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, 31 January 2016

The Vicky Challenge. Week 4.

As it turns out the calendar works out just perfectly to wrap up the savings for January and move on to February! AND do my first months total.

Two things... one, it was much easier than I thought to keep track and do this weekly than I imagined. It is basically habit now. I keep a notebook on the fridge and that makes it easy to jot things down plus my savings book where I add it all in a few times a week.
The other thing, having worked savings out many things are really easy to just add in with out thinking. So there is minimal figuring things out. And when I need to it is actually fun. i.e. I confess I have paid to have windows done a few times. As I did my windows over the weekend I wanted to know what is the going rate now? I found it is $125 for an average home in Adelaide. So it sort of made me jump for joy that I DIDN'T pay that and saved it!

It was a big week. Tuesday was Australia Day and we used the day to do home and garden jobs. A lot of money was saved that day!

So the last week needs adding up:

I dealt with the last of the peaches! I still had some in the fridge and finally used them up. It was wonderful having so many and it took me three weeks to get through them but I did it. The last few I made two more crumbles. I love peaches but if someone gave me more right now I would probably cry!

Andy cleaned up the yard and out the front on the street etc. I am counting $80 as that is what our neighbours pay weekly.

Andy cleaned the gutters, $100, that is what we paid last time we had someone else do it.

Being the end of the month I am adding in my months worth of hair trim, colour etc and that is $225! Still recovering from when I worked this out!

I cleaned the windows $125

I did my nails $38

Savings on bargain turkish breads and focaccia rolls was about $20. These are the kind of bargains you save on twice. First on the really cheap rolls. Next, later, on a fast focaccia or pizza dinner and not getting takeaway.

I needed bottles as I have been making bubble bath. All my bottles were full of things! So I headed to the bargain store. Beautiful bottles that had been a few dollars each were all out for 50c so I got 12. 

That was more than I needed but I will put them away to make herbed vinegars or olive oil and other gifts. It was about a $30 saving.

Made all the work lunches $100.

I did more painting... I concentrated on doors and skirting boards this week. I will count $200. 

So thats about it... and it adds up to: $934 ! 

AND now to add up the whole of January...

That is $3997. 

I would never have believed that. 

Some of these things I do to save money. Some of them I just do. But I did not count cooking meals house work etc. Some things we thought about and did because of the challenge! 
All of it means we live much better than we normally could and can add to our emergency savings. It all is building up our home and getting us ahead.

Next time someone says "oh, you don't work then?" I am going to slap em in the face with this! 

I hope that keeping track of your savings has been helpful and interesting! And as full of shocks as it has been for me. Much of what I count people routinely pay for. Everyones lives are different but I cannot fathom paying over $100 out on work lunches... adding that to tax and other work expenses how do people have any money to bring home at the end of the working week? I don't get that.

The other day I was talking to a lady in a shop and she was saying how hectic her life is. I asked her if her working made them economically better off? She asked me what did I mean? I said that if she deducted tax, travel, clothes, dry cleaning, child care, takeaway food or whatever else it costs her what is the end profit? She said she didn't know. She actually did not know if there was any point! You have to wonder! 

How did your week go and how did your month turn out? I hope you are encouraged to see that your work at home or outside work hours adds hugely to your household.  
What is exciting to me is the number of things I am still finding that are amazing savings. I wonder what I might discover next! 

Now to February! xxx

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Feather your Nest Friday, 29 January, 2016.

This has been a funny week as we had a public holiday on Tuesday which broke the week up. But we used it to get lots done around the house. It was a full on work day here, no holiday at all, but that was so good!

Then yesterday Andy ended up home unusually early in the afternoon (normally he is home after 5) and he used the time to do office work then he put up my new IKEA shelves in the kitchen! So pleased about that!

When January started I was so keen to get things off to a good start. Some things were The Vicky Challenge, The Christmas Challenge, adding to my pantry, drinking much more water, starting to paint the house and learning new skills to help me make presents. And here we are right at the end of the month and starting February on Monday!

I can truly say we did get off to a good start! We got the old carpet out of the bedroom and now have beautiful floorboards, the laundry is painted plus the door and woodwork and some doors throughout the house. Everything that is painted looks so nice! Kitchen shelves up and new towel rails etc in the laundry also. Anyway lots of things done and others started!

This week I saved money by:

I cut and coloured my hair and did my nails.

I hand rolled the hems on more hankies, I haven't packaged them yet. I am dying to get onto the pink version of this flower print!

In the garden my parsley is going to seed. So I buried seed heads in several spare pots and parsley is coming up! I will use pots of parsley as gifts during the year.

I painted doors, door frames and skirting boards. This is great! They were  cream that was quite yellowish. As I paint them white it is like they were scrubbed and became pristine. Works a miracle!

This week I found packets of turkish breads and focaccia rolls (4 packs) for $1 each makes down from $5 and $6. I saved $18 on them and my freezer is stocked. These make our version of take away meals i.e. fast toasties, pizza "subs" focaccia etc.

I collected more supplies for gift projects and started on something new which is going to be a tutorial coming up... covered note pads and sticky note pads. They will be great gifts, very inexpensive and good to post as they are light. Here is a glimpse so far:

This is very easy and the card making ladies will find it even easier as you will already have the supplies. That will be Wednesday week. I have lots of work to go!

We got ahead by:

I added the decorated hand wash packs to the gift cupboard.
Several things to my pantry and cellar.
Added a  bit to the emergency fund.

We built up our home by:

Adding shelving to the kitchen. It is both useful space and a place for some of my pretty things. I haven't had time to set it all up yet but this is so far...

Freshening things up with paint.

Andy cleaned the gutters around the house and cleaned the air conditioner filters.

