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, 3 July 2018

The World Within our Walls. Easier ways...

With Chloe getting married in October I have been writing up recipes and tips for her.  Years ago I made the girls books containing all my best household tips and family recipes... but time has gone by and now I have lots more of both!  I have learned so much since then!

The books contained recipes from both Nans, Mum and me.   There were tips on all kinds of things and many photos, mementos and even Birthday cards given by my Mum to her Mother and so on.
So now I am adding to the books!

First I make some recipe cards and gave Chloe some of my more recent recipe suggestions, many of these are slow cooker recipes.  I decorated these with stamps given to me by Barb.
When life is busy and especially when you have a baby and little children nothing is a help like the slow cooker.
If you want to get started on Slow Cooking this is an early post on some slow cooking basics  Your number one handmaiden.
and part two Crock pot cooking series part 2.  After that there are lots of posts, see my index Crockpot cooking series...

So this is my number one helper.  Having soups, stews, baked apples, curries, etc going is so good and most of your work is done when that busy time arrives late afternoon, early evening.
These things are all good winter meals.  In summer I still use my slow cooker as who wants the oven on?  Even if we are having a BBQ I might have filled the slow cooker with corn or potatoes for an easy side dish in the evening.  And when there is fruit I stew lots and freeze portions and in the slow cooker.

All your winter stews/casseroles always add lots and lots of veggies!  Make it go as far as you can with sides like rice, mash, rolls, pasta... anything!   Your left over casserole will make the most beautiful meat pie fillings!   Pies seem to be a completely different meal and they freeze so well for when you need something fast.  Also you can make child sized ones in muffin trays or family sized ones.  Casseroles, Pies and Curries.

If your slow cooker is really baked on and messy oil it with hot water and a dishwasher tablet or some fabric softener.  Ignore it until the next day. Then it will clean so easily.
Actually this applies to most baking dishes.

This is my Grandmother (Dad's Mum)  Ivy. 
Harper is Harper Patricia (my Mum) Ivy.

 Meat is pretty expensive to VERY expensive.  I go between a few main ways to save on meat.  My husband loves his meat and I do too...

Method 1.  Buy the best deals and markdowns and know your prices.  Check the fresh meat section, the deli section AND the frozen section of your supermarket.  The difference across these can be huge. See if you have a wholesale butcher near by and sign up for the specials.  At the moment here the best buys are chicken, pork and roast lamb.  Lamb is really expensive unless you buy a leg and then I can get it at $8 a kilo.  Otherwise I can get port at $4.50 a kilo and chicken for less.  Yet it is also easy to pay $44 a kilo for lamb.  So it is not just the type of meat is it the cut.  Knowing all this I still watch for mark downs as well.
If you buy roasting cuts then you also have your own deli meat for lunches.  So you can buy a leg of ham for $8 a kilo and slice your own or pay $22 a kilo or more for shaved ham.  That is so much difference.  Small packets of deli meat are even more some up to $40 a kilo.

Method 2.  Serve meat with a ton of sides.  A curry it easy to do this, by the time you serve Naan, raita, salad and rice it is amazing how much actual meat you need.  This continually amazes me.
Our Nan's served a roast with many veggie sides, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, gravy... the meat itself went a very long way.  They knew what they were doing!

Method 3.  Use a small amount of a stronger flavoured meat to give the impression of meat but really there is hardly any.  Bacon is awesome for this a few bits of bacon in a salad and a man might like it lol or some chorizo in a pasta or some salami on a pizza..... it is just a bit but it packs a big punch.

This page is in Lucy's book.  It is a page about having a dress up box. 
Dress ups were a major hit at our place and I had enough for all friends to dress up too. 

Set aside or hide your left overs.  If you want this all to become tomorrows lunches, sandwich meat or a freezer meal make it disappear so it doesn't get hoovered up before you have a chance.  I hear this problem a lot!

Don't waste bread.  If you always have bread going stale divide it up and free portions.  Otherwise put left over bread to good use!  I have heard of people that buy a loaf a day and throw out half of it.

Here are some uses for left over bread... Never waste one slice of bread.

