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.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Christmas and a challenge!

It's Christmas! The first of December I think it's officially Christmas and our decorations and tree are up!

I love Christmas. I have two friends, Helen and Janine, who love Christmas more than anyone else I have ever met. I don't need much encouragement but they both are so enthusiastic it is contagious!

This year Janine had an idea. It is the best idea I've heard of in a long time and I've asked her if I can steal it. As she likes spreading Christmas joy she advised me to go for it.

So... you know advent calendars where you get a little gift each day as you approach Christmas? The idea is to basically reverse it and to give a gift of some kind, be it an act of kindness, help, a gift, a surprise... something, to someone else, everyday leading up to Christmas. Janine called it Christmas random acts of kindness and thought up all kinds of things to do for strangers, people we know are in need, people we know who work hard all year in our schools, community, workplace and to watch for opportunities to just go the extra mile to do something surprising and unexpected for someone every day.

This is guaranteed to give you the best Christmas ever.

I told Andy about it. He loved it. And we began plotting what to do. He is always doing kind things to help people. But this was like permission to go over the top. So we are both going to do this and at the end of each day compare notes. Last year Andy gave blessing bags to homeless people as part of his Christmas effort.
As an advent calendar we are going to write little reminders of what happened each day and peg them to the Christmas tree. I made little bird pegs last Christmas... We know it will warm our hearts as we see this collection grow.

This would be beautiful the more of you the better. Imagine at the dinner table everyone sharing what their random act of Christmas kindness was. I think kids would love it!

Sometimes I hear someone say they don't like Christmas. I get that Christmas is a very hard time sometimes. But the feeling of joy, the joy that brings a tear to your eye, memories that are beautiful, the happiness of little children.... I love all of it.  Besides all of that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus and honouring Him. Christmas carols and lights do it for me, they bring in the emotional feelings... and planning gifts and surprises. That "I am going to cry" feeling of welling up and emotions taking over... that is the Christmas feeling to me. I am extra aware of things to be grateful for and of miracles at Christmas. Well, for anyone who has never felt these emotions or perhaps not in a long time... this challenge is sure to produce those kind of results. Old Christmas movies are wonderful and help you set that feeling too.

I am going to include one post a week until Christmas about the challenge and I would love you to join me. We are already having fun plotting and planning. And both of us need to come up with something each today! I can't wait to hear what Andy did today. I am helping him out this week by baking batches of biscuits, rocky road, lemon slice and fudge. I will make a batch of something each week and package them up.  I have many possibilities as I am going to the supermarket this afternoon and will be out and about.

It seems to take surprisingly little to totally make someones day. There are plenty of people that no one has said hello to, been kind to, thanked, or given a gift in quite some time. People who haven't had a pretty card or letter, flowers. People who can't afford a Christmas roast or presents under the tree. Those with thankless jobs, unsung heros who work hard and do good everyday. It doesn't take much...

I love the quote "don't wait for a miracle. BE someones miracle"I think Joel Osteen said this. How true. We can be someones miracle. Sometimes it's easier than we think.

So I am heading off to the shops and looking for a chance to bless someone. But I know I did one thing so far today as last night Chloe was here for dinner. I made her up a lunch box of leftovers to take to work today just like I always made her school lunch. She thought it was a lovely treat so that is a little thing for her today.

Have the most wonderful and blessed December. It really is a wonderful time of year. xxx

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Feather your Nest Friday 28 Nov.

Here we are almost into December! It was a good but a bit hectic week. Plus I had a migraine which sets me back. I am lucky I don't get so many as I used to though. It was a mild week too which is a big help, everyone has more energy when it isn't hot.

Thank you for so many comments and emails on Wednesdays Pantry and Preparedness blog. I feel so convicted about the importance of this. If you are interested in the subject make sure you see the comments as they are full of experience and advice. I'm in awe over what some of my US friends have experienced! The last comment (as I write) is from my friend Helen. Yesterday she was in Brisbane when a shocking storm hit. The army has been called in to help and I am seeing it on the news. Oh my goodness. Helen says the QLD government has been urging people to prepare and even had workshops to teach people. But even so there have been families with no water in the house walking outside in danger to go to the shops and then finding them closed due to no power. So all this only adds to my determination.

So for Feather your Nest Friday we think about how did we build up our homes and save money this week. Many days I am doing what Laine did and listing my achievements for the day as I then focus on how much I got done and feel good about it rather than all the stuff I still have to do! It is nice to have that sense of achievement at the end of the day.

This week:

I made Apricot Balls for some small thank you/Christmas gifts and treats. They are really good and so simple. I collect chopped apricots (and dried fruits for cakes etc) when on special.

The recipe is...
500g chopped apricots. Finely chopped is best.
1 can (440g) condensed milk.
1 cup fine desiccated coconut.
Extra coconut to roll in. The balls, not yourself.

Mix all together and roll into balls. You can choose how big you want them. Roll into extra coconut to coat them. Done!
Package up, I usually do packs of 6. Keep refrigerated. I keep them for a couple of weeks.

These became little gifts for nine people I like to give a little something too for Christmas and as a thanks. Plus we did some "quality control"and ate some too.

Andy found salvaged some wood planks. So many possibilities!

