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, 29 September 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Lovely letters and brilliant ideas.

When I first started on building up my pantry I knew it is not an overnight thing. It is week by week, long term and a big learning curve. I would never have guessed I would make friends and get so much support! It has become a way of encouraging each other along which is just so nice.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who comments and contributes. Last week alone the comments were fantastic. We were talking about having back up plans and alternatives to things we really need or couldn't handle being without. 

Some wonderful tips that came in comments were:
Cathy and Cass reminded us to keep matches. These days many people have no matches! They are a basic necessity.
Jes added that a large bucket for washing and a clothes line (if you are allowed to have one..) prepare you for washing and drying.
Nanna Chel suggested a solar phone charger.
Lana got a crank up radio so they can hear news and warnings without batteries or electricity.
Cass said that a fondue pot successfully heats all kinds of things. Oh my goodness I never thought of that! How clever is this? She followed it up with the idea that if you lay a garden hose out in the sun and fill it up ie with a closed off nozzle on the end, it will heat up. Now I KNOW that because of all those times I nearly burned my fingers plus plants with that first minute of really hot water that you get! But I never once thought that I could use this if the power was out to wash, do dishes etc! How brilliant.  (Gold stars to you Cass, thank you!)
Denise suggested bug spray is an item not to be without. If we are cooking outdoors etc and in an area that mozzies etc are a problem bug spray can be a life saver. So true!
Joy suggested hand sanitizer and wet wipes for when both water is precious and hygiene is important.

This is a sampling of the good and helpful comments in ONE week. I am learning so much! Thank you all.

Now sometimes comments are not enough and also they don't allow photos. I love to see what you are doing! (FB allows photos otherwise if you have some please email me)

In the last week or so here are some of the emails I got...

Firstly, from Teri. You remember her free food coming in and it just kept coming! Well, here is an update...

I am still canning.  Tomorrow, I will have a big box of tomatoes from Jacob's garden, so I'm planning to make salsa.  I froze some yellow summer squash, unblanched, in hopes that we will like it better.  I also chopped some to add to sauces, stews, and soups.  I'm still picking a few green beans and those are for our dinner meals.  I will miss them!  lol   And we are covering the cucumbers each night in hopes of getting a few more to eat.  Then, I have chard to pick, beets and winter (acorn) squash to bring in and some green tomatoes to put in the basement to ripen.  And I still have a box of apples to can up.  The harvest is winding down and I'm thankful for all that we have gotten this year!  As soon as I have some jars available, I will be canning some of my dried beans.  We buy them in bulk and because they take a lot of water, I plan to start filling some jars.

Teri keeps working and food keeps coming in!

From Rosanne: (You might remember Rosanne from the free apples and her Grand children helping her preserve them a few weeks ago)


To truly have a well stocked pantry one must think 'outside the box". Thinking of what you use regularly and expanding the thought.

I am a coffee addict, I need my morning cup, or two. I stock regular coffee, not instant, but I do have 2 percolators, 1 French press and this plastic cone thing. I have shelf stable milk, shelf stable 1/2 & 1/2 and powdered milk, just incase I cannot get to the store, due to any reason, weather, finances or other.

I live in Upstate New York, my area gets hit by what they call Nor'Easter storms and storms out of the west, they tend to converge over me. makes for an interesting winter.

We did put a whole house generator in and it has been used more times than I can remember, but what most people do not mention is the cost of a unit ($5,000+ US dollars) And the cost of running one. We were out of power for 5 days one week in winter, it ran us an additional $300 in natural gas to power it. Also, stock some ear plugs, the constant (noise) it makes does wear on you, even though you have the blessing of power to heat the house, cook and keep refrigerator going.

I canned quick meals, soups, sauces, even sweet and sour chicken to have over rice, precooked rice is available in packets. I have canned pork roast, ground hamburger meat, cubed chicken, chicken breasts, easy quick meals to make in a pinch. Before we had the generator we had to cook meals on the outdoor grill when we lost power, so to conserve propane, we wanted to cook something that took less fuel. We do always keep 3 additional tanks of propane for the grill. A just in case.

I have bars of soap saved, I doubt we will ever run out. I even take the little slivers that are to small to use and transform them into liquid soap, we haven't bought liquid soap in many years.

Remember when you are stocking your pantry to always stock what you will eat and quick versions of what you eat. It might not taste exactly the same, but something is better than nothing.

