night on Sydney Harbour. This morning when I heard about the siege in Collins Street I knew she would be in central Sydney and I didn't know where. She stayed close to there. And I couldn't reach her. As I watched what was unfolding I felt sicker and sicker. Then I heard from her and she was on her way to the airport. As that happened there were reports of explosive devices possible elsewhere in Sydney. So of course I imagined the bridge the tunnels and the airport. Once she was at the airport there were reports the airspace might bee closed! When she finally got on the plane I was still nervous. Well, she arrived safely back in Adelaide mid afternoon. 

This was dreadful and terrifying. So I cannot comprehend the horror of what other families are enduring tonight.  I am so grateful on one hand and so sad on the other. Please pray for the hostages and their families.

So this is what I had ready to before all of this...

This post is an interesting mix of pickles and kindness!

We had another week where evenings were dominated by talk of what had happened in the day with our random acts of Christmas kindness. Some were random, others not so much as they were planned beforehand. But they all added up to a lovely week. The highlight winner was again the nursing home. This time Andy took a trip over there. He was armed with a bag of shortbread, chocolates, cards, bon bons and things. He is a good guy to visit a nursing home but he is the one who started this and knows all these people and counts them as friends. When he got home he was beaming. He said it was wonderful. He felt great. They were all so happy to see him and couldn't believe we would give them little Christmas gifts. I am continually amazed how even the littlest things seem big to these elderly and lonely people and how lovely they are.

Last week I mentioned easy refrigerator pickles. To me pickles seem to be a bit of a man thing. Andy loves them. I don't mind them... and a couple of my friends have said the same thing, their husbands go mad over them. Anyway they are very useful. Useful because you always have things to add to cold meats, hamburgers (pickles are so good in hamburgers) and with platters of cheeses, BBQ meats, as a side with a curry etc.

Pickles and other preserves are impressive! I have found people amazed I make jam. To a lot of people any preserve making is just legendary. They apparently don't know how easy it is. But this makes them good gifts! 

When you have too many cucumbers or onions or whatever making these pickles gives you another couple of months to use them. So this can be a major saver. Also if you have lots of something ready in the garden or like me a bag of bargain cucumbers you can use them all up.

These are so easy it is ridiculous. I learned this from Jamie Oliver. His series called Save with Jamie had some fantastic ideas.

Anyway this is what I do but I learned it from Jamie. Not in person unfortunately.

You need vegies that have crunch. So onion, cauliflower, cucumber, capsicum, beetroot, beans, celery, cabbage... anything with a crunch.

You can do a jar of all one thing or layers of different things. It looks flash if you slice things up nicely ie diagonally or with a crinkle cut knife or in chunks or something like that. Some things work as slices others need to be chunks ie cauliflower.

I have a slicer dicer that so quickly slices things up. It is so fast! Plus it has different attachments so I can quickly change and do different cuts for different things. I got it for $20 in a cheap shop after seeing them for $100 online.

You need clean jars and they can have lids or you could use cellophane jam toppers.

Simply cut up your vegies and layer them in your jar. I pack them in pretty well.

Then sprinkle in some things for flavour. You don't have to but it makes it more interesting. Here I sprinkled in mustard seeds. But do what you like... herbs, spices, chilli...

In a big jug mix 1 mug of water (I use boiled water from the kettle when it's still warm) with two mugs of vinegar. It can be white wine, red wine, cider or malt vinegar. Add 1 heaped tablespoon of sea salt and one of sugar. Mix until these dissolve. Pour this into your jar to cover your vegies. Keep in fridge.
The water/vinegar proportions are just 1 to 2 so if you need a lot of liquid use one jar to two jars or whatever is an appropriate amount. However keep in mind the tablespoons of sugar and salt were for a mug and increase those proportionately.

That's it. You just made preserves. Put a date on the jar. You have two months to use them. If you always wanted to make preserves but thought it was complicated you will feel pretty pleased with yourself!

I have to say I love the onions. Sliced onions are so good this way and I will now always keep them as when I cook a steak or burger I just bung some of those on top and it's so handy!