I got him to cut them into chopping boards then I oiled them with olive oil. They will form the base for some gifts... a giant one and half a dozen smaller ones... The larger one I will cover in cheese and nuts etc as a hamper gift with the chopping board as the base and wrap it all in cellophane and a big ribbon.

So they were free and I really like them!

I have been assembling gifts I made throughout the year. I add together things that make sense in some sort of theme like here.... soaps I wrapped, wash cloths/cleaning cloths I crocheted, note pads I decorated... and choose colours I know my friends and family like. Starting in January makes all the difference! I get to December with so many things, half the time I have forgotten them but they all go into the present cupboard. This bit is really fun. I took years to reach the point where I really make most of my gifts but I finally do!

I made an under the kitchen sink shelf. I used a board that was the right length from the shed and two bits to hold it up so not cutting and no nails or anything BUT it works! It is stable and gives me a shelf to improve my space. This was the only cupboard that needed something and I saw an expandable under the sink shelf you can buy but then thought why don't I just do this? I could ask my husband but he is super busy with work just now. I'm kind of proud of my little invention! (although I can't see myself winning any wood working awards)

A $5 Woolworths card came in the mail. I will wait and use it on some good half price specials and turn  it into a $10 value... or maybe more in the after Christmas sales.

I gave Lucy a mixed bunch of herbs for her kitchen.

I picked roses, they have been beautiful and the hydrangeas are still coming out.

I hope you had a great week and have a lovely weekend. Today I am having a catch up day, wrapping some presents to post, getting lots of little things done and making a place to put the Christmas tree. Tomorrow the tree goes up! Usually I do this on Dec 1 but that is Monday so the weekend is better.

December is an expensive month for many people so we have lots of opportunities to save and Christmas gives us lots of chances to build a beautiful atmosphere in our homes. That is priceless and beautiful memories are made that last a lifetime. How exciting and beautiful! xxx

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

An emergency pantry. Part one of a series.

My family are in the country and you should see Mums pantry! They are a long way from town and having a good pantry is just necessary. If you run out of something you cant just pop into town!
They also need emergency things such as medicines, medications, first aid supplies etc because leaving someone untreated for the time it would take to get help wouldn't be an option. In fact Mum has treated people over the years that has saved lives from having a decent first aid kit. 

Most of our Grand Mothers had pantries or supplies, maybe even a cellar. It was just the normal way of life to store up in times of plenty for times like winter, drought or maybe other hard times like sickness or unemployment. I love all of that! Nan used to make jam and pies from every bit of fruit in the orchard and lined up on her shelves they looked wonderful. Pumpkins were stored along the bottom of the pantry on the floor. If the power was out Nan didnt mind she used her wood stove. She made the best scones ever and always in her wood stove as she preferred it. And it attracted people, the warmth, the smell of cooking, we would all hang around the stove! 

Somewhere along the line supermarkets and 24 hour shopping came in and made us all think if we want anything we can just run to the shops. We were slightly lulled into a sense of security that the supermarket was our emergency supply room. Except there are images of empty supermarket shelves in times of emergency like a massive storm approaching or a flood coming. Nothing on the shelves and nothing to buy! ATM's not working, shops boarded up, no power .... what then? People wandering around with no money as plastic is not working when there is no power! What would you do then? In the last couple of years I've noticed this happening so many times that I have lost count.

Common sense tells us we need some cash on hand, candles and matches incase the power goes out, emergency numbers listed, some emergency meals when plans go wrong, a first aid kit and some basics to address the most common scenarios. But still I know people who go into crisis if the power goes out for a couple of hours. 

We have had things so that if things went wrong we have enough food to not shop for a week or two and manage to cook it without power. Enough candles to manage for a week or so for evening light. 

I think having come from generations and generations of food storers, emergency preparers and planners it is in our hearts to be the same. That's why we look lovingly on pantry shelves of beautiful bottles and oils, jams and chutneys and jars and think ahhhh how beautiful. Sarah Ban Breathnatch wrote in iImple Abundance about the joys of "putting things up" in our pantries and making preserves as something good for the heart and soul. Something deeply satisfying about it. And sure enough my happiest times are summer when free or cheap fruit has come my way and I work my way through it making things! Joy!
Proverbs 31, being amongst my favourite verses, I know the woman is not afraid of the winter because she is prepared. And the Bible references how the ants work and how we should be. Well, the ants work like little maniacs storing up food for when the rains come. They are prepared and work so hard to be that way. Boy are they busy!

So with all this in mind and my long history of loving all things in jars and bottles something recently happened.  This last couple of months I have had so many thoughts on food storage. I have felt a prompting, borderline nagging.

When we moved into this house three years ago we found there is a tiny cellar. It has been used as a wine cellar as it is set up for bottles. While I thought how handy, we have not used it. For one it is steep steps with no rail. I had a serious fall off a ladder several years ago and so ladders are not popular with me. But there it is, it's about the size of a walk in closet, room for one person, two if you are very friendly.

A couple of weeks ago my nagging feeling had me reading some preparedness blogs and gathering information. On blogs I read comments. Comments often are fabulous sources of information. I had checked that the page I was reading was current and it had just been written in November. And I start reading the comments and something happens....