I have been taking my grandchildren out during the summer to forage. They have heard the tall stories of their Father's youth, how his Mother would send him into the mosquito infested woods to pick blackberries and others. As I would sit there and hold back the laughter.
We have a "weed" called Golden Rod, it is a sign that Fall is on its way when it is blooming, It has medicinal uses, but my Grandchildren learned it's historic significance, It was called Liberty Tea, the Bostonians substituted it for tea after the famous, Boston Tea Party.  I also don't worry about them going without food, because they know, it can be found in the most unusual places.
You have met them with their Parking Lot Apples. We canned up 73 lbs, that were free, no one picked them, they just walked by, we picked and helped a lady pick some, giving her a bag to use and found she had never thought of picking them.
We pick Sumac to make lemonade with.
Remember all your food doesn't need to come from a grocery store or your garden. You would be amazed to find what is out there.
I have felt priveleged to have you post about the Grandchildren, they of course were ticked pink. I should add they asked today what we are going to go pick this week.

I stopped in at Aldi's, some of the ladies on A Working Pantry mentioned some good prices. I didn't find anything marked down like they did, but I did come home with a case of mushrooms. They were 8 oz each for 79 cents, my normal grocer has them on sale for $2 for 10 oz. As soon as I got home I was slicing. They were beautiful.

I was able to fit 11 cartons on 9 trays in dehydrator. They were dried in 9 hours. Yes I did put the dehydrator outside, my laundry room where I had first set it up, well it started to smell like an old worn pair of socks. But by 1/2 way through the smell no longer existed, so at 9pm I brought it in to finish them off.

Here are the trays of dehydrated mushrooms. 11 - 8oz cartons filled 2 qts and 1 pint. The one lonely carton left I microwaved for 3 minutes and placed in a freezer carton, it filled a pint container. I am thrilled to have added them to my pantry, whenever I want them in a stew, all I need to do is drop them in, in an omelet, all I need to do is pour some boiling water over them and wait a bit, now my husband has no excuse for not making a mushroom pizza.

Here is a picture of how I vacuum seal them, the foodsaver does have attachment to fit the top of mason jars, I always had a problem with getting them to seal, so all I do is pop any jar that does fit into the canister and seal it that way. So much easier for me to do.

The end result was 2 quarts and 1 pint of dried mushrooms, from 5 1/2 pounds of fresh and 1 pint of frozen from 8 oz of fresh.

Now when it is snowing and cold and we want a yummy stew, no worries about having to go out to pick up ingredients.

Rosanne you are so productive and it is wonderful!

And from  Vicky who has also been building up her pantry and you will remember her beautiful black and white food grade bins and pantry storage...

What I gleaned from my Uncle's garden:
6 small heads of cabbage
15 green peppers
22 banana peppers
a bucket of tomatoes
1/2 bucket of small potatoes
A few people have asked me if I grow a big garden why would I get more produce when I have my own? Well they are obviously not gardeners or canners. Some of the obvious answers are if I am getting produce and it is ripe and ready to be processed mine will be coming on later and later may be a disaster. Too much rain or heat for examples. Or maybe I didn't plant as much as I would have liked too and this will add extra to the larder. Or maybe that big ol' whistlepig decided my garden is great and destroys half my stuff! So just in case I never turn down free produce and if I end up with a bumper crop in my garden I return the favor. It is part of my just in case plan. And having extra is a big help because I never know how many I will be feeding at times or unexpected things come up and I need to send hospitality food. So here is what I have done with the free produce.
Stuffed peppers ready for the sauce and to be frozen for dinner later. I will put half of these in another pan. Plus I had a pan full of diced, but I lost the pic. Part of them went into my tomato juice and the other part in the dehydrator.

The Banana Peppers deseeded and will be stuffed with spicy sausage and go into the freezer then when we have a football party or other party I will put them in the crockpot with onions and tomato sauce. Yum!
And from the 6 small heads of cabbage I got:
A pan of cabbage to fry for cabbage and noodles for dinner later.

A pan of vegetable casserole to put in the freezer. It has some of the green peppers I diced, onions, celery, shredded cabbage, cooked burger, sliced carrot, banana pepper and rice. I will put the tomato sauce on it when I put the sauce on the stuffed peppers.

6 quarts of kraut ready to put in the closet to ferment.

And 12 quarts of tomato juice. One of the things I love about making tomato juice is you can use up some of the vegetables that maybe are not so great to can that you don't want to waste like peppers that are a little soft, but still good or carrots and celery that are in the fridge that are on the limpy side. I used some of these in this juice plus I had onions in the freezer that I froze last year, but will be getting a bunch of fresh ones soon so I put them in too. I cook it all and then juice it and boil down a little and voila tomato/vegetable juice!

And that is what I did with the free food I got this week.
XOXO Vicky

And to top it off this is Vicky's garden...