So overall it was a pretty good and busy week. In the evenings I am sewing while watching the Australian Open tennis. I really enjoy that. When my hankies are finished I am starting on Bella Coco tutorials and a pom pom trim around a throw rug.

How was your week? How did you build up your home and save? It is so good to get ahead even in small ways. It is lovely to get to the weekend and think of what we did accomplish and the things that we have to be thankful for.  Today I am thankful for rain as the garden is soaked after rain last night! This is great. We have very dry summers so this is a bonus!

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Christmas Challenge. Keep a note book.

We have almost reached the end of our first month! Typically I think January is a busy time. Here it is warm, school holidays and a fairly relaxed month. So if you managed to get started on some presents for your supplies or even keep up with Birthdays then you did well!

My aims for January were to review my supplies and try and plan ways to use these things up during the challenge. Also to think about what I have available to me that could be used for present making. I came up with quite a bit on that list... Bay Leaves from the farm plus lavender, honey also from the farm. Lemons from my friends tree...

Next was to look for ideas that I think I can do, are new, and will suit someone on my list. This bit I did well on! I have a seriously long list of things I really can't wait to make.

Finally to get started! To be working on things and even finish some things.
And I did! I will get to that in a minute!

From the beginning I said it is important to keep a note book. You can have great ideas and with everything else in life they are forgotten. I see things all the time and where possible I take a photo. Also I use Pinterest and have a file called "future projects" so that at least if it is on the internet I can put it on my board and later it is there when I need a jolt. Plus the link and the instructions are there. This is truly so helpful.

In my notebook I keep FBI type notes on people. I have names along with the colour of their kitchen and bath room, favourite colours and any detail that might be helpful. This list is very handy! When I hear something in conversation that is some kind of clue I write it down.
A while back at my daughters she had made a lovely desert. She said she was short on desert forks. So when I came home I wrote "desert forks" next to her name in my book. We hear clues and by Christmas we forget. (or I do) If someone is making jam I note that. It means I could give them labels or jam tops... and so on. If I know they make cards or another craft that is a great peace of information full of gift ideas! If I did't write this all down I would be hopeless!

So now is a good time to start keeping notes. By the end of February, if you are anything like me, some ideas will be lost.

My actual progress this week was I finished some hankies. The first couple took a while as I had just learned to do a hand rolled hem. I am really pleased though and am getting faster at it. I have large cellophane bags and they are packaged folded in quarters. They are a larger sized hankie.

I have really loved learning a new skill too.

I also found more microfibre for my planned face cleaning cloths and eye make up remover pads. This is lovely super soft fabric sold as face washers in Spotlight...

So now I am set to make another gift. The ones I am copying were about $150 for the set. They will cost only a couple of dollars a set to make!

Looking in our local florist I saw another very easy to copy idea and took photos to remind myself. I have these exact same succulents growing and multiplying in my garden!

They were only in plastic pots and it was all in the wrapping. They did look lovely. Once again it is all presentation!

When I was at IKEA I grabbed some soap pump bottles. I had in mind to use them as gifts as I had left over pink liquid soap from an earlier bubble bath making project.  I filled them up and added a rose decal. I am keeping one in the kitchen and the others will be gifts.

Also I got one plain white one and online I ordered a deer decal. I was only a couple of dollars. This will go in a gift for my brothers household as he loves deer.

So I have a few things made, a lot of things started and planned! I have a lot of hankies cut out and the cellophane bags to package them and the fabric I need to make the cleansing cloths. And ideas! So that is an ok start for January!

I got a lovely letter from Jen. I want to share this as it great! Jen said she decided to learn to crochet! She said she put it off for ages then went to You Tube and watched a lesson and learned to make a granny square.  She said it surprised her how easy it was to learn that way! Then she followed a tutorial by Bella Coco on how to make a straight row granny pattern and began a rug which is for a present for her daughter.

This is where she was up to when she wrote during the week...

It looks amazing! Jen said she loves the teacher Bella Coco so I went and looked for her. Oh my goodness now I have new things planned and new stitches to learn. She does a pom pom edging... I am learning that!  Thank you Jen! I am planning to get super soft fleecy or minky fabric and doing a crochet pom pom edging around that. I'm so excited to start it!
So what this means is if you want to learn to crochet this time next week you could be up and running and making something. You just have to take that first step and it is so much fun!

Thank you Jen for writing and I think your crochet looks gorgeous and your daughter will love this so much!  It is fun. Working on something is wonderful and learning a new skill is fantastic.

So now over to you! Next week is Show and Tell for January's crafts and presents made. Things don't have to be complete, you could show me something underway as Jen has and do progress reports! Last years Show and Tells were amazing and inspiring. We got ideas from each other which was great.

You can send photos to me directly at or post them to the Bluebirds Facebook page as comments let you post pics.  You are also welcome to post a picture of supplies if you are looking for ideas of what to make with them as we will all come up with ideas for sure!

It feels really good to have made progress in January and to have ideas and new skills to learn. After looking at the projects Bella Coco has I have heaps of "next thing I want to learn" ideas on my list. There are not enough hours in the day!  I know when winter comes I will get a lot more crochet done as we are indoors much more and having projects is so nice then. Some of you are in that situation now with snow and ice outside!

How did you go this week? If you are thinking of starting something or learning something make this your week to do it! xxx

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Vicky Challenge, Week 3.

This week I was walking past my local grocery store that sells a lot of homemade meals such as pies, individual serves of lasagne or whole trays, pavlovas, cakes, biscuits etc. It is all lovely and sells like hot cakes. You have to place orders to ensure you can pick up most things. So I went and noted some prices. Interesting! Very interesting!