The first one I read I feel a great sense of de ja vu. The lady is saying for the last two months she has felt a constant prodding to start a storage system. She feels very convicted that she has been prompted to do it. As I read more the next person and the next say the same thing! This is a US blog... so all of these people have felt an urgent prompting to stock up a couple of months ago. Well, they are all covered in record breaking snow now! Roads are cut, people are isolated inside in freezing conditions!
Can you even imagine how those that acted on their prompting and stocked up necessities are so glad they did. How wise were they!?! 

So I feel prompted. And I doubt a giant snow storm is coming here but in the last year I know of so many reasons people have done better if they are prepared. From job loss, extreme weather, water contamination that happened to a blogging friend, shortages on the supermarket shelves and crazy prices due to shortages... in all these circumstances being prepared and having a built up pantry are the biggest help. 

The final straw came for me when two friends I respect very much said things to me. One, when she found out I have a cellar, said that would be her dream come true! And another said she has been thinking the exact same things and has already purchased a storage system to build up her supplies... So that is IT! 

Step one has been to get my husband to help me. We opened up the cellar and went down to plan. As I told him this whole story he was quick and happy to agree what a good idea it is. That's handy as I thought he might think it's silly! He will make the cellar better for storage, a system to get things down and back up again so we don't have to carry them while going up and down a steep ladder and a lighting system for if the power is out. 

I am looking at this as a challenge and am going to post as I make progress and learn. If you would like to build up your supplies and preparedness then please join in, tell me what you do and how you do it and if you have problems with it lets try to find answers!

Loving challenges as I do this is quite exciting! Hopefully our supplies will eventually serve as a saving and insurance policy for us and our wider family as well. 

Many of you will be well ahead of me, or even need restocking. Please give me any tips or advice you have. Lots of the blogs I read that are most excellent on pantries and storage are by Latter Day Saint ladies. As I understand their church encourages them to first work towards three months supplies in their pantries then to work towards one years supply. They are full of knowledge and wisdom on this (and experience!) If anyone is reading with this experience please share as you would be invaluable to me! 

Normally I post on the blog Mondays then we have Feather your Nest Fridays. I will add to this series as I go in between sometimes as well for those that are interested.

I have to tell you a little thing. My friend yesterday mentioned how hard it is to find similar people to herself. She is a Christian lady, family orientated, loves crochet, sewing, keeping her home beautiful, gardening (pretty much the same as me) and I thought really it is through the internet that I have been able to cast my net wider and have made friends with similar interests and values. Location becomes kind of irrelevant! But on my own street I don't know of anyone who would even think sewing and crochet still exist, let alone cooking. Thankfully birds of a feather really do flock together and we can meet and chat regardless of where we live! And there is something else... there is an affinity as if God is the Father we are all sisters and that explains a lot of experiences where I feel such familiarity and understanding that seem surprising! 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Easy shortbread makes impressive gifts!

Shortbread is delicious and so quick to make. And it makes an impressive gift when you give it as a whole piece. You can cut it out and make individual biscuits or cut it into wedges and give it in cellophane bags or tins but making it in one large piece makes it so quick to make and so impressive to give.

I have already posted this recipe

Last week I made this doubling the recipe and using pizza pans as my base. I lined the pans with non stick baking paper and simply pressed half the mixture over each pan to fill it nicely and patted it smooth. Then score the way you want to to be divided and re do that once it is cooked. Then it comes apart so neatly with no crumbs.

I used a craft stencil I have to decorate it with some icing sugar. This took ten seconds literally! You could leave it plain or use a piece of lace, a paper cut out, a part of a lace table cloth or many things to lay across it as you sprinkle icing sugar over it. A simple heart paper cut out will leave a heart image. I had this stencil left over from cushions I made.

One I gave away with my pizza pan underneath knowing it will come back... but you could use pizza pans from a cheap shop or place it on a cake board or even heavy cardboard cut out. With the baking paper you can lift it out once cold and carefully re position it onto another board, plate or whatever.

Then I just wrapped the whole thing in cellophane and tied it up with a red ribbon.

I sent one into Chloe's office workplace and it got a very good reception!
It would also be a great family gift or a gift for a man. I operate on the premise that most men love home cooking so when stuck I give food!

It amazes me that something so simple and so cheap to make is so yummy and impressive. Something we need to do is to look in gourmet and gift stores at the prices they charge for these things. A few tiny pieces of homemade shortbread in a small box was $16 at our local store. The quantity would be less than one quarter of one of these. What would they charge for something like this?

The very stores we stay out of due to the mind boggling prices as the stores to go in and look, notice what is popular as gifts, what the prices are, get packaging and presentation ideas and, once you recover, make notes on your information and go home to make gifts! I even take photos on my phone so I remember!

We can easily underestimate the value of our gifts especially with cooking. Take a look at some of the stores hamper gifts... it might be five small things in a box with a ribbon and its $80. You can look online at some of the famous stores and what a hamper consists of and the presentation and prices. $100 does not buy much! It is an amazing exercise! But it makes you realise the value of things we can easily put together.