Use up all left overs.  If you keep a bag in the freezer for odds and ends for soup or stock then even the ends of a bunch of parsley or the leaves of a bunch of celery will be wonderful and almost free goodness for your next cook up.  Restaurants don't throw these out they would soon go broke!  The same with bones,  left over veggies etc.  It is all valuable.

When you make something make extra.  If I bake cakes, biscuits, scones, anything I am not just going to bake one batch.  Always double (or more) and freeze some.
If you are roasting veggies add a lot more and the next night use them in a pizza, frittata, salad.

If you have left over stone fruit this is a good recipe to use it up Economical and yummy cake.

This recipe is for sweet or savoury muffins and will turn almost any bits and pieces into lunch box fillers...  Miracle Muffins.  And they freeze perfectly!

When you are a bit low on food have a baking day.  Scones and pancakes are great fillers when the budget is low.  So is soup.  A little bit of ham or bacon is enough to make fried rice or a pizza.  You can extend a lot and seemingly make something out of nothing!   There are some cheap recipes here The Money Saving Baking Day.

If your home needs a brighten up a day of cleaning and re arranging makes a world of difference.  Clean windows do too.  It is amazing what a difference a day can make!

I use a timer all the time.  I will put it on to remind me about the oven but also for many other things like to put the washer on, bring clothes in, anything!   So many times that timer reminds me of something I have already forgotten.

If you can get more done in ten minutes when you hear a visitor is coming then use this technique to get lots done. Put on your timer for ten minutes and go go go!   Flylady has it that you put on your timer for 15 minutes.  She says you can do anything for 15 minutes.  And it works.  If it is something you really hate than put it on for five!  It will still get done!

Many times getting things done can be helped by thinking about the order we do things in. Some things are obvious like getting the washing hug out and it will be drying while you are doing other things.  But thinking about the order you do things can really be helpful.  There is a post here  The order of the day.

Another helper is to get your handmaidens working.  When I get up I like to get the dishwasher, slow cooker, washing machine and often the mix master going.   Get all your helpers working!  While these are working I can get on with other things.  This really gets things moving!

Both books have stores about the Great Grandmas and photos.
I also wrote up the family tree as far back as I could get. 

In school holidays we would have re arrange the bedroom days.  The girls loved this!  They would dream up a new place for the bed and furniture and we would shift everything.  It was a spring clean and total new look.  They loved it.  It was a win win for me. Sometimes this all took three days of activity and the end result was a "new room" normally it was just a zero or low cost makeover. 

Another school holidays activity was a baking day.  This was usually one or two days before school went back.  We would bake, decorate and package lots of lovely things for school ad some for friends.  It added to the freezer too.  As they got older the part they did became more and more so they learned a lot.  Decorating biscuits and cakes was the most popular though.   We did Gingerbread girls wearing bikinis and other mad things.

A fast and massive lift is to make your kitchen/dining room table loo beautiful.  Plus on a  tablecloth or runner,  some flowers or an arrangement of things in the centre and set it nicely.  This always looks so nice.

Keep bars of soap in your linen press and blanket box to make everything smell lovely. Dove pink soap is perfect for this and cheap!  It smells so good!  Then you always have spare soap and when you open the doors things smell heavenly. 

I am always hearing "my family won't eat leftovers" 
And "my family insist on brand name products"
When you go to a restaurant you are likely to be eating left overs.  They don't waste anything even the onion skins and celery leaves are used.  Left over roast veggies might become soup.... 
If you are inventive with left overs no one knows they are left overs!  And don't tell them either.  That casserole is now "shepherds pie" or "beef and mushroom pie"  and those veggies are now "gourmet pizza" ... you get the idea! 

This is along the lines of when someone says they will never buy thrift store linen.  They imagine the linen in a hotel is brand new every night!  No, it is just washed! 

I use decanters, jars and tins.  In go my Aldi (or other bargain) products.  No one has ever known what brand I am buying as packets are history fast and they have always just eaten what is in m containers.  No questions asked.   This can be a good way to save a fortune.

Keep a gift, card and wrap cupboard.  When there are sales stock up on all of these things or make them.  This will save so many trips to the shops and a fortune. 