I also did this in a gourmet cheese shop/deil near us. They have "hand crafted" jams, chutneys etc. so I noted the price of those too. Basically it all costs a fortune! I am going to gather a bit more information and do a post on this. I would say most of us way underestimate what we just saved when we bake a birthday cake, a quiche or whatever it is we just made!

It is really interesting to note these things and an eye opener. I remember last year Chloe and I saw hand knitted scarves in a boutique and they were almost $300! We both fired up on knitting scarves after that!

Looking in the shops gives me so many ideas ... what to make, presentation ideas, what is popular and "in fashion" and the apparent retail value. For both gift making and saving money all this is helpful.

So this last week my savings for The Vicky Challenge include:

We picked about 5 more kilos of peaches = $17.50

I made a double sized Use it up Fruit Cake to use some of the last peaches.

We used some for desert, it went in a packed picnic and I froze over twenty portions for lunch boxes. I am counting $20 for this.

I froze eight Peach Crumbles and we ate one.

Given one small crumble in the supermarket is $8 I am going to say this is worth $60.

Also I froze eight batches of stewed peaches. 

One of these will act as a cold pack in the eski when we go on holidays and also be a desert to take. 

If these were canned they would cost me about $30.

I gave myself two hair conditioning treatments. Summer got to my hair it seems! These are $30 each locally so I am counting $60.

This week I had purchases at IKEA. We are adding some shelving to the kitchen. Before I left I printed out a voucher I get emailed to me as I joined an IKEA promotion. This saved me $50!

Andy rang the insurance company and queried so increases to our bill. This call took him 15 minutes or so. This saved $246. Good money for 15 minutes! I notice most of these kinds of calls pay off. They are just painful to make but usually they are big money savers!

I packed the fishing trip picnic including ham and salad rolls, the cake and other goodies. I count $50 each time I sent them a days worth of food and treats.

Also I packed all work lunches for the week and that is $100 saving.

And I did some more painting. Not a whole room or anything but doors, door frames and some skirting boards... I will count $100. (Also it is looking really nice and fresh!)

So actually the week is better than I thought! That is funny as even though I wrote most of this down I thought it was a bit boring. But now I look at it and think it was a pretty good week and it added up to $731..50. That is way more than I thought. Actually each week has been way more than I would have guess if you had asked me last year.

I haven't counted cleaning, using house water on the garden (too hard to calculate) and many other usual things we just do!
I did spend a fair bit of time in the kitchen and every evening peeled and chopped peaches. But it is worth it. I have a lot of food put away and I got some more painting done!
And I still have about twenty fresh peaches in the fridge. 

Next week we will be into February! We can tally up our first months savings! mmm the mere thought of this makes me want to make this week a good one! Maybe I will do a lot of painting!? 

How did your week go? I hope you are amazed at the savings and encouraged to see them. Proverbs says that the wise woman looks "well to the ways of her household" and other translations says "she carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness".  This is similar to the verses about building up your home. Both mean all kinds of things from atmosphere to meals on the table but how we spend our money and how far we make it go are all part of it. You are looking well to the ways of your household when you consider your savings and efforts! 

Have a great week! See you on Wednesday for the Christmas Challenge and start getting photos ready! xxx

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Feather Your Nest Friday, 22 January, 2016.

This has been a really busy week! Every evening I sat and cut up peaches while Andy told me about his day. We always talk over the day and sit outside if the weather is ok before dinner. So this is a good time for me to sit and sew or whatever and this week I have been cutting up peaches. It kind of reminds me when Nan used to shell peas. You didn't just shell peas, you chatted or watched TV while you shelled peas!

Most of my savings this week were related to peaches!

I picked some more but I think that is it now for this season.
Obviously did not have to buy fruit this week!

First I made a Tarte Tatin. This was a new thing to learn but it was easy! And good!

Next I made nine peach crumbles. That gave me eight to freeze.

In winter when we have soup for dinner I like to serve a desert. These will be great for then.

With left over pastry I made Pinwheels. These are great for lunch boxes.

  All you do is lay out your pastry and spread it with a little tomato or spaghetti sauce and sprinkle over cheese, bacon or ham... you can add chopped onion or capsicum etc if you want. 

Then roll this up into a tube and cut that into 1 inch or 2 cm ish thick slices. Lay those on non stick baking paper on a tray so they are flat, they look like pinwheels. Bake until golden. Yummy warm but also good cold and pack well to travel. Very handy. Kids can make them and the girls made them every school holidays before school went back. 

I was given some things toward my soap making and this has saved me quite a bit.

We continued to pick Cherry Tomatoes.

Some ways I got ahead were:

The deserts in the freezer.

I added toothbrushes and toothpaste to my emergency pantry. 

If you are being watchful you will have seen a few things that would indicate we should be working hard on our pantries. For anyone who doesn't know I wrote a year long series on that last year. I am upping my efforts now.

Some nest building things were:

I added flowers in my laundry to go with my new lemon walls.

We added bedside rugs now that we have floorboards. I need to take some photos since the bedroom is done now.

We had a little lunch out for Lucy's Birthday. Harper was so good! I loved every minute. The whole time I hold her she has my necklace in her hands. Every time! She isn't letting go for anyone either!

My post seems hurried today. It is! I had it ready and somehow lost the lot! So I had to start again and now I am late. 

This afternoon I have shopping to do and tonight will be cutting up more peaches. I need to finish most of them or it will be too late. I plan to stew lots and freeze and over the weekend make Peach Cakes. These free peaches have probably added a couple of hundred dollars at least to my food budget. It is a case of use what you have or comes your way. It is a huge opportunity!

Then I hope to be sewing hankies tomorrow and Sunday and get a few finished!

I hope you had a good week! How did you build up your home and save money?  Every little bit helps!  I love finding ways to get ahead in small ways. It is not always possible but when we do we are at an advantage for times when just staying afloat is a major achievement!