Over the Christmas period I like to make up little hampers of some jam, some biscuits, coconut ice, fudge, apricot balls... five or six things I've made in a box or basket. WIth cellophane and ribbon it all looks lovely. These are gifts that are LOVED. If I didn't do my annual coconut ice there would be a riot I think....

We had three days of solid rain last week so the garden is looking so fresh and things have grown so much!

Have a wonderful week! Not much on November left! xxx

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Feather your Nest Friday Nov 21st.

This week had some wonderful highlights! We had some big things happen that are really Christmas miracles. One is my daughter and her husband bought a house and they are moving the week before Christmas. This is so exciting. Now Lucy can plan an nursery which is one of the fun things of having a baby I think. Setting up for a new baby is a beautiful thing!

We saved money and built up our nest in lots of ways, I am very happy with it.

Firstly it rained twice in the week with a warm day in between. It watered everything really well. Rain is money from the sky as my friend Helen says. It's true. Taps stayed off. Everything looks fresh and wonderful. What a help.
I also sat my indoor plants out in the rain. This does them so much good and they look fabulous after a wash and rain water... somehow does them more good than hand watering.

Inspired by Wendy, on a post she wrote on the $300 a month grocery budget, I rearranged my pantry. Wendy's column is on The Cheapskates Club website. (yes she feeds a family of four for under $300 a month and writes a column on how she does it!) Wendy had cleaned out and re arranged her pantry to start to stock up for Christmas. Reading how she did it and how much room she created I knew I needed to do this. By adding to my jars all the things that needed to go into them and get out of packets I tidied things up and made so much more space on my shelves. Plus my jars of pasta, beans, nuts and so on all look full and beautiful. One thing leads to another and all my patty pans are in a tin, cake decorations in another and so on. I can see what I have better and have much more room. Its actually amazing how much room you can create doing this! My aim is to have really good back up supplies, pantry emergency meals and space that allows me to buy up on specials and never pay full price.

I made some jam from a punnet of cheap strawberries and froze others for smoothies. I am building up a collection of jams for hampers to give plus a supply for the pantry. Even if it's one jar I will make it, in the microwave it is easy to make small amounts.

Also I made Nuts and Bolts. Mum used to make this. It is a spicy nut snack mix that is fantastic and very tasty. I made two big jars full and several containers to give away. Some for my son in law, some for the boys fishing trip on  the weekend and some for work lunch boxes. We nibbled on it last night after a swim. Andy hadn't had it in a while and he was saying YUM. For parties, BBQ's etc it is an economical way to make a big amount of snacks.

This is the recipe:

300g nutri grain 
375 g peanuts or other nuts or mixed nuts. I use salted.
375g sultanas.
1 pack french onion soup
1 pack Cream of chicken soup 
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder.
3/4 cup warmed olive oil
Mix in a large bowl. Stir few times as you can.

Store in big jars. 

Now this recipe of 300 g Nutri grain... well it comes in 500g boxes. So I use the whole box and double the rest of the ingredients. I have used double curry powder without any mustard powder and its been fine, also I've used a tablespoon of chicken stock in place of the chicken soup and its still good. It is very flaxible. You could add raisins or dried cranberries or whatever you like or have. This is a good mans gift in a big jar.  It is better the next day and the days after when the flavours have a chance to blend.

If other countries don't have Nutri Grain (breakfast cereal) it is a cereal that looks like little bricks...

We have been talking about increasing our food storage. Once we decided on this we decided we would need to build or get some shelving. We were going for a swim yesterday and we found a large metal shelving unit on the side of the road! ... the kind that would have been in a shop. You stack cans in it and if you take the front can others roll forward. It is quite large too about 160cm high and 1 meter wide. So it is fabulous storage space. And it fits where we want it. So how good is that!?

We had trouble with a tap and changing the washer didn't work. Instead of a plumber Andy had a go at it... it involved grinding pipe and stuff... a lot of noises and groaning, but it worked! Perfectly!

Our bird buddy must have been reading my blog as he took feathering his nest very seriously and BUILT a nest and got married apparently... now there are two of them and they have built a nest in the neighbours tree that overhangs our yard. We can see it easily and they both come for something to eat and to drink from the bird bath especially in the evening. They are both so tame with us. I can't wait to see babies! This is better than reality television! 

In the garden we have two huge trees in massive pots. They are a kind of Magnolia. The flowers are huge, bigger than a side plate. Just now they are covered!

I hope you had a good week. I would love to hear anything you did to feather your nest or save money.
I am thinking of the US ladies as I have never seen snow like that and I can't imagine it even being so cold. Here we are almost in summer so it is even harder to comprehend. I hope everyone is safe.

Have a wonderful weekend. xxx

Sunday, 16 November 2014

This years Christmas cakes.

This year I made my usual Christmas cakes into individual size cakes to make more gifts and to look prettier and be more economical at the same time. I love it! 

I posted the recipe here last year. Christmas cakes.

To make them in smaller sizes I just bake the mixture in my biggest baking dish and when it is cool cut it carefully into the sizes you want. I got 20 small cakes from my baking pan mix. We have had some of these for ourselves for desert and the rest are gifts. They are a perfect size for the ladies at the nursing home, for anyone who lives alone and for little gifts.