Thats the capsicum section! To the left is the cabbage section and to the right tomatoes!
I need a rest just looking at this!

And her capsicums as she harvests them...

And tomatoes made into sauce...

And I nearly forgot! Her husband then had a chance to be paid to cut down some trees and was also allowed to keep the wood. So now they have a fresh supply of wood for their fire...

Can you believe Vicky's vegetables!? This woman doesn't stop!
Everyone is busy as a bee!

These kind of letters are a joy to read! And there are more... like Kaye is getting a shelving system set up for her pantry supplies... I am trying to get her to take photos!

All of this is just wonderful. And inspiring. I thought to share it as if it motivates me and makes me happy then I am sure I would not be the only one.

I always say make hay while the sun shines and to make the most of what you have where you are right now. These ladies all have things in common. They take every opportunity to build up their pantries and homes.
Thank you to everyone who reads, shares their ideas and experiences and sends in photos.

This week I added a LED lantern to the cellar and placed it on the top step. Vicky suggested that my wall that has nothing on it (shelves would be in the way of the steps) would be a good place to hang wall pockets ie the ones made for shoes or storing small things. I got one and it fits, is not in the way and will hold all kinds of things. I will label the pockets also. These over the back of a door such as the pantry door will hold things like soup mixes, small packets, plastic bags and so on. Very handy!
I also added hand warmers that you activate and get ten hours heat from.

How did you build up your pantry this week?
Every bit helps and adds up to a lot! xxx

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Cards as gifts.

Once you start card making it is kind of addictive! I have posted plenty on card making before. It is a huge money saver, great fun and easy.

I have a simple tutorial to get you started if you are not already making your own cards... here.

My personal favourite cards are pretty ones with layers of additions lile lace, flowers, butterflies etc.

And ruffles! Learning to make simple ruffles is good as they are so cheap to do. Paper is so inexpensive and makes the most lovely things!

Later I made angel wings for Christmas with ruffles. I would happily ruffle everything!

Once you start you see potential card making components everywhere and you wonder why you ever threw these things out... you will see!

It is quite easy to make all your cards for the year plus spares. I tend to use cards to write letters as well as for occasions like Birthdays. Also thank you cards and "I'm thinking of you" type cards.
But I can't seem to stop at "enough" and often I find a whole book of gorgeous roses or something like that and it is easy to end up with fifty more cards!

One of my favourite things in the world is boxed stationary. I have even found some vintage boxes complete with a pale satin ribbon and scented pink paper! ooh!
This made me realize that stationary, cards, tags all make lovely gifts. Everyone uses and needs cards. They are expensive. This adds up over a year. These are a welcome and lovely gift.
Now I just keep making cards and make up sets of six or a dozen and present them in a box or in cellophane tied up with ribbon.

For gifts I tend to make cards that could be used for several things ie for a letter, birthday, thank you or whatever by keeping them message free. Then they cover a lot of occasions. I usually wrap each one and use cellophane bags for this. It makes them look like the ones in a store. (well, MORE like ones in a store!)

I try and give cards in a theme or colour I know someone likes. And sometimes I will add something to go with them such as a small address book, stickers, stamps, a pen etc.

For my Aunt I make either garden or cooking themed cards. I always end up making lots of flower themed or rose themed, shabby chic, bird... all my favorite things!

My friend Ethel used to make a wonderful gift. It was one of the best ideas! She would buy a folder filled with clear plastic pockets. Inside she would put twelve cardboard dividing pages then mark them with the months of the year. Behind each month of the year was a plastic pocket.
So on January's page she would write that persons family and friends birthdays and the dates. And in the plastic pockets she included a card for  each occasion.
Appropriately she added Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Christmas and the plastic pocket behind those had cards as well for those celebrations.
Ethel made these at first for her older relatives and it helped them with organisation and the costs of all the cards for the year. But friends saw them and loved the idea and handed over their birthday lists so she wold make one for them as well!
It was such a good gift! A whole years worth of cards!

This is a gift you can really personalise. There are so many possibilities.

So apart from saving you from buying cards all year you have a series of gifts to give.
I also make gift tags. These can also be made into little packs as they are so handy. Or you could do a combination pack and include some of each.
This is really good fun. Once you get going they are quick and easy to make and you wonder why you ever bought them!

When I see how much lovely cards are from the news agent I know that my six card packs are worth around $50. It seems amazing to me but that is what they cost to buy. Last week I made myself a fresh supply and five packs for gifts. One was a boxed set, the others cellophane and ribbon. I am really pleased with them. Into my present cupboard they go!