When choosing a recipe think of what you have rather than what you are dreaming of.  Apple muffins are really just as good as blueberry and a fraction of the price.  

If there is something you run out of that sends you to the store regularly stock up on it.  We keep fresh milk but also long life, canned and powdered.  I am not going to the store for one thing.

Keep a good pantry and never pay full price for anything.  When you get ahead then you will be able to just wait for the next sale cycle.  Then stock up.  This means you are paying half price for all your regular items.  What a saving. 

Also know your substitutes or learn to use the internet to find them.  If you run out of something find something you can substitute.  

Stain treat things straight away.  I have soaking buckets so that anything with a mark is soaking until it is washed.  If anyone has a stain they can't get out guess where it comes!? 

Never put clean dry clothes in a basket.  A basket is a crease machine!  Even lightly creased things will come out of there deeply creased!   I dry things on hangers and fold from the line.  Never add crumples this defies logic!  It is making so much work! It is like punching yourself in the head. 

When you go from one room to another take things with you.  So much putting away happens automatically then. 

Ask and you shall receive.... if you are wishing for a slow cooker, a bread maker, anything... tell your family and friends.   Most likely someone will have one they never use and give it to you.  This applies to canning equipment, jars, fruit, herbs, veggies, yarn, fabric and pretty much anything.  Put the word out there.   You will be amazed. 

That is enough for today!  I already lost one whole blog post as my laptop seems to be playing up.

What are your best household tips?   I love to find new ones.  Sometimes ONE tip can be a game changer.  A couple of years ago one tip from The Cheapskates Club saved me $600 that year and has ever since.   These are the times you think WHY didn't I think of that!?

I hope you are having a good week!   Busy here.  I have three fruit cakes in the oven and the timer is on! xxx


  1. Some lovely tips there. I find soaking baked on things with Napisan or similar works. Great for oven racks and baking trays.
    I recently discovered that Ayam brand do a powdered coconut milk powder. It comes in a packet of 3 handy sachets which make up 250 mls of coconut milk. Handy when you thought you had a tin in the cupboard but didn't!

    1. Dear Joolz, Thank you for the napisan tip. Oven racks are a challenge!
      Back ups to basics are so very handy. I love a long life cream we can get. One was discontinued but we can still get it in cartons. Often in cooking I need cream. Probably there are back ups I dont know about but with country living I will find out fast.... no nearby store! Thank you for telling us this, Love

  2. Annabel your girls are lucky to have so much passed onto them. This is not something that I have had as my Mum wasnt and still isnt the best of cooks. My Dad's Mum spent a lot of time cleaning the pressure cooker explosions off the ceiling in the kitchen.
    I have a little notebook and pen in my bag. I tend to write down recipes and tips in this book when I hear them, read them or see them in action. I take photos of recipes in magazines when I am reading them. I have these recipe photos in a recipe file on my computer.
    One hint I have is a cleaner I make up. I forget where I found it but I use it often for heavy cleaning. This is a spray bottle half full of hot vinegar and then filled up with cheap dishwashing detergent. I have used this to clean the exterior of the caravan, calcium build up off the glass shower screen, black mould off the cravan awning and for any greasy clean ups.
    It is super duper for cleaning grease off the shower floor and off the white ceramic tiles in the house. Bluey walked this through the house and into the shower.
    Have a wonderful week. Life is good.

    1. Dear Jane, Your won wealth of knowledge and tips would make a great journal of recipes and tips! When your daughter has kids suddenly she will be wanting to know how to do this and that, things you havent even thought of but "just do" and we keep on learning i.e. the sour dough.
      I love the cleaner! That is a good mix and cheap to make! When something covered in mud or mould comes up sparkling clean its like a miracle. Very satisfying! I will remember this! With love

  3. Hi Annabel and what a beautiful post :). How beautiful are the recipe and memento books you have made for your daughters and also know your quick tips to save time too.