All I did is roll out purchased royal icing. I warm it slightly first and it is so easy to work with. I just cut out a section and drape it over the little cake and nudge the edges into position so it is kind of neat like a little parcel and trim the excess.

I tied tulle ribbon around each one and sprinkled them with edible glitter. Done!

The end results I packed into cellophane bags.

As these keep for months you can prepare them miles in advance which is really handy.

Really you could do this with any cake that would slice well and use them for small gifts, party favours, individual sized deserts... they just look really sweet. Imagine them stacked on cake stands!

Even on special the ingredients for a fruit cake are not inexpensive. Making them this way gave me a lot more gifts and made it much more economical. But it also seemed prettier.

Fruit cakes are great in that if you do them ahead you don't have to do so much cooking all at once In December. And this recipe, if not iced, can be warmed up and served with ice cream and cream as pudding and no one is likely to know it's not. It is delicious this way.

This recipe keeps for so long that you can make cakes and keep them in tins and you always have something on hand to serve visitors or just for treats. I have kept it one year and it is still fine. It also is better after a month or two that it is on the day you make it.

This week I have so many things on the go! And our weather is lovely and mild so while it is like this I want to make the most of it. Once the heat sets in my energy just isn't the same.
Have a wonderful week. xxx

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Feather your Nest Friday 14 November 2014.

This week was a big one! And it went so fast which isn't surprising as the weeks leading up to Christmas seem to by even faster than the rest of the year.

Anyway it was good and the highlight was Lucy's scan and seeing my first baby photo of the baby sucking his/her thumb! That was so cute. So precious and adorable at 12 weeks. Already with fingerprints and responding to touch and whats going on. Truly beautiful (and exciting).

Chloe had said to me that Lucy's "nesting hormones" had kicked in which made me laugh. We have used the term nesting forever to describe fluffing around with your house and homemaking! And yes there are times when we prepare and these are exciting times. Getting ready for a baby or even an event like Christmas we do preparations and there is a lot of fun in preparations! But getting ready for a baby must be the biggest thing to get ready for!

I have always LOVED preparations and all forms of them like Glory Boxes, gift cupboards, Pantry's, cooking for an event...  knitting for a baby... making jam and pies to put fruit away for winter, they are all preparations. Well, I love them! Busy as a bee! Maybe thats why I love birds, bees and ants etc you can see they are busy getting ready. It is instilled in us and like a squirrel stored nuts for the winter we are to do the same. But this has been lost a bit as we have come to rely on supermarkets etc and that is a whole separate story that I am going to be working on in the new year.

A couple of weeks ago I put a link on face book to remind everyone about Kelleys Pillowcase Project. But I forgot not everyone would see this.  I sent off my pillowcases and it was really exciting to see they arrived in Guam! This is the link as it is not too late to make pillowcases for this gorgeous project and a lovely thing to do for Christmas. You know, I know Kelley will be having a wonderful Christmas as she does things for other people. 
The Pillowcase Project.The Pillowcase Project.

To see lots of pillowcases arriving (including mine!) 
Lots of pillowcases arrive.

I am meant to be talking about the things I did this week to build up our home:

Firstly I took cuttings of a deep velvety red geranium. I had seen one in the nursery and loved it and am suddenly drawn to this deep red. It was $16 for one geranium. So I took cuttings from one from a friend instead and have them in water for now, it is enough for five plants.

I brought roses inside and thoroughly enjoyed them. Really everyday the ones inside and the ones in the garden were beautiful. I used some pink ones in two different lots of photos as well.

Petrol was way down in price ($1.29) so I filled up my car and today I saw petrol is $1.50. A full tank lasts me just ages.

Mum was gardening and had spare succulents and gave me several. I used them in a patch in the garden that is really dry so that is now my little succulent garden. They are really pretty and expensive in the nursery. Plus they save water in a dry spot.

We had several cold dinners. My husband loves cold meat and salad etc when the weather is hot. Last year I was amazed how much money I saved by doing this more often. I blamed the air conditioner  for expensive electricity but by not using the stove I was surprised by a much lower power bill. Plus it is easy, less mess to clean up and keeps the house cooler!

I did some gift wrapping for Christmas parcels I mail. I count this as a saving as I made all the gifts myself. And starting on this creates an atmosphere of Christmas coming in our home. This feels wonderful! Maybe nothing about building up your home is as important as the atmosphere part..

I found cucumbers at a bargain price so am using lots and making pickles. I do pickles for my husband as he likes them and they are good in cold dinners, with lunches etc and they take 5 minutes to make. I am going to share this simple method coming up. They are the worlds easiest preserves.

It was a good week and I got lots done in the house and the garden. And it's Friday already!

Thank you so much to everyone who joined in last week. I was so impressed and inspired. And something more...I have felt in a bit of despair about the world at times lately and I have really felt better seeing that there are families getting on with things, knowing what's important, with priorities straight... well this has been really wonderful. I feel encouraged and I needed that.  In turn I hope we all encourage others who might be just reading quietly like I did when I read Laines Letters. It never occurred to me to comment or write to her for twenty years or so! But I was reading Christian and homemaking blogs and absorbing absorbing absorbing! These ladies were like friends in my mind and now years later are friends!