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Christmas Challenge. Yarn ideas and labelling.

Last week I totally forgot to include the three big bags of stretch knits in the supplies I have on hand. There is so much I can do with it all. I am working through it dividing it into what it is suitable for. It will make a lot of gifts!

This week I want to think a bit about yarn. Many of us have heaps of wool or cottons in our supplies. I also have quite a bit of luck with finding yard in op shops.

There are so many beautiful things to make! There are easy things for beginners through to heirloom worthy things that take a lot of work. The good thing is that hand knits and crochet items are in all the shops and homewares stores and at huge prices. We can get so many ideas browsing those stores. Last winter I saw so many thing I knew I could make and took a lot of photos on my phone to remind me. (otherwise I will forget).

Often we tend to have a stash of left overs. Mum makes a lot of hats and things with stripes to use hers up. I think a multicoloured blanket is quite gorgeous or a pram rug or something like that.
If you have lots of bits a rug, scarf or hat for charity is a really good thing to work on.

A soft knee rug I made as a gift.

I am going to share something for anyone with a large yarn stash and you are not sure what to do with it...
Our climate here isn't terribly cold. We don't usually go below freezing at all and do not have snow. But still winter is cold and it's cold to us as it is all we are used to!
When the girls were little and I had my first home and I had chickens. One day they escaped through a hole behind the shed into the neighbours out the back. I had not lived there long so I didn't know who the neighbour was. I went round and knocked on the door... an old lady answered and I explained and apologised about the escapees. And so I met Janet.
We became firm friends. She had been in a concentration camp in Germany and worse she had a baby in there. She was there when the US troops liberated them. She had an envelope of pictures that she showed me one day. They were amongst the worst things I have ever seen even until now.
Janet lived alone, the house and water were heated by an old fashioned wood stove.
One day in winter her house was really cold. I just happened to ask her if she was warm enough and did she have plenty of warm blankets on her bed?
The answer was no. She was cold at night as her bedding wasn't really adequate.
I was horrified. How long had she been like this?
I went home and told Mum.  Mum always keeps pure wool crochet blankets and knee rugs on hand and works on new ones constantly. So within 24 hours I returned to see Janet with three beautiful warm rugs. She was so over the moon! She couldn't believe it.
Before that it truly never occurred to me that I would even know someone who is not warm enough at night. Since then I have knitted and crocheted many rugs to give away.
So if you have yarn and you don't know what to do with it get knitting or crocheting. It is going to waste in your cupboards. The world is full of Janets.

My winter blanket I made a couple of years ago with a new stitch. It weighs a ton and is really warm.

I have some 8 ply cottons, fine cottons and some odd balls of wool. Also a lot of pale pink chenille yarn that is so soft and nice.
Once the weather cools I will be starting on the chenille and I think I will make Harper a pram or car rug.

Some of the gifts I like to make using cottons are dish cloths, face washers, baby face washers, edgings on linens, bath mats...

I love to edge things from pillowcases, towels, sheets, face washers, t towels, bibs, baby socks, soft rugs, muslin face cloths and wraps...

Left over bits and pieces also make great decorations for parcels.

For inspiration I love Cocoa Rose Diaries. She has just stopped posting sadly but I am hoping all the content will remain as I get so many ideas from here! Following craft blogs really is encouraging. Don't forget Pinterest for ideas and You Tube for lessons.

Presentation is always an important thing when we are gift giving. I really feel this is the bit that helped me to feel confident about giving things I have made myself. The "Crochet with Love" bands are free printables available here.
They are also available for knitted gifts here.
I love them! They make your work look so nice! I hope this is useful.

I also love to make scarves. They are a lovely gift especially if you know someones colours and taste.

For gorgeous free scarf patterns and sheer inspiration look at Flamingo Toes.
Browse the crochet section for links to endless free pattern for accessories, blankets, you name it! Sheer heaven! Also she has lovey dish cloth patterns. They are lovely gifts!

I am really pretty hopeless as I can't read a pattern but I can copy things. To learn I watch your tube videos as if I see it I can do it whereas if I read the instructions I feel like the more I read the less I understand it! There is a crochet section here on Bluebirds where I have shown some past things I've made and attempted to show how.

Yarn projects are a joy. And basic skills are easy to learn. Once you have the basics you just improve as you practice, like anything else.
They are also something you can do while watching TV or sport. If Andy is driving I am crocheting!

There is nothing wrong with having more than one project going at once. It can be a help. For instance if it is still daylight I will stitch a bit more if I have time but in the darker evening I will crochet as I don't need to see so well. If I am going to be waiting in the car I will take some crochet ... it is really good to have one project that you can take with you when travelling or away and use that time. Some things are more mobile than others. So I always have a few things on the go. Using snippets of time really adds up!

I hope there are some ideas amongst all of this. It is really fun and you will increase your gift cupboard and reduce your yarn stash!

My actual Christmas Challenge progress this week was printing out a heap of these crochet gift bands for my supplies, cutting out two dozen hankies from my lovely floral cottons and learning via an online tutorial how to do hand rolled hems to hem them. Pictures soon. I also worked out my packaging for all my hankies. I am aiming to make at least 30.
Keep in mind next week I will be asking for photos! I will think of this too so I can include hankies in our show and tell for January.

I hope you feel you have made progress, reviewed your supplies, found some ideas and now started working on your gifts! It will help momentum to finish a couple of gifts or have something well underway.

I want to have a good start to my gift cupboard and finished items to put away before the end of the month! I better get moving. I am drowning in peaches though and have to finish them first! xxx

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Vicky Challenge. Week 2.