I would like to collect more boxes as I think a boxed set is extra special. Also I watch out for stickers and little accessories to add in.

Between making my cards, tags and gifts I must save a huge amount of money. It is a pleasure to do and sometimes working on a craft project is so enjoyable.
You do not have to be artistic or talented to make cards. Find something you like and copy the idea.

Have a wonderful new week!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 25th September, 2015.

It has been a week of some true spring weather. Just now almost every street has Wisteria flowering.  Recently it was Magnolias and I showed a picture of a house around the corner. Well, you have to see the Wisteria! It is everywhere. The colour is glorious. It just seems to be a thing that grows well in Adelaide. Even the local post office and supermarket are covered in it.
This is a house a few streets away...

This runs all along the fence...

I don't know if this is in the US? Anyway I love it and at the moment it is gorgeous. Roses are just starting... later it is Hydrangeas... so many people have them here also. I love seeing these as they also mark the season.

Last night I started to wonder what on earth I could say I had achieved this week! The week went really fast and I felt like I hadn't done all that much. So I got out my diary.
Thank goodness I write stuff down! I obviously had brain fade and a short memory! This is another reason it is good to look over the week. I have gone from ??? to !!! oh I DID do quite a bit and now I feel pretty happy about it!

Does that happen to you? I am sure I was busy but I have forgotten what I did!

Now that I am reminded these are some of the ways I saved money as well as feathered my nest this week...

I continued spring cleaning. After the lounge covers were all done I washed the wool underlay on our bed in wool wash and eucalyptus oil. It came up so soft and fluffy. I dried it in the sun. It smells lovely.
The day was warm and it was back on the bed by night.
I did all the linen the same day. Sunshine is the best thing.
Then I pulled the bed out from the wall, vacuumed underneath, washed the skirting boards etc...

I steam cleaned the bathroom. Chloe had been pressure cleaning grout for Mum. I took this cleaner and attacked the bathroom!

In the lounge room I dusted and rearranged. A general clean and tidy up.

I added to the pantry and cellar. Mum gave me a large packet of English Breakfast tea and I also added rice and pasta.

Several outdoor pots needed re doing. I used pretty succulents I had started from bits and filled them with those. They look really nice.

The tomatoes, herbs etc I planted are all growing so well.

I baby sat Harper for a little while.
Before you feel sorry for her getting kissed so much you have to know when you stop she leans in for more!

This week I made cards. Lots of them! I am making them into packs and boxes as gifts. I will show more on Monday about this. It gives me more completed Christmas and Birthday presents.

I made extra meals to help out. And an extra meal for the freezer.
Other things were the usual... made all meals, Andy's work lunches, used recycled water on the garden, line dried all the extra washing, shopped for specials and mark downs and then planned what to cook with them.

The birds above the back door are up to day 15 of sitting on the eggs! So they should hatch in about three more days. Watching them go about this has been the sweetest thing. Everyday they have reminded me why I love birds and all things "feathering your nest". What a joy! These birds are diligent and always happy!

How have you saved money and built up your nest this week? I hope it's been a good week!
I have a stack of things to do before the weekend. And the day is sunny and lovely. xxx

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. The backup plan.

A little while ago I posted "Something is better than Nothing". It was about being practical. We might love our coffee pod machine and lattes but when the power is out SOME coffee is better than no coffee. And in a crisis it is no time to have a bad headache from not getting your coffee!
This is an example since I don't have a coffee machine but you get the idea!

This time we are looking at some substitutes that will help us get through a crisis. Our number one favourite thing might not be practical when the power is out or when supplies are short.

Anyone who has ever been camping or without something for a while will know how fantastic something can taste or feel when you have been doing without. Simple things turn out to be wonderful.
One of mine is billy tea. That is a cup of tea made over a fire. The water is heated in a tin bucket. Then a handful of tea leaves go in. Pretty basic. But it is so good! Out in the cold, around a fire, this sticks in my memory as so lovely. No tea bags, no kettle... who cares? It was better than any tea ever before! And when you are feeling like a cup of tea and this is produced well, it's the best thing ever!

Many of the things we think are necessary never even existed for our grand parents and they survived. And happily!

Other thoughts are that in a shortage or crisis some things just are not practical. Sarah commented last week that if the water was cut off having paper plates would mean you could conserve your water storage for drinking and washing yourself.  True. Washing dishes takes heaps of water. Back up disposables could be a real help and extend your water supplies greatly. If you only had a limited supply of water I think this would be wise. They are not something I normally use. But in those circumstances what a help they would be!
Thanks Sarah, that was a great comment.