I can't wait to hear what you did this week to build up your home and any ideas you might have. Have a lovely weekend. xxx

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Fig at the Gate.

Growing up my Nana B seemed to me to live a beautiful life surrounded by flowers. She had tables covered in flowers as she was arranging huge vases for one thing or another.  Her  home always had giant vases of flowers, greenery and whatever she had found lately. There were misting bottles (which I loved) and then her garden which had chickens and was lovely to play in. Nan had also been a beautiful seamstress and had a very creative eye. She also was a natural gatherer, wherever she went she returned home with armfuls of greenery or something she thought was interesting and could go in an arrangement. She didn't over look dry materials, seed pods, sticks and anything that could be used as an interesting container. Nan was just very creative and adored flowers.

Nan also loved lemon trees and fruit trees in general and cooked up everything she could lay her hands on.

Interestingly I grew up loving lemon trees and know the locality of every lemon tree in a huge radius! It is just my business to KNOW where every lemon tree is! And I come home from everywhere with flowers and interesting things. I guess it is in my blood.

Nan's love of gathering, of cooking, flowers, gardens, chickens... it is all in me and as I do many things I think of her. Recently I posted pictures of bunches of native flowers I gathered at the farm. I said they were not my first choice of flowers but they were WHAT I HAD so I made the most of them. As I played with flowers that day I thought of Nan and her influence on me. I almost always think of her when I am picking flowers or gathering something I have found.

Today I had a letter arrive from my Aunt to say how my flowers on that blog post reminded her of Nan her Mum)  and how I am so like her! I felt this was a compliment as Nan was always busy,  happy, always constructive and could make beautiful things from just about nothing. She saw the beauty in the everyday. It was all art to her. Nan was appreciating Sarah Ban Breathnatch style Simple Abundance long before the book was written. Thats how she lived.

And so it is no surprise that my Aunt is an author and writes about simple joys and observations. The beauty of gardening, of life and seasons. I realised my Aunt was famous when I understood they study her in Australian school classes in English and at University.  But growing up she was my Aunt who always wrote us a poem at Christmas and this was always read out at the dinner table. I was in a poem once too which included me yelling out to the girls when they were coming out of school on a hot afternoon that I have ice blocks! My Aunt was with me that day and it became a poem.

 A couple of years ago my Aunt came to the family Christmas at the farm. Mum and my Aunt had a Christmas morning unlike any other chasing (in their nighties) a fox out of the yard. I missed this spectacle that involved one of them ending up in the pond...  It would have been good though!

The latest book is called The Fig at the Gate (by Kate Llewellyn) It is a book of observations of beauty, gardens and ageing. The end of it contains the story of Christmas day, the chasing of the fox, and Christmas dinner at the farm. I got to read it as sheets of paper from a type writer before it was finished. And at the end I am in it! Yep, I experience a tiny moment immortalised in literature! And better still not for anything dodgy or regrettable but for something really lovely.

Between my Nan and my Aunt I feel there was an artistic side to the family and that many of my loves have come from them. There is no need to prove how much we influence our children and their children, it is undeniable. What we do now affects the generations, I feel and see the proof of this everyday.

And as Nan loved the seasons, the flowers, the produce that came with them, my Aunt puts these things into words through details of gardens and life.  Finding beauty and purpose in the season we are in stops us from wasting it! It might be the season ie the season of spring or a life season ie the time you have small children or the time you have Grand children... but accepting the season you are in and making the most of it is such a key to happiness. Nan knew how to extract every last drop of joy from every season. That is what I want to do. I am coming into a new season now and am blessed beyond words to welcome it.

My new season is that Lucy having a baby! Now everything I learned from my Grand Mothers (and from Laine) I can put into practice!

How lucky I am. This is a Christmas gift for us all. And today I saw my first "photo" and the baby is a thumb sucker. A precious little thumb sucker lol like Lucy was! 

On top of all this it is another season... Christmas!

My Nan's ways and things she loved live on in me and as my Aunt could see them in the bunches of flowers I made up I can see them in her book.

So I am caught up in plans for Christmas, summer, a new baby and so many good things!
I hope you are having a wonderful week! xxx

Sunday, 9 November 2014


One of the things I talked about in my ebook was making use of what you have or what is available to you when making gifts. Lots of things come to us in different ways and it is easy to overlook great supplies we might have that have awesome potential!

This is something that is easy to come by... old pots. In this case I found half a dozen on the side of the road. But maybe you have some in the shed or see some in garage sales or at the op shop. Keep watching out!

Over the weekend I did some potting up with my road side finds.

First I should show you how they were.

They are all quite large pots. And they were grubby and one came with a free red back spider! (nice bonus)

There were also three smaller pots all the same. I thought with those I could paint them with blackboard paint and fill them with herbs. Then write the names of the herbs on the front in chalk paint. This would make a good gift as a set.

Pots are really useful. Depending on size and shape though they could be a utensil holder, hold bathroom supplies or used for indoor or outdoor plants. Even a little Christmas tree! 