I had another very interesting week! I also had a few things that I needed to figure out how much of a saving they were and a few things easy to add in as I already knew the amounts from having worked them out earlier.  I know this made me watch for more opportunities to save and do things myself.

Also I realised the things I do save other households especially the girls. Babysitting and homemake crock pots of baby food and all kinds of cooking etc must also help Lucy's household and I don't count those savings but I am very glad of them. We can really contribute to someones weekly budget with the gift of help or a meal or surplus produce.
My Nan always said that an ounce of help is worth a pound of sympathy. I always remember that!

This week I am going to include a letter from Vicky about some of the things she counts in her savings. She has opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities and you might find some ideas or have a moment of revelation as I did!

Last week two things helped bolster up my savings. One was picking peaches from a tree in the back lane. I picked about 25 kilos (double that plus a bit equals pounds) and I was beaten. Even on a ladder, with a broom, I couldn't get the high up ones. Andy headed off to the shed and made me a fruit picker with a very long stick! So I then immediately picked about another 7 kilos and even more today. I think I am at around 35 kilos.  This stick took a little practise but highly motivated as I am about fruit I treated it as a sport and if it was only an Olympic event I could represent Australia as I got pretty good at it! :)

At the moment in the shops peaches are on special down to $3.50 a kilo so I will go by that price and say our efforts produced $122.50 off peaches!
Like everything this will become more as I turn them into peach crumble, pies, cobbers etc much of which I will freeze. We will also not buy any fruit so another saving. Much of this week will be spent on dealing with peaches. But how fantastic!

My next saving was painting the laundry. I used the found paint as it was white interior wall paint and I tinted it yellow with a sample tin which gave me lemon. So the whole laundry repaint cost under $20. It is really hard to work out the savings. There are online price guides to painting if you hire someone and going by them I saved around $300. So that will do! It took a day and was fiddly as there were lots of things to paint around the edges of! But it was worth it. It looks so fresh and clean and nice. I have the door to go which will be white. Pictures coming soon!

Otherwise my savings are usual i.e. lunches and a few good specials from the supermarket.

I put the weeks savings at $522.50.

In my savings book I have a page to a week and the total at the bottom of the page so it is quick and easy to add up the month, then the year.

I had a sneak peak and the month is up to $2331.50. This has been helped along by a few big things like our day getting out the old carpet, the painting and doesn't count all the work Andy has done in the yard.

So I am pretty happy to see this and it is an interesting experiment for sure!

Now I will let you read Vicky's letter as it is full of things to consider:

Here is a list of things we do that saves that I add to my savings book. Some are not added monthly, but maybe yearly or seasonally. I add any extra income that is not from the paycheck and some may actually save in more than one way so I call that a double dip. Some may be silly to others, but when my ultimate goal was to become debt free I was a determined woman. Even just cutting back on things or stretching them to make them last longer or getting the most bang for my buck all helped achieve that goal. It may be a little harder to do now because of circumstances, but seeing the things we have changed makes me realise how much better we will be later on because of it. Planning ahead is a wonderful thing to implement into each season. Always plan for the next one, get ahead and stay ahead of things if possible. 
So here's my list: Ways we save/earn
clearance items
homemade laundry soap(I get other laundry soaps free with coupons as well)
gardening, canning, freezing, dehydrating
starting our own seeds
accepting used items
paying bills online and over the phone( saves stamps and checks)
recycling cans and metal (makes money)
shutting things off to save electric
hanging clothes to dry 
free samples
product tests(equals free stuff)
coke points
my points
bing points(gave my son 3 months of Xbox Live for free using these so free Christmas gift)
putting ads on craigslist instead of paying for an ad
homemade dog food
if we eat out we have a great coupon (this is rare though)
no renting movies(we used to do this a lot)
using the library for books and movies
some homemade gifts 
rewards from stores(free money)
doing repairs ourselves 
scrubbing carpet ourselves
hunting and fishing
one tank trips(to save gas)
stocking up
home haircuts
homemade birthday cakes
cutting back on soda
fuel rewards(saving on gallons of gas)
not buying magazines(I used to be a magazine junkie)
burning wood in winter(we used to spend a ton on fuel oil)
getting free wood
not buying fuel oil
not having a water bill(the water pump is electric so I still try to save on water usage)
yard sales and thrift stores
chickens for eggs(plus the poo is fertilizer)
free plants(either for the garden, flowers or herbs)
cooking smaller, simpler meals
eating fresh veggies from the garden
free produce given to us or foraged 
putting the printer in draft mode to print or using only black ink
keeping the air conditioner off as much as possible
using newspaper in the chicken coop and less straw
2 huge rain tanks to catch water off of the barn(we water the garden with it so no running the well pump)
when winter is really snowy I melt snow(free water) for emergency use and keep in a water barrel 
blowing out the filters on the vacuum( this has saved me from having to buy filters and keeps the suction like new)
dumpster diving(this a paper only dumpster) and finding free items set out that someone is getting rid of
doing my own mani/pedis
doing the bulk of animal vet care myself
found money
leftovers from parties(if someone offers and you can use it)
homemade cleaning products
cutting back on paper towels (haven't gotten my husband to give them up yet)
negotiated for better deals/interest rates
How did your week go? I really hope you are seeing the enormous contribution financially that your work makes to your life and family. I always want to stress that this challenge is about the financial side of things but that does't make it the most important part of what we do. The most important part is loving our family. We are largely responsible for setting the tone and atmosphere of the home and making it a sanctuary from the world. There is truly no place like home. Home is our little nest, that's how I think of it!
There are so many parts of building up a home and certainly making any money coming in go as far as possible is a big part of it. We can be good stewards of our income. It makes a big difference!

I hope you had a great week and this new week is full of possibilities!xxx

Friday, 15 January 2016

Your time.