    I also use a lot of your tips like bulk cooking for eg chickens and cook 2 at a time and break the meat off and freeze it for multiple meals like chicken pie, stir fries and for sandwiches. We also bake enough biscuits, brownies or homemade granola and fill up the oven each and every time saving on power. Speaking on slicing meat for sandwiches I will have to get a meat slicer too which would make life so much easier since I personally carve like someone using a chainsaw :), thick chunks anyone ?.

    With cleaning I zone clean whether I am in the garden or in the house cleaning. For instance if we are harvesting something from one vegetable patch I will weed it also and mulch it at the same time so that zone is then done. Same with in the home anything on my way to doing something else that needs tidying or picking up gets done too in a couple of minutes, it all makes a difference to the overall tidiness of the home.

    On to tips we use -

    All purpose homemade laundry stain remover -
    - 1 L of dish washing liquid.
    - 1 L of ammonia.
    - 8 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda.

    Mix in a bottle and shake and apply with a toothbrush in a circular motion on the front and back of stains, leave 30 mins and wash, you will need to shake it before each use. If soaking soak whites overnight in layers and in between put a small amount of stain remover, next layer and so on and top with warm water and soak overnight. It brings up your whites so white it is unbelievable. With dark coloured clothing I recommend only spot stain removing and washing after 30 mins as this solution can remove the dye in dark clothing.

    For floor mopping on vinyl and tiles we use this and it removes grease and dirt wonderfully and puts a real shine on them.

    2 tablespoons of ammonia.
    1 tablespoon of dish washing liquid.
    Top in bucket with 4 litres of warm water.

    For cleaning windows we use 2 tablespoons of ammonia in 4 L of warm water and a tiny bit of dish washing liquid. It brings the glass up beautifully with a squeegee.

    For cleaning the inside of the oven we use neat methylated spirits on a nylon scourer and scrub it, wipe it out and do it again and wipe it out. It comes up beautifully shiny and clean as methylated spirits is an industrial metal cleaner. For the oven shelves we pull them out put them in the bath tub with hot water with 1/3 cup of dish washing liquid added to it. Let oven shelves soak for a few hours. This melts the built up grime off them with a tiny scrub and then if there are any stubborn little bits left put some bicarb soda on a damp nylon scrubber and give them a gentle scrub it comes right off with minimal effort. Simply rinse, dry and put the shelves back in. For the tops of the stove around the hotplates that get stained used an equal amount of dish washing liquid and bicarbonate of soda and scrub gently the stains will vanish in no time.

    For cleaning fireplace doors get a damp cloth dunk in white fire ash and scrub over the glass with it and rinse off with clean water it comes up beautifully. This also works for flues to get off stubborn creosote marks.

    I hope this helps everyone on some of the more yucky time consuming tasks we all don't like doing often.

    Have a great week :).


    1. Dear Sewingcreations, Thank you! Using the heat of the oven for several things at once or one after the other is very good. I did that yesterday with cakes then into the heat went dinner! Also I am thinking a lot about how I can use smaller appliances sometimes.
      I like the zone cleaning too. Getting everything you can done while there or while doing one thing add on another, it is efficient.
      Thank you for the stain remover recipe! I have a bottle that I will make up and fill with this! I will also try your window cleaner recipe.
      I didnt know about the metho in the oven! The oven is my biggest problem so I will try it.
      And the fireplace door... I will try this! At the farm we will have a fireplace like this!
      Thank you so much you have given me a heap of tips I need! I am sure others will appreciate them too! With love

  4. What a wonderful thing you are doing for your whole family by putting together the books!

    1. Thank you MamaHen! I did a lot of work on them, it would be nearly ten years ago. So an update will really add to them! xxx

  5. Oh dear I just lost my post ! So a quick recap, Dear Annabel , beautiful photos above , your dads mum and baby look gorgeous! And Nana Brink with the girls is a happy one.
    I love that you have made memory books for your girls, what treasures for them!
    Thanks Bluebirds for the above hints and recipes .
    IM off to Hawaii with hubby and friends tomorrow ,and a cruise around the islands , should be a lovely break of a different kind , some dancign involved too ;-)
    With love Maria xxx

    1. Dear Maria, First of all I lost the whole post then you lose the reply! Thanks for trying again!
      Oh my goodness have a wonderful trip! That sounds amazing! Lots of photos please! With love

  6. There are many great tips here. Thank you - a great post.
    What a wonderful gift for your girls - and hopefully they can pass it on to their girls some day. Precious.