You can use them straight away but if you leave them a few days first the flavour will develop.

The leftover liquid is ok to use as part of your dressing, just use it as the acid part sometime. 

They look very cheerful in your fridge. And so useful.

I have chillies and capsicums coming on in the garden and will watch for bargain vegies especially onions after Christmas. My Dad would love jars of sliced onions so I will do some for him. The plough mans lunch of chunks of roast meat, cheese with some of these would be his idea of perfection.

I would think it will be a busy week for us all. Over the weekend I did lots of wrapping and things to try and get ahead of everything that needs doing! I want to have time to enjoy and cherish the time. And we are helping get my daughter and husband moved on Saturday into their new home for Christmas. 

Have a wonderful week! xxx

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Feather your Nest Friday. 12 December 2014.

This week had some spending. I guess I have to expect that at this time of year! But two expenses are medical and it has made me think about when unavoidable medical bills come at a time when you have other things to deal with. I am going to work on growing our emergency fund next year.

Anyway here we are so close to Christmas and the end of the year!

This week I made lots of progress with my posting parcels, gift wrapping and general organisation of all the things that need doing!

I saved quite a bit of time and petrol by thinking things through and combining trips and events.

I made refrigerator pickles. These are great to use up excess product and a way to preserve things that might get wasted. My husband loves these! They take about two minutes to make! Cucumbers were on a big special which is why I made them.  I will share this method soon as summer harvests really start when it is most handy. I made a few jars. This one I layered so it's like a salad in a jar.

This week I made Melting Moments. I made a double batch. This is the recipe.

Melting Moments.
250g butter melted.
1/3 cup icing sugar,
1 1/2 cups plain flour,
vanilla essence.
Melt butter and stir in other ingredients. Roll into balls. Squish slightly with a fork and bake 20 mins in a lower oven about 150degrees.
Stick them together with pale pink icing if you want.
Really good!

 I used these as several gifts after packaging them in cellophane bags. They are quick and easy to make.

I saved money with a little trick. I have always loved biscuit moulds. You can get amazingly beautiful shortbread moulds. I loved one that was just under $50. Now you can use a biscuit forcer but not all recipes work with them. So sometimes I am still wishing to press an image into a biscuit. The good old fork to press cookies down works pretty well. Here's an idea to get a fancy imprint.  If you look at the bottom of pretty glass or crystal vases, candle sticks and glassware often there is a pretty pattern in the glass. Old style vases like these...

I have heaps of them but you can get them at op shops so cheaply. Underneath see if they have a pretty pattern...

Well, there is your biscuit mould! I just rolled my dough into rounds. Once my baking tray is covered in them I just squish each one with my vase.  If the dough is too sticky and is sticking to the glass keep dipping it into flour so it is dry and press.  You get a pretty imprint that bakes in.

Once you discover this you start running around looking under all your vases and candle sticks! Some have amazing patterns! How useful! Well now I look to what I can use to press in patterns and haven't bought anything expensive. After I did this I thought a bit of glazed cherry would look lovely as the centre of the flower! Next time...

Thanks to my friend I discovered a new op shop. This will be handy next year. Also a fruit and vegie shop nearby with fantastic prices and specials.

I have to say being busy impacted the household this week. I need some days home to restore the balance! The atmosphere suffers. So over the weekend I hope to make things quite, have the pretty lights on and have lovely evenings. Starting tonight!

So it wasn't a perfect week by any means! And next week my daughter and son in law are moving house! It will be nice when they are in their new home for Christmas and that is all done!

Have a lovely weekend. It does get a little like this at this time of year. The shops are so busy, everyone is in a hurry...  But we don't want to miss the moment because of it. I want to enjoy and celebrate Christmas and appreciate all the wonders of it. We had had a wonderful year really with so many things to be thankful for! 

How was your week? What did you do to feather your nest and save money? I hope it was good and the weekend brings some rest and rewards! xxx

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Preparedness. Part three.

Progress is being made!  Last week I cleaned out the cellar. I went down there with my vacuum and cleaned, wiped things down and boy was it dusty. This is why wine cellar bottles of wine are covered in dust apparently! Also all of this going up and down got me used to it. I don't find it scary anymore and that is a good thing!