Some of my useful stand bys are instant coffee or ground coffee that you can put in a plunger. That is good coffee and you just need to be able to boil water. (which we keep gas bottles and a BBQ to be able to do)

Velvet soap. This is a good old fashioned soap that can be used for just about anything! From washing hands, hair, bodies, clothes or dishes. Another is Sunlight soap. Some bars of this last a long time. They could replace a huge number of products we use now. Also small to store.

Bi carb soda. If you run out of toothpaste this cleans your teeth well. It also is handy as a finely abrasive cleaner. And it soothes an upset stomach.

Scented bars of soap. We have mostly got used to soap in pump packs, body wash, perfume and 101 products that didn't exist 50 years ago. Some pretty soap smells lovely and does all these things!

Talcum Powder. Makes you smell fresh, acts as a dry shampoo, freshens up sheets you can't wash. Acts as a dry cleaning agent.

Aside of having things that we can use as replacements there are things that would be useful just because they are quicker and easier. Things that are simple but good. When we normally wouldn't have baked beans for dinner a toasted sandwich in the jaffle maker and cooked in the fireplace would be a just fine meal when needed. Very welcome in fact! (this jaffle maker is cast iron with long handles. It goes onto the coals of a fire, it's the best!)

It was Vicky who got me thinking about these ideas. She wrote me this letter:

Having back up goods in our pantry can be just as important as an emergency fund itself. Times may arrive where we really do need foods that are "convenient".  And wouldn't our foremothers have loved to have a little of our conveniences! Foods come in many different forms and having a variety of them can help to ensure that our pantry can sustain us through many situations. Something is better than nothing! Why? Because a lot of the convenient foods can be stored for a long time, you can be creative with them and turn out a tasty meal even if they are not the foods you might prefer, most require very few if any ingredients other than hot water to make or can be eaten cold from the can if necessary. They can be affordable to buy while still adding to your everyday pantry. And during emergencies like power outages they can be the easiest foods to tend to. Job security? Is there such a thing anymore? Rising food costs, utilities and gas, hidden fees and extra charges, inflation or hyperinflation, crop losses or even global economics, are you 100% positive you will be able to always stock your pantry the way you normally do without having a back up plan? It is basically the same as doing your meal planning so if you have not considered having some of these packages in your pantry now is the time to do so. What if we could not get our regular pantry ingredients any more? And here are some examples:
First let's use coffee as an example:
Regular coffee -you need the pot, coffee filters, water and electricity
Instant coffee- you need hot water
If you could not get coffee wouldn't a cup of something be better than an empty cup?

Next example: Mashed potatoes- you have to peel, boil and mash, milk and butter
Instant potatoes- hot water

Will you be able to cook all from scratch meals if your living circumstances were to change drastically?
Next example: Pancakes- eggs, flour, oil, etc. what if you don't have all of the ingredients?
Instant pancake mix- requires water

Next: Stuffing- homemade you need dried bread, onions, celery, butter, spices, broth or stock and you have to bake it awhile
Instant stuffing- hot water and butter, but you can skip the butter or use powdered butter

Next: Milk- Requires refrigeration and or freezing if you stock up
Shelf stable- has a good shelf life and is ready to use, powdered only requires water or evaporated milk can replace regular milk in most things

Next: Soups-this one can be loosely based depending on ingredients, but still a great example!
Instant- These pouches of soup only require water.
And let's say it's a nasty storm or the power is out and it's cold and you want to make your neighbor's who have no one a hot meal these are tasty and quick!

Next: Fresh potatoes- don't last forever and need to be used before they rot
dehydrated potatoes- a long shelf life and has many uses. I included this one more as a stocking the pantry point. Convenience foods are everywhere and even though we may not do the bulk of our cooking with them they do have their place in the pantry, the same as beans and rice! These potatoes came from boxes of scalloped and au gratin potatoes. Alady that I was teaching to can was going to throw 15 boxes of them in the trash because her family didn't like them and they had expired. I asked if I could have them and brought them home and bagged them up! I have dehydrated potatoes and all of the work was done for me!

You can take any of the convenience foods and make them workable. For example maybe your not a Hamburger Helper eater, but instead of eating it that way (We'll use the lasagna one as an example) make lasagna soup add a can or two of tomatoes with the juice or take the instant potatoes and add some bacon bits and onion to add more flavor. Just remember something is better than nothing!!
 Thanks Vicky for getting me thinking on this. What are your own substitutes and back ups? Anyone who goes camping is good to ask about this. Also anyone who has lived without electricity or has been through times of doing without. There is nothing like experience as a teacher.
We need to have a back up plan for the way we cook, keep warm and wash.
We need a back up plan for items that we depend on and I try and include some comfort items as well as absolute must haves.