I just gave them all a good wash and dry then painted them with what I had in the shed which was a plat white paint. The first planter with the flowers I was wishing I had some floral transfers but I had none left. So I bought a packet of lovely paper serviettes and carefully cut out roses. These were two ply so I gently separated the layers and glued them onto my pot. I used a clear craft varnish to cover them and did several coats. This was really similar in effect to transfers. And I only used three serviettes so I have most of the pack left for other projects. Talk about cheap and easy. If you have children cutting out projects are great for them! I slightly overlapped the flowers and worked my way around the pot...

The next one I used a transfer which I did have left from a project. Normally I get transfers from Arwen Moore Design studio who you will find online and on Etsy.

The largest pot I left alone (except for painting) as it had interesting texture and scrolls...

As I had everything except the serviettes the three pots came to under ten dollars. And it was fun! 
Plus I have three more small pots to play with.

So this is a practical example of what I said in my e book.... use what you have or come across. The serviettes as transfers has me realising I can use these from now on to decorate the tops of my jar lids. They are really pretty and you can get so many designs. I found these in our newsagent but I have seen floral serviettes in gift stores as well. The thing is you are getting hundreds of flower "transfers" for under $10.

It is lovely here today. So mild and sunny. A perfect day really.

Have a wonderful week. There is heaps to do. I feel it gets busy leading up to Christmas and even shopping takes more time as there are just more people even in the supermarket.

Look around and see what you could give a makeover for some free home wares or gifts! xxx

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Feather your Nest Friday. Our first Friday of November!

You know Christmas is getting serious when it's November! Last week I felt I got so much done and finished the month off really well. You know that feeling when you are tired but you have finished heaps of things, its a good feeling!

Thank you everyone who contributed last week. I think we all get ideas and inspiration from each other. I think of this all week as I go about things.

One of my frugal tasks this week was stamping a heap of white paper bags and gift bags. These were left over from last year. Previously I have posted how to make over a store carry bag so you never have to buy gift bags. I do a lot of these each year. I have everyone saving store bags for me. This is just a matter of gluing something over a store logo or advertising and decorating. Easy! These are a couple I did earlier this year to give you the idea of what I'm saying...

In this instance I just stamped paper bags and they are so pretty and a bit special for food goodies around Christmas and packaging some biscuits and things like that. The paper bag then becomes the wrapping and looks lovely. 

My Mum gave me some lovely 8 ply coffee coloured crochet cotton. It is a big quantity! So this is a bonus and I will have new things to make... possibly pretty hand towels.

Mum also gave me some really big old Agee jars. I collect these but only have ever found 5 so far. I have about 20 smaller ones. Mum gave me four. My whole storage pantry is made up of jars. Glass is wonderful. This old glass is very thick and some is slightly blue/green and there are bubbles in the glass if you look closely. Most of my jars have cost 20c or 50c but more recently they are getting expensive. Otherwise I like tins and use tins for biscuits etc. Anyway Mum gave me these...

With a couple of days I had painted the lids and added transfers so they match my others. This is what I do to them all so they look pretty in my pantry...

I am trying to increase my pantry supplies so these will be filled with pasta, beans etc. It is possible to fill your pantry with containers very very cheaply or free, there is no need to buy expensive storage. I would rather buy the food, that is expensive enough. But I love my jars and would choose them over anything else. If you want to see more of my jars I posted here.... Pretty Jars. Pretty Jars.

A beautiful online friend (and blog reader) Susan sent me a whole box of glorious cards she had made me plus crafting supplies including pictures of bluebirds and bird houses, glitter glue, card making components and all this divine stuff. It was heavenly to open. And it is funny how even online you can get to know a person to an extent that she picked out things that I adore so much. This was such a treat and so nice! This was an immense blessing this week to me. Look at these Bluebirds!

I made Gingerbread biscuits. I had a jar of free honey from the farm so I made a big tin of these. This is the recipe I posted last year. It is BEAUTIFUL. Ideal for kids to decorate too. Gingerbread. I made enough for us, the boys fishing trip on the weekend and a tin each for the girls.

When I went to Woolies they had flowering Hydrangea plants. I had seen these at a very fantastic price of $12 before. In the nursery they are $30 plus per flowering plant. I have been unable to grow them from cuttings despite trying for three years. They always strike but never get past a stick with a leaf. Anyhow I have been dreaming of more. As I walked in on Wednesday a girl was marking them down and I investigated... they were all going to be $5! So I chose 5 blue ones and she marked them down for me. They are glorious. So I got five for under the price of one at the nursery. I am thrilled with them! Here is one potted up in one of my free pots Chloe brought back from the farm for me. It is really quite huge. It took more than a whole bag of potting soil. But the pot was free and the plant $5. I have four still to pot up. When they are bigger they can go into the garden. I love the prettiness of the hydrangea against the rustic chunky iron bucket. 

I made a batch of facial scrub (although it is good body scrub as well) It is just caster sugar and runny REAL natural honey. It is very fine and does an amazing job. This is the recipe except this time I used caster sugar... Facial scrub. This stuff is so cheap and so good. I use it when I am in the bath so I can leave the honey on my face as long as possible. And before I wash my hair (just in case...) but worked in well it gives you beautiful skin. My daughters who have worked in the beauty industry use this above all the expensive products they have tried! I once saw a lip scrub for $60 in a tiny pot. So what the savings are on this I don't know!