Being the beginning of the year I wanted to talk about our time. This is an extra post so I can get it in while we are still maybe planning our year and what we want to achieve, what our priorities are etc. There are so many demands on us and there are only twenty four hours in a day. And we need to sleep!

Here we are with a year in front of us and plans and dreams for it. I have a whole lot of goals. Some are small and some are big like painting the house.

But if we are not careful things chip away at our time and we wonder what ever happened to it!

There are always so many things to distract us and people who have suggestions for how we should spend our precious time. There are people who would love you to give all your spare time to them as well. Yep, there are always many helpful suggestions on what to do with your time and energy.

Whether you work full time, part time or at home it still amounts to time management and there are limits to what we can actually do.

I was very lucky that once I had children I knew what my mission was. That helped me enormously and I attribute that to my upbringing, Laines Letters, a ladies fellowship I attended and scripture. I had no doubt raising my children was my number one job. Also I was a single Mum. I couldn't muck around I had to get it right or try to.
But even knowing all that I remember how much pressure there was to do all kinds of things I couldn't really manage.
I ran a routine and that's how I got everything done. (most of the time!) I seriously wondered how to fit much more in?! I even wondered why I was expected to?

I am pretty sure there was writing on my forehead that said "ask me to help out I have nothing to do!"
When Chloe started Kindy (pre school?) I noticed a big leap in requests for time on committees, charities, working bees, fund raisers and so on. It interested me that many were at night. To go out at night I would have to hire a baby sitter. It seemed counter productive to me to pay for a baby sitter while out fund raising or attending meetings.  And I didn't. I said yes to some things but many no's.

If we say yes to everything and everyone we end up not living our life at all. We can't get our own work done, we have no hope of completing our own mission. Dad used to say to me that the best thing I could do for society was bring up the girls well. That took a lot of pressure off.

This isn't to say there are not times we need to drop everything and help someone. That's not what I mean. I mean all the unimportant things (in the greater scheme of things) that we can end up doing and basically wondering why!

I have worked out that there is a season for everything and we can't do everything in one season!
Living in the season we are in and knowing our mission really helps to prioritise.  Knowing this it helps to easily decide what to say yes to and what to say no to.

As well as demands on your time you get many demands on you money. Oh, yes people love telling you what to do with your money!
Just the same... if you do not know what your mission is there is plenty of ways to part with your money!   This includes charity. We need to think about what to support and how and not be coerced into signing up for some automatic debit scheme that basically pays a commission to the person who signed you up and a Limo to the CEO. Many of them are cons and not a charity at all. We have a right to choose! I say this as I keep seeing very aggressive tactics.

To avoid all these pressures we need  really good and clear set missions and goals.
Then you kind of see some of what is coming at you as sabotage. It is really easy to be derailed from your good plan and intentions or persuaded away from them.
In the army this is called deserting your post. They used to shoot you for that!

I have made millions of mistakes but at least basically I felt determined about my role and I am actually quite stubborn. lol  I became a single Mum before Lucy was born. After she was came along I had a 22 month old and a new born. My Dad helped me get a little cottage in a country town near the sea. This was a dream come true for me. This was a life changer.
I was sworn off men at that point! I decided I would 100% focus on bringing up the girls and doing a good job and that I would not date until they were grown up. I was quite sure about it.
Plenty of people had a lot to say about that! It's not that I went around declaring it but if someone asked why I didn't go out I would tell them.
I was told I was wasting my life.
I would regret it and be lonely.
And a hundred other dire regrettable consequences.
But anyway I stuck to it for sixteen years.
(I am not saying anyone else should do this. It is just what I decided to do.)

On top of that I was constantly told I needed a career as I was wasting my life.
I should start a shop (this one was constant)
etc etc.

I was very lucky that I could stay home as that was what I wanted to do and it fit my mission. I also cooked for a cafe,  sold sewing and vintage things I found in my op shopping. Other than that I gardened, cooked from scratch and all the things I do now.
But still I was "wasting my life" according to critics.
Lucky I knew what my mission was!

You know what? I loved every minute. The girls now talk about their fairy tale childhood. That is what they say about it. At Lucy's wedding Dad spoke of me as like a Mother Hen protecting my children. I was so proud he said that!

This is Lucy dressed in one of her best outfits. Fairy wings I made her and an old nightie. Sparky shoes and for some reason a shower cap. Also her dog Rachel. Oh, and glittery shoes!
The photos are all the girls when they were little.

I didn't miss out on anything! And love waited for me in those years and found me after ward!

While I made many mistakes knowing my mission really helped me. I knew without a man in the house that God was the man of the house and that my Dad was the girls role model. And they adored him now as they did as children.

If you decide your mission it will be so much easier to see distractions, sabotage, cons, tricks and time wasters. They come in many forms! The devil comes a calling!

You might have a friend who tires to de rail you from your savings. Or take time away from your family and work. Or a salesman might pressure you to sign up for this or that. Or you might be pressured to take on a committee when you know it is going to be really hard and at night when you are busy helping children with homework or cooking dinner...
When you know your mission it is easier to say no. You need to know which is more important.

I have heard young Mums say they are looking for their mission. I think that is like the acres of diamonds story where all along they were standing on riches they didn't recognise.  We need to accept the mission we have been given first rather than pick out another one we think we might like better.

Saying all this I STILL had trouble saying no even when I knew I needed to. One thing helped me very much, what ever  I was asked to do (I still do this now) I said "thank you for asking me,  I need to look in my diary and see if I can manage it"  and I will reply shortly.  This one thing stopped me from saying a yes that I then had to figure out how to get out of or regretted terribly!
The follow up then would be to decline in a nice way (usually decline anyway) and say what I am able to do to help.  One I can think of is I declined running a stall at the school but I donated a box of jams and produce.