In recent years I have not been camping. When younger I did a lot of it though. I realize now that there are a lot of survival skills you learn through camping or living without electricity for a while. And we need to know them. Once people also learned survival skills through Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. I am sure many still do but I just don't see that so often now. I think there are probably plenty of people who have no way to cook if the power goes out. No idea how to cook on a fire etc. mmm maybe no idea how to light a fire!

I need a revision. There are so many things now that are brilliant and didn't exist before or I didn't know about them ... from solar chargers to sun ovens. Some of these things could be great back up plans.

There are probably some items we can simply store enough of to get us through. Others we need another plan, a replacement, a new way...
What are your "this will get me through" plans and replacements?

I hope between us we can come up with some ideas and end up better prepared. xxx

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Easy and pretty gift.

This is a really easy craft thanks to someone else doing most of the hard work! That would be Jes and here is the link to the pattern which you just print out to make your sachets...
Lavender Drawer Sachets DIY. Thank you Jes for another lovely printable!

When I was at the farm I picked lavender with this project in mind.  Mum has two types of lavender and one bush was just covered in flowers. It was lovely to be in the sun picking away...

I ended up with two large bunches. The scent was really strong. It scented my car on the way home and the house ever since.

At home I hung it upside down to dry on my ladder next to the kitchen. 

After a couple of weeks I took a bunch down and sat with scissors and cut it up into coarse pieces. Wow! This released so much scent! To this chopped up mix of leaves, stems and flowers, I added a few drops of lavender oil. 

Chloe printed the sachets for me. You can re size these to be any size you would like. I found them slightly easier to assemble by cutting them out with an extra margin for the tabs that you fold over and glue. The extra turn down was easier for me.
They are so simple, just fold along the lines and glue.
I was worried about the oil staining the paper so I used small envelopes folded over to be the right size and put the lavender in these. Then I wrapped a strip of greaseproof paper around them. This make them oil proof.  (but not scent proof) These little pillows went into the sachets and this worked. Lots of scent but no oil marks on the paper. 

Each one then went into a cellophane bag which I tied with a bow. 

Done! I am still making these but made a dozen so far.

The back has a verse...

I plan to include these in a lot of gifts and they can be mailed in a card also which is handy. Plus add them to my blanket box, drawers and linen press.

Mum's other lavender bush is gigantic and I think it will be flowering next time I am there so I can pick more bunches. Even hanging up drying they look and smell lovely in the house. 

Jes has a range of free things to print such as Peter Rabbit seed packets! So sweet. Also labels for your pantry and other things. 
Paper crafts are amazing. You can make things that are so expensive in the shops for very little.
If you get started now there is still time to make all your Christmas presents!

Have a lovely week. I have heaps to do (or hope to do!)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 18 September, 2015.

It's Friday! My day to think about what I DID manage to achieve this week (rather than think of the list of things to do!)
Even just the example of my "shop" shows me that keeping at something, bit by bit, you make amazing progress. Many things are just too big a job to consider. But if we break them down into tiny steps then we can do anything. Paint the house, clean out a room, preserve baskets of fruit... whatever is too big at once we can do if we divide it into smaller portions.

Blossoms in our spring garden just now.

This week my "thing" has been spring cleaning. It would be too daunting to do it all at once. And it is one of those jobs that once you start it goes on and on. ie I washed my lounge covers. There are 15 pieces of those covers! That involves moving the lounge out and taking it apart, taking off all the covers and then soaking them in the washing machine. I soak them overnight then wash. I have repeated this five times to get them all done. Now they are on the line. So it was a load a day. 
Meanwhile under and behind the lounge needs cleaning. How does all that dust get under there!? And then you move something else and so it goes...  
I know when it is all back together it will all look great and be so fresh. Then for the next thing... 
The effect after a few weeks of this is lovely! 
So I guess I would say this is a money saver as some people probably pay to have their lounge cleaned as well as a way I am feathering my nest this week. 
Things being cleaned and refreshed is so nice!

Other ways I saved money:
*I trimmed my hair.
*I gave myself a pedicure and painted my toenails. Due to warm days I was wearing sandals and pretty toenails make a massive difference when they are out and about!
*I did my tax return. And I am getting a refund! I am so happy about this I could dance.
*My last kitchen towels are finished! I have made or crocheted around a lot of kitchen towels. These are mostly the base of my kitchen and pantry themed Christmas gifts.  I made over thirty!
Making most of my Christmas presents saves us a fortune. This is another example of little bits adding up. It would be a huge task but I start in January.  It is not too late to start. If you make one Christmas present a week now you will still have about 14 or so made in time. (for ideas see my series on how to make ALL your Christmas presents even if you are not crafty.)
*I planted mint in a big pot that needed a clean out. I use a lot of mint and wondered what to put in this pot. I transplanted it from some that had invaded a space it wasn't meant to be.