So my goal of doing something every week towards building up my pantry and emergency supplies was achieved by cleaning out the cellar, establishing strong basket to use for carrying things up and down.

Also I added hand wipes, pasta, tins if tuna and batteries to my supplies. Already in week three I can see that by doing something every week it is amazing how you can see your progress and how it adds up! My mission is to fill all my jars over the next few weeks as well.

Last week I stuck all important and emergency numbers on the inside of a kitchen cupboard and another list to refer to when and if we know something is going to happen... it could be a storm is coming or it could be anything but the circumstances where there is a warning and time to prepare. I know in QLD when a huge cyclone was coming there was a couple of days to prepare. But that can happen in all kinds of circumstances. How to use wisely that period of grace to prepare?  Having a plan is so helpful. Rather than run around in a panic you know what to do and you can even give everyone tasks to get it done and in time.
But what? What would you do if you knew you were going to be snowed in, flooded in, or there were going to be shortages of something? Of course this is going to vary according to the weather, your families needs, the impending problem, your pets and a heap of things. So you have to tailor make this list to your family and home. Now we don't always get a warning but when we do it is good to make the most of any time it might allow us to prepare. 

Here are some things to consider if you have a warning...

Fill your car with petrol.
Prepare a kit for each person incase you have to leave the house. 
Fill prescriptions. This is on my list as my husband has prescriptions he must have. Imagine running out?
If you think power loss is possible fill the spaces in your freezer with containers of water. Providing it will have time to freeze. This extends the time your frozen food will stay frozen and provide water after that.
Turn your fridge to colder.
Cook raw items that will spoil otherwise.
Clean your gutters, secure items around the yard.
Check on neighbours.
Charge your phones and other things that need charging.
Ensure you have batteries and spare ones for your radio and torches etc.

If you know what you have in your supplies you will also know what you don't have. Have a list of what to stock up on while you have the opportunity. A prepared shopping list would save a lot of time and help you not forget important things in the rush.
Don't forget pet foods. Our pets are small so they are super easy to have supplies for. Chippy doesn't eat much.

Another aspect of this is having a plan in a crisis is better than panicking. People remain calmer. I am better if I have things to do and go about doing them. Constructive activity is a good thing.

Once you start a list over time you can add to it as you think about things and learn more. A basic list is better than no list at all. An imperfect list is better than nothing! This list is next to our emergency numbers list, inside the kitchen cupboard door.

Quite often our own local areas will have information on what to do to prepare for an emergency. Be sure to follow that and to listen for updates and be informed. Our own climates and other conditions have a huge impact on what we need to do. Knowing what stations to tune into for weather updates etc in your own area is really important. Hopefully there is expert advise available to you that helps you with your plan. Last week I said we have loads of candles as part of the decor. I lit some up and realised that the lighting is actually very comforting and being out all the time it takes a minute to light and do the job. My outdoor "chandelier" has solar fairy lights. I could easily bring this inside as well. I have placed a couple of candles to light on a shelf in the cellar with matches next to them.

So that is my progress for the week. I am dying to see some food specials that make it worth buying a dozen of this or that or even a whole box. But pre Christmas just ins't the time. After Christmas I think there will be specials like this.  Several of my savings friends keep a purse especially for use when they see massive savings. So they are always able to take advantage of them. It also means you always have some cash with you. I have started that and any time I feel I saved some money I add a little bit to this purse. Hopefully when I see a great sale I can invest in it. I thought this is a great system.

Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and memories too of pantries. I love hearing this! Next week I am going on with this on the subject of all the things we can make by having some basic supplies. 

Have a good day and rest of the week! xxx

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Random acts of Christmas kindness week 2.

Last week was a wonderful week! I like to think I try and be kind to people and help where I can but this challenge really IS a challenge and it made me look in new places and stretch my imagination further than usual. Doing it I started to think I don't really do anywhere near what I could be doing and I could be doing so much more. Big and small. After one week it's prompted a review of what we do and what we could be doing and some plans for next year. It is also full of demonstrations that giving doesn't have to be about money. In fact handing over the credit card giving can leave you wondering who gets the money and experiencing none of the joy of giving yourself.  It has been a really good exercise for me, so far!