In some instances we do need to be able to say a flat out no. In our shopping centre I notice high pressure sales people and some people are cornered by them. They are trying to get them to sign up automatic debit donations. We need to be able to say no. If someone threatening comes to the door and asks to be let in you cannot be so polite that you just open the door! You have to say no. We need to be able to. It doesn't have to be rude. If you need to practise then do. No can save your life.

Some things can be avoided. The salesman on the phone at dinner time... you know the ones with a script? If you ask a  question they keep reading the script... they know the longer you listen the higher the chance they will be successful. I just never answer a phone number I don't know! Problem solved! A lot of time saved too. We need to protect our dinner time and family time.

Every year,  at every age and in every season of life we need to figure out what does and what doesn't help us and deserve our time and resources. I find a re think now and then is a good thing. Weigh things up. Don't be tricked out of your mission or your gaols and dreams.

My guiding motto is that our role as homemakers and Mothers is priceless above rubies. So being told I was wasting my life did not derail me. I saw it as a lie and not to fall for it.

If you are working in or out of the home it makes no difference. The reason we are doing what we are doing is for our family, to pay the bills, to feed everyone... to achieve our goals. Set your mission and don't let anyone take over your time and resources unless you want them to. Bringing in an income, running the home, looking after everyone is hard work and a long day.

There are worthy things to do for sure but in the main our time is sucked away so easily that we have to be quite protective of it. We need to be. We need to be on guard that we are not dragged away from what we need to be doing.

One of my favourite quotes from Mother Teresa is
"If you want to bring happiness to the whole world
Go home and love your family"

We have talked a lot about being watchful. Usually we are talking in the wider world. But we need to be watchful in our closer world that our goals are not sent into the ditch by those around us!  Good friends help us achieve our goals too. Having a savings buddy is a big help.

I hope this is a great year of building up our homes and families, saving money and achieving all kinds of things that will be helpful to us all.
Set your goals and lets work together. Don't listen if someone tries to put you down or drag you off course. Be ever watchful and guard your time as it is such an important and limited resource. The season you are in is also really precious. It will not last as long as you think! So make the most of everything! xxx

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Feather your Nest Friday, 15 January, 2016.

How has your week been? Mine has gone by a bit too fast. It has been busy and as it is now mid January and I have wanted to get a lot of projects going and get off to a good start.

Having a break and thinking about what I DID achieve is going to be good for me.

Some of the ways I saved money this week include:

I am sticking to my A4 envelope presents in the post rule! I also went to the post office and found out how thick they can be before they go up in price and will normally try to keep to that. I also found out if you are on a pension or concession card in Aust. You can apply for a discounted rate for stamps and get a book of five free stamps. I thought I would mention that. Just google Australia Post Concession Stamps.

The A4 envelope rule will save me a lot and I need to do it. I know I won't be able to stick to it all the time but I will try to mostly! However A4 envelopes are horrible! At Officeworks I found I can get them in plain white rather than the awful organge/brown ones AND some colours. They had no pink but they did have pale blue! Then I decided if that is as good as it gets I am going to improve them myself. I want mail to look nice and it is meant to be a lovely thing to receive! So I am decorating my envelopes. Some things you can buy are just gorgeous but many are not! I always wonder why are sewing machines white? Why can't you get pink or other colours? Same with washing machines. And the same with envelopes!
Anyway I feel better about my parcel size restriction now I have pretty envelopes.

Lucy gave me a Hydrangea to add to the garden. It is one I have never seen before. The flower heads are giant size and each individual flower is massive at least several times bigger than a normal petal...

Next I have been picking peaches! The tree in the back lane is producing and I have picked some everyday. I have about 22 kilos now. (about double and a bit is pounds). They are not quite ripe. I needed to pick them as the birds are eating them.

Over the next days I will be cutting them up to use fresh. I won't need to buy fruit at all. And I am planning to make my  use it up fruit cake plus peach crumble, peach pies... and so on! This year the peaches are small but they taste good.

I finished a couple of craft projects that have sat around. These are wash cloths and they will go nicely with my soaps once I get that made!

In the Christmas challenge I should have said lets finish any unfinished projects so we can use them as gifts.  I am glad I have these done and in the present cupboard now.

I did the usual things, made all the dinners, packed work lunches, used water from the washing machine and bath on the garden etc. 

I planted up heads of parsley seeds as a lot of my parsley has gone to seed. Last time I did this I ended up with hundreds of seedlings.  I filled pots I have sitting around and hopefully they will make nice gifts down the track.

Some of the ways I built up the home:

I have the laundry ready to paint. It is going to look much brighter and fresher than it does now. I am painting it light yellow. My plan is to start over the weekend. I can't wait to see fresh new walls. The paint is the free paint I found and I am tinting it myself. So a near free repainted laundry.

This week I started rotating my pantry stockpile. To keep everything fresh and useable and not waste anything I need to be rotating as part of normal life.

Some of the ways I got ahead:

I added some bargains to my present cupboard.

I have the next two birthdays presents wrapped and ready (we have a lot of January birthdays in our family!)

Also for dealing with the peaches I know I have pie plates, sugar, pastry, jars etc already.

I hope you had a good week! I feel I had a good week if I kept on top of things and did a few extra things or got ahead in some way and I did!

How did you save money and build up your home? All your efforts to look after your family and home are so important.  Little things add up too. Many things are little moments in time that are priceless. I had one that was rubbing Harpers tummy and feet. She goes all dreamy and droopy if you do that. Then if you tickle her she laughs and giggles. Just that made it a good week!

I need to write down some savings so I am ready for Monday and The Vicky Challenge!
Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Christmas Challenge. Week 2.