*I watered my herbs and new vegies with water from the kitchen ie when waiting for hot water that goes into a jug, cooking water, tea. It is all thriving and has grown so much in a week.

I feathered my nest by:
*Spring cleaning!
*Adding to my pantry and "shop".

Also I am not the only one feathering my nest. Our birds are friendly and a pair of Mudlarks both eat out of our hands. I will post a video of this on the face book page (I can't figure out how to do that here). Their favourite food is cheese.

A huge gum tree in our neighbors yard spreads out so that if you look up at our back door it is gum tree branches.  These guys have built a nest right there above our door. Shortest distance to the cheese possible I guess.
We watched them build the nest. Then last Friday they started sitting on it. And they take turns! Although she is on it most of the time and he seems to "babysit". Most of the time he is on "chase other birds away" duty. If any bird large or small comes near he basically torpedos them. This is all so much fun to watch. Better than reality TV! 
I really hope they are successful. A lot of nests end up raided by crows and unfortunate things. It would be a week and a half now before they would be due to hatch.
Watching them is gorgeous. They are busy, busy, busy, looking after their nest. And thats how we should be. It makes a happy life!

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. A review.

The other day I was reading A Prudent Homemaker and she posed a question. If this was the last month to stock up for a while would you be ok? mmm
It's an interesting post about filling the "holes" or gaps in your supplies which can be found here.

To top it off then I read another thought provoking post by Brenda at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me. She wrote a beautiful article about helping others and your pantry. And she also has observed the same thing I have. That so many people seem to feel a strong desire to stock up. Helping others when you have a small income. Lovely.

So all this made me do a review. A serious review!

It was November/December last year when I first felt that I need to start stocking up. It was one of those things where you have a feeling and it keeps popping up. It won't go away. Pretty much anytime I have ever ignored one of these persistent feelings things haven't ended well. So I kind of take notice now.
Then somehow I mentioned it to Wendy that I have a cellar and after almost three years living here I did not use this. It was dark and dusty, down very steep steps and intimidating. Also it was set up for wine. So I had just kind of ignored it. Also it is small. Not like a room or anything more like a toilet sized room.
Wendy replied she would just LOVE having a cellar and found it such an exciting prospect that it made me realize how lucky I am and was another sign I should be filling this cellar!
So that is how it started.

Next I started reading blogs and trying to learn what it is good to store, how much and about preparedness generally. I was really starting from scratch! As I read I consistently saw other people like myself who had recently posted comments saying exactly what I had experienced... the consistent feeling that they should start stocking up. It was a funny feeling. I was reading comments that I could have written myself. Hundreds of them.

I already had quite a few jars and tins full of basics. Pasta, flours, beans, herbs and so on.
A cupboard full of tinned goods, sauces, mixes... cooking basics I use all the time.
Probably you would say a normal pantry for a person who cooks from scratch.
There is a whole shelf of homemade jams and things from summer.

From this decision I began to add to the kitchen supplies and stock the cellar.
I also have added to our first aid and medicine supplies and added first aid, torches and pure wool blankets to my car and Andy's van. I found the spare blankets at op shops and washed them up.

Cleaning out the cupboards was one step. As Wendy posted on The Cheapskates Club removing non food from the pantry is a good idea. You think you have good supplies then you remove all kinds of stuff you have stashed in there and suddenly it doesn't look so full! In my case water bottles, thermos, picnic plates and all sorts came out and I found new homes for them. Then I just started to gradually fill up the spaces created with things we use including canned goods, oil, sauces, long life milk and so on.
I also filled up all my jars. Some were low and filling them all took weeks alone.

Inspired by Patsy I made over a huge trunk I had found and turned it into a blanket and pillow box. This half emptied my linen press. Now there is a shelf there that I can store spare shampoo, conditioner etc.

I added bars of soap to the blanket box, linen press and clothes draws. I chose nice smelling soaps and slipped them into every drawer I could. Mel had posted how her Grandmother had heard that soap and sugar were so sought after in WW1. She was married after the war. So she lined all her draws with soap. And WW2 started. She had stored soap, fabric and sugar in large quantities as her mother in law had told her how all these things were in great shortage in the first war. She listened! And during WW2 she had all these things and was able to barter with them as well. What a smart woman! So soap is in the drawers here. And it smells really good. Stored soap hardens and when you use it up it lasts ages.