And fun too. Each evening my husband and I sit outside and talk about our days. So the evenings  have become a chat about our random acts of kindness and some of the things that happened this week were beautful. Then we plan and plot other ideas!  Really a lot of fun and the feeling of the Christmas spirit has grown each day.

Andy seems to have an natural aptitude for giving things away so two nights while we talked I sat there and bagged up lollies (one night) and shortbread (the other night) I just bought a huge bulk bag of Christmas sweets and two huge boxes of shortbread to do this. With pretty cellophane and red ribbons it looked Christmassy. Well, they were enough to be a success as each night Andy came home with stories of who he gave them to and of praising up and thanking different people he thinks are amazing and of talking to some homeless people and just nice things.

One of the highlights for me was my afternoon at the nursing home. I headed off with a little Christmas tree I bought for $5 and a few decorations. I know Kath had not had her own Christmas tree for many years. And there are no decorations in their rooms at all. Firstly I had to hope she would be there and she was. She was so excited just to see me. I said "I am going to decorate your room for Christmas". This alone was beyond her comprehension. So as we chatted I unpacked the little tree and fluffed it out and it went from looking like a stick to a really nice little tree!

At that point she got quite excited! Ohh "I'm so overwhelmed" she kept saying. Then I added decorations and she just loved it. It was really fun to do and see her reaction. Since she is in bed most of the time I placed and angled the tree in a way she could see it from in bed and the best bits facing her way.

Earlier Kath had told me she loves angels and I made her some angel wings and hung them on at the end. She just loved them and couldn't believe I made them for her!

Once that was all up I said to her now she only needs some presents under the tree and I had brought with me a gift basket I had made up over recent weeks. Kath uses a certain type of hair clips, I had managed to get those, and other little treats.  So I sat the basket next to the tree.

I pretty much lived off her reaction for days. It was lovely.

Another lady we visit, Wilma, I decorated her room with tinsel and she also got a gift basket. I tried to make the baskets look pretty and cheerful. She was equally amazed. I noticed she had not one decoration or card. And the home had no decorations that I saw. Andy is following up, going in there himself for a Christmas visit and he has several men he talks to there as well. They discuss football and cars as far as I can tell. So he will go in with a goodie basket to spread around in a week or so.

During the week was it was our neighbours (over the road) birthday. I knew she had a difficult day and I used ribbons left over from the wedding to add bows to her letter box. They blew in the breeze and looked lovely. I just added a card. Well, she loved it!

Each day was filled with something special because of this challenge, thank you Janine!

This challenge would be the right prescription for anyone not feeling Christmassy. It is just wonderful and makes you step outside of what you normally do to think and see new things. Last week I found myself speaking to new people, getting to know others better and keeping my eyes open, wider than usual. And counting my blessings more than usual.

Now I am excited about this week!

I think, somewhere along the line, we came to believe that giving involved large cash donations. It became corporate style giving. It removed the giving from our hands and we paid someone else to do it! Well, thats how it seems to me. We don't have to have large amounts of money to give. Small acts of kindness and help are giving. And we get to experience the joy. Mother Theresa said "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love"

Just go out and do small things with great love. That's it. It will be the best Christmas!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Feather your Nest Friday 5th December.

20 days until Christmas! That's what I thought as I wrote "Friday December 5th"
For most of us December is very busy and an expensive month. I love it but it can be too busy and the budget can really take a hit. On the other hand it's a huge opportunity with some thought and planning to save a fortune!

Even if you have not made a present it isn't too late to make some homemade gifts instead of buying them. This would be one huge saving. I tend to do things in big batches, like my Coconut ice which I package into about twenty pretty little gifts. Also I make up several hampers of some of each thing I make. It also allows me to give away lots of small thank you/Happy Christmas gifts.

This week I saved money and built up my home by:

Picking lots of flowers and filling big vases.