Really it has been a great week with lots of things achieved and nice things too. And only one hot day which is today.

I hope you had a good week too. Rome wasn't built in a day. Things don't have to be perfect to be wonderful. Every step in the right direction is a step in the right direction! What did you do this week that built up your nest or saved your family money? It is so nice to get to the end of the week and feel "yes I saved money and did well... on this or that" as not everything we do is noticed. But over time it is as over time it equals something really big!

Have a wonderful weekend. xxx

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Angel wings and Angels generally...

Last week I had a very interesting week.

I had found the news of the world very hard to cope with. Not just last week but for several months. It was really bothering me and the plight of Christians world wide just seemed to be dismal.
I read one of my favourite bloggers, who is always bright and cheerful, was feeling terribly worried too at events she was witnessing in the United States. Sweet Melanie is always uplifting and this blog post I knew exactly how she was feeling or so I felt... Sweet Melanie.

Inspired by her I decided to make Angel Wings. Thanks Melanie! Suitable for anytime these are just lovely at Christmas as well.
I am using some on my tree and some as gifts. I am including my favourite angel verse

 "do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for some have entertained angels unawares"

 I love this verse as it shows angels can appear amongst us. My next favourite verse on angels is when Peter was in prison asleep and the angel woke him up... and led him to freedom.

In my family several of us (not me) have seen angels. Mum, Nan L and Chloe have and each has a story too long to tell here just now. And someone who influenced me when I was young had an experience... when she was a child she fell from a cliff on one of Adelaide's southern beaches. She was doomed. As she fell she felt hands "catch" her and when she landed at the bottom of this 8 meter cliff she was not hurt. Everyone was amazed. But she knew she had been caught and no person caught her. So gave her life to God then and credited her angel. And she did it in a serious way she became a Nun. So I have had four people in my life see or experience angels. (that I know of).

Well, the news and how Melanie was feeling were how I was feeling.
Then I went into the city and went to the book store I have been going to since I was a little girl. It is run by the Sisters of Saint Paul. Every time I go I am sure the same Sister is there.
As I started to browse a lady came in and she was talking to the Sister and obviously they knew each other. So I was browsing and this is a small shop so I tried to stay out of the way as I could tell they were talking and it was important and the lady started to cry. What followed will affect me for the rest of my life. In short the lady has family in Iraq and they are under threat of being executed for being Christians. They had been paying to stay in their house but had run out of money. The lady had come in for prayer. She put her head in the hands of this Sister and she was praying for her. I cannot remember the words but it was the most beautiful prayer and I was standing there helplessly and was overcome. I thought I was going to start sobbing. The ladies fear and grief were palpable. The Sister's love and calm ways were incredible and as she prayed tears were rolling done my face and I was praying too. I witnessed something that was a privilege and then later I talked to this Sister for sometime. Really I cannot adequately describe it. Each time I have talked about it I have had to stop as I start crying. I came home and started to tell my husband and had to tell him in instalments. Everyday I have thought of this family. I know I was meant to witness this. It changed how I feel about the current news and events... I walked out of that shop different to how I walked in.

Something that got me was how the Sister treated the persecution and murder of Christians as everyday event. Because they are. Her attitude was this is what we all face. This is what happens. This has been what has happened since Jesus was born. It is nothing new.

So between all these things I made angel wings as Melanie did. They were fun to do and are a reminder to me of something beautiful. The next day I made angel wings most of the day. And prayed.

I simply drew a wing shape onto scrap cardboard and then flipped the shape so I had a pair of wings. One one side I covered the cardboard with sheet music. The other side I used white crepe paper streams and one row at a time I drew a line of craft glue and then pressed my crepe paper along the line and squished the paper together to form a ruffle. I have done this before along the bottom of cards and to make ruffle cards as I just love ruffles...

Normally I would just buy a roll of crepe paper and cut it into 3 cm strips but they had no white in paper and they did in streamers.

This is really easy to do after you have practised it on a scrap you will find you get on fine if you have enough glue for the paper to slide and work quite quickly before the glue dries at all. Do your row and then make your next line of glue so that this new row will overlap the last. It is messy. It pretty much wrecks your nails. I just accept this with glue projects!

At the top I secured with glue a loop to use as a hanger and covered this with the top layer of ruffles...

When I got to the row where the wings meet together I threaded the paper through a little buckle and glued that as a highlight. You could add a button or other sparkly feature if you wanted. At the end I trimmed around the edges as some of my ruffles were all over the place, I just trimmed and it revealed the wing shape nicely.

You could buy ruffle fabric and cover your wings with this. Online there are stores that just sell ruffled materials!

I made a few sizes. Some to fit in an envelope and use as a card by just writing on the back. I thought with those I will add glitter to the envelope.

All week I thought on what had happened and on Angels.

"The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them" and
"For he will command his Angels concerning you and guard you in all your ways"

I have come to think that reminders of Angels are a good thing. And there were plenty of Angels involved in Christmas so this is going to be a strong theme for me this year, even more than usual.

I want things of beauty to look at and things that remind me to think beautiful thoughts. Angel wings are going to a few people I think might like them or need them somehow jus now.

Have a wonderful week!