In my laundry I cleaned out a cupboard and started to add laundry powders, toilet paper and other practical things.

I put several large jars onto my cooking bench instead of in the cupboard.
Andy built me a shelf and I added a row of large (free) jars of dry goods in the kitchen. So then filling them up was another project. I added a lot of herbs, rice, different pastas thanks to those jars.

All these things greatly increased what I have stored in the kitchen, pantry and around the house.
It has been gradual. You re home something and you have new space. I am amazed how many things I have shifted and again I find more space.

Around the house I have a lot of candles in the decor. They look nice, I have lovely candlesticks (op shops mostly) and if I need them there they are. But this also saves storage space.

Next to our beds we have torches, a lantern and there are lanterns on mantlepieces.

Above the entrance to the cellar we have a torch hung on a hook. If the power is out the cellar is dark! All our stuff would be so hard to find. I would be too scared to even go down there! So we keep a torch near the door.

Now to the cellar. This is how it looked on day one... I called it The Pit of Doom.

This is now. I call it The Shop. (Mimi got me started on this name and it has stuck!)

It is really difficult to photograph. On the left the closest half is all bottled tap water. Andy drinks soda water and when each one is empty I fill it with tap water. The rest is actual bottled water,  soda water, and I am using that side also for other bottles such as oil.

The shelves are canned goods. The bottom shelves are things like dish detergent, spare toiletries and so on. However I also have a decent bathroom cabinet so most of those are in there.

On the right you can't see a kind of cubby hole. In that there are candles, torches, batteries,  matches, making tape, tarps and garbage bags.

Behind the stairs is a small space. I have spare towels stored in blanket bags.
On the floor I have stacked sealed plastic containers. These are labelled and some have packet goods ie pasta, rice, tea..  I have another that is vitamins, pain killers, asprin and so on. Another is paper goods. Week by week I add to these. It is a work in progress.

Also there is a row of long life milk on the floor.

Around the top there is a gap that makes like a little shelf. I have a row of things like honey, various jars and tins right around the whole space. It holds a lot all up.

Now I have been working on this for about eight months. It has all been little by little and doing something each week. I can't say that anytime I ever did a spectacular amount. Just lots of little bits. Little bits really do add up!

Some of it I have managed by swapping priorities. I would rather add to my pantry than get a coffee out or buy new shoes. Taking every opportunity with two for one specials, gift cards, preserving, drying, swapping and you name it!

No one has a word to say if someone collects 5000 movies on DVD or 200 pairs of shoes. But if you start a decent pantry as a back up plan for your family someone will say something ie you are not trusting in God for provision. The movie collector is not trusting in Gods provision of movies either I guess. These people will be the first at your door if the shops are shut. A decent pantry is a traditional thing, not new, and our Grandparents were not told they were not trusting God or are fearful by keeping a pantry. If they were told that they would have thought the person saying this was nuts!
We all just got away from it as we came to believe in supermarket convenience. But in so many circumstances that all evaporates. A lot of people too have come to think the government will save them in any circumstance. The governments have debts up to their eyeballs. I don't think it can go on. In any instance that is true and the governments ask that we are all prepared to take care of ourselves as in the instance of anything big it can takes weeks for help to arrive.
We are told to be watchful and be like ants. To work in summer so we have plenty to get us through winter. It is just sensible.
In Greece or Venezuela I wonder how many people actually had an inkling that they should stock up and didn't? Imagine the difference between those who did and those who did not.
During this series I have had a continuous stream of lovely letters from people saying how their pantry got them through sickness, storms, isolation, money that never came through, rioting, job loss, flu breakout, banking not working, broken leg! and having to provide for others unexpectedly. Had they not stocked up they just do not know how they would have made it. They have my admiration for being able to provide for their families even through these times! It was because they planned and acted. To me that is prudent.

For the rest of September I am taking up Brandy's mission and looking at the gaps in my pantry. I am not interested in what the Kardahsians are doing, I am interested in what I need to add to my supplies!

If you are thinking about stocking up but haven't, truly, start. It adds up amazingly. I think if you are diligent in it you will be blessed. Like Teri who prayed that she could fill her jars and shelves and so much free food came in. She was so busy working on all that food! And this last week she is still going! She did not know HOW they would add to the pantry but now she has rows and rows of preserved produce. It might be that you find amazing specials, are given produce, find a tree covered in apples like Rosanne. You will see... you will be blessed and you will know it's because you are doing a good and wise thing.