Putting up our Christmas tree, decorations and fairy lights. It's created a lovely Christmas atmosphere. Setting the mood is a big thing. It FEELS like Christmas. And we began the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar. This is so much fun and much of our evening conversation is about what happened in the day and planning ideas! Well, it makes a very happy atmosphere.

Mum gave me a bag of oranges from the river land. Beautiful huge juicy oranges.

A friend who knows I take things to the op shops gave me a couple of bags of things to take with my next  load. She had put aside a black leather bag she thought I would like and other things for me to consider and then take whats left to the op shop. Oh my goodness... this is what I got given to me as a result...

A beautiful black leather hand bag, an Oroton card holder, a mesh evening bag, a Jimmy Choo clutch bag and a sparkly carry all bag. I LOVE them all! I don't know what this haul is worth but something staggering.
Well,  that was so much fun and it is all my style and colours and I will use everything. I couldn't stop looking at it all. It was like Christmas came early.

Andy brought home a lovely bookcase for his office. Side of road find. He is so pleased with it!

I made Lemon Slice. I love this slice. It was for some neighbour gifts, the nursing home and random acts of kindness gifts (and to go with coffee at home)

This is the recipe...
2 packets Marie Biscuits. (or plain sweet biscuits)
1 tin condensed milk,
1 cup butter. (melted)
2 cups fine coconut,
Juice of a large lemon.

Crush or process the biscuits. I put mine in a large snap lock bag, squeeze the air out and seal. Then beat it senseless with a rolling pin, then roll that to make it pretty fine.
In a big bowl add your crushed biscuits, melted butter, condensed milk and lemon juice and stir all together.

Press this into a lined (I use non stick baking paper) tin. I use a medium cake tin or small baking tray.
Refrigerate. Ice with icing made with some lemon juice included so it tastes lemony.

Let set and cut into small squares. It is so delicious. My favourite slice. It keeps quite well. I would keep it two weeks although it would be a miracle if it lasted that long.

I took some cuttings of plants I really liked. I have had good success the last couple of years with cuttings, some are now huge plants. One of these is a pink hydrangea.

As I have wrapped presents I have found something for everyone in the collection of things I've made this year. Then add cooking and I have plenty.

The things I am needing for my cellar pantry I have been finding or re purposing. I need a sturdy basket to take up and down and I have used one intended as a hamper gift basket by just using a box instead for the gift. The basket was from the  op shop. It's just perfect for this job. I often find that... needing something then with a pause to look around you find the solution.

I hope you had a good week with some savings and that you count all your work as building up your home. Much of our work is KEEPING what we have already built up nice and fresh and clean. Today I am cleaning and tidying. All the cooking and wrapping etc has taken it's toll and I need to have a bless my home with cleaning day!

Some pictures... some of our climbing roses.

Our streets around us just now are lined with purple. If you park you car underneath it is purple the next morning and as the breeze blows it is like confetti. Just lovely. Adelaide is well known for thousands of these. They are Jacaranda Trees. 

And this is for Mimi. This is a neighbours yard to show you the Hollyhocks. If you look you can see in the middle and at the back how they are around the garden and very tall.

I really love the beautiful streets and gardens. Going anywhere is a joy, walking around is beautiful. 
The bird life is amazing. In winter even ducks and ducklings walk past. I was amazed at first as there are more birds here in the city than there were where I lived in the country. We wake often to Kookuburras' laughing.  All these things add to the joy of everyday. At times there are pink Magnolia trees on the streets around us, just now hydrangeas everywhere with huge blooms and agapanthus blue along the sides of many roads.  It really makes our surroundings lovely. I am thankful of this, it is beautiful. I try and soak in the lovely things I see, watch less news and be grateful.

Have a wonderful weekend. We need some time to refresh and restore. There can be so much on and to do in December that we miss the joy. Feel free to say no to some things. If you know what your number one mission is then it is easier to sort out what to say yes to and what to say you cannot manage this year thanks. We have to do that. If we say yes to everything we can lose everything. Some time to rest, relish the time, plan and sleep gives us a chance to see how beautiful things