I hope you had a good week!
Last time we were thinking about reviewing our craft supplies and maybe looking at what we have available as far as potential gift making goes. And also beginning to gather some inspiration about what to make.

Next step is working out how to use up our supplies and match them to our ideas!
Over the year we can do both. No doubt we will need top up supplies and little things but using up things really keeps costs way down.

I found I have a lot of supplies.

I could start a glitter shop.
Also there is a good boxful of cellophane bags, a box of card making supplies and I have plenty of glue.

I have quite a bit of crochet cotton and lots of odd bits of wool. And lots of soft pink chenille yarn that I love!

Helen gave me melt and soap and rose moulds!

I can't wait to start soap making! This will provide lots of gifts.

I found pink microfiber to sew into the eye makeup cleansing cloths! It is perfect.

And Chloe gave me beautiful labels for cooking gifts... look at these!

I love them! This was a gorgeous present. I will use blue tissue paper and ribbons.

The best part of my supplies is I have some beautiful wool fabric for embroidery (given to me by a wonderful friend) and a lot of soft cottons. This includes several sets of sheets and doona covers in rose prints!

This is a huge amount of material! Most are double bed or queen sheets. With a Doona of course it is two layers of fabric. Masses.

Next I have lovely soft cottons. These feel like Liberty prints. I have gradually bought these as I love them.

They are in gorgeous florals and lovely colours! 

I have a box of laces, trims, braid and so on.

In this case matching my supplies with things I want to make and can use as gifts is super easy.

As several of you have said you have lots of fabric I will share some of my plans.

I start with the largest amounts of material. I want to make myself a rose tablecloth with a lace or ruffled edging. A rose table cloth is right up my alley! Then a set of rose napkins! I am in heaven already.

These would be a great gift. I can think of two friends who would love rose tablecloths with lace trim and napkins. So two presents will be completed.

Then rose pillowcases with lace trim or crochet edgings. Previously I have used up materials on pillowcases and they were good gifts...

Other times I have used double fabric and made kitchen towels.

Next is sets of napkins. These look so nice tied up in a pretty stack. For anyone wanting to cut back on paper products napkins are a lovely pretty gift.

My floral cottons are to make ladies hankies. I love pretty hankies. I saw some in a shop that were a larger ladies hanky and so pretty. They were $15 each and so beautiful. This is my plan for that material. This also fits my keeping postal presents smaller plan!

Once I have made the gifts that use up the larger sections then I start using up the smaller bits.

One things I like to do with small pieces is cover diaries. Another is use pretty little squares of fabric cut with pinking shears and stitched onto gift tags.  For lots of lovely ideas take a look at a blog called Flamingo Toes. She has a post on ideas for fat quarter sized fabrics that are gorgeous.
Of course little bits are great for some patchwork projects too.

Things are good as I have lots of plans of things I want to make for both the home and gifts plus supplies on hand to make them and get going.

That is the aim for the week ... get going! You only need one idea and it is a start. We want to produce some gifts and or cards before the end of January. Items to put into the gift cupboard. Don't forget there will be a show and tell here in the last week of the month!

The main aim of this challenge is to make our gifts and save a lot of money (that we can add in to the Vicky Challenge as well!)
But there is more. I always say busy hands make a happy heart. I really believe this is true. It is for a reason that the Proverbs 31 woman always has busy hands!  This would be a whole subject of it's own but she was making things for her household. She was also making things to sell.
If we become good at making something we have a commodity. We can also use it to trade or sell. A skill that lets you do this is a very good thing.  It is an advantage to your household. It might be an extra income stream or an emergency plan.

Building up your skills might mean you save money in a whole new area as you are making things you once might have bought.

Getting really proficient in something puts you ahead. Scripture says "do you see someone really skilled in their work? They will stand before Kings" and this is true. Ordinary people become sought after for wonderful skills. Sharpen your skills! Skills are worth a lot.

Next is something I think is important. Like all scripture it turns out to be true on many levels. Being busy with our hands is good for us. It is understood now that knitting, crochet, needlework etc all act as a calmative. Even blood pressure goes down. I can say I really notice this. My mind often is in overdrive. But while making something I will feel peace and happiness and get lost in what I am doing. It is wonderful! It is good for us.
If you stress or worry channel some of that into your work as it distracts and calms you and you are being productive. Then you feel happy and proud of what you have made. It is a win win!
Yes, I want you to save money and fill your gift cupboard but I also want you to feel the great happiness and contentment of having projects going, completing them and the fun of learning something new.
It is wonderful!

Spin offs are when you are busy sewing or working on something you are not in the mall, shopping etc. You are so content and busy a quiet time working away is your happy time. I have no desire to window shop I want to get on with my lace trimmed table cloth!

A good supply of gifts and things you have made covers another area as well. You have donations. We are all asked to donate to this and that. There are raffles, fundraisers, auctions and stalls. You will always have goods to donate. When the girls were at school I kept a special basket of things just for those times.  Your donations will raise a lot of money. Imagine donating a quilt for a raffle or auction. This will all save you money and raise them more!

Overall you will have things for gifts, donations and for bartering or selling. You cannot make too much!

Next week I will take a look at some gift ideas with yarn. There are so many!

What did you find in your craft supplies? Did you spot anything with potential that is not exactly a craft supply? ie I have a big old frame that I want to make a kitchen blackboard with.
If you have supplies but are not sure what to make ask. I love finding ideas to match what you already have!

I hope some inspiration has come your way. Some ladies are well up and running. Wendy has made hand towels and soaps already. Have a look over on My Abundant Life. This is good. There are going to be times we are really productive and times we are so busy! Getting ahead when we can is wonderful. 

I am sorry for such a late post today. Today is one of "those" days! xxx