    1. Thank you Cheryl, I do really hope the tips and recipes help and get used down the line. Both Nans and Mum are all wonderful cooks. I had good food growing up! Many thanks! Love

  7. Annabel!
    As usual this is a lovely and inspiring post! Your family is blessed beyond measure to have a godly mother and wife that is never idle. Your energy is amazing. The books are such a dear gift for the girls! I was especially impressed with your comment that we should choose "dinner" based on what we have and not what we're dreaming of just to be a foodie. Today in a Pinterest world young ladies, and even some of us older women, are constantly tempted to make the newer, fancier, on trend recipes that take ingredients that may never be used again and cost a week's pay! It's slippery slope into frustration. Simplicity has become my mantra - simplicity and peace. :) Thank you for all of your hard work making your wisdom available to us!

    1. Dear Nana Jan, Thank you so much! I am blessed to have Mum who is never idle... both Nans the same!
      I se this all the time... people say what will I cook for dinner and they even ask the family. I answer what do you have? What needs using up today and tomorrow...that is how you decide... if not what is on the best special? This is how we decide..
      Simplicity and peace is a great mantra! Thank you for such kind comments Nana Jan! With love

  8. I love your posts Annabel. They're good inspiration for when I'm feeling overwhelmed. My tip is- have a place for everything. I recently when through a huge clean up of our basement (still needs more but it's much much better), and I found that once I had a box or bin or spot for certain items it made the cleaning up go so much faster. I wasn't setting it aside to find a home later, everything had a home. One other tip- If you're embarking on a big organization, try and get something out of your house every day, whether it's to the dump, charity or a friend that can use the item. After all the cleaning up we did, I feel like we have more because I know where things are now and what we have and I've given away so much "stuff" that we would never use.

    1. Dear Sarah, Thank you so much! I agree about having a place for everything and giving away what you just will never use. There is nothing like moving house for a big clean out. I am not moving one thing that we do not need, use or love. Also I think I will have more space and homes for things and I also will have a walk in pantry! I cannot wait to organise that! Imagine! With love and thanks,

  9. Your books for your daughters are wonderful. They will be a legacy for generations to come. Daughter in laws seem to take this sort of advice as meddling and I have three of those. But, they are also shy about asking for advice and recipes so I have not figured that out yet. Our daughters have learned well growing up here and I think our older daughter is actually a better cook than I am especially when feeding a lot of people for almost nothing. When she lived in the US they had a chili night every week in their home for whoever wanted to come and often had 25 there. She always cooked vegetarian and told everyone that if they wanted meat to bring their own. No one ever did since she is so good at seasoning everything so well.

    Meat here in the US is so much cheaper than what you are paying there. I can find real deals most weeks like a pound of bratwurst this week for only 50 cents. Last week we bought 12 packs of precooked real bacon pieces for 50 cents a pack. My husband is always much more receptive to salads with a teaspoon of bacon and a little bit of bacon makes everything better as you said. Whole chickens go on sale for .59 to .69 a pound often enough here that I do not have to pay more than that if I am careful to keep the freezer stocked. When I buy whole chickens I repackage them into a gallon zip top bag all ready to cook. That way they can go from the freezer to the slow cooker first thing in the morning without even having to thaw them. Easy!

    I bake all our bread in a bread machine and since it is so much cheaper than store bought I find that I have to guard myself against thinking it doesn't matter if we throw out the stale bits. But, if I cube it up and add it to the bag in my freezer it is ready for French toast casserole or stuffings at any time and it does not get wasted. I often butter both sides of slices of stale bread and toast it in a skillet for Texas toast which my husband loves with any meal. Many, many meals were stretched here with a basket of hot biscuits when all five children were home. With a bread machine in my kitchen it is easy to stretch a company meal with hot loaves of bread and everyone loves it so they don't care if it is with a pot of soup and not something more.

    I have found that cleaning up the slow cooker is so much easier if I always spray it with nonstick cooking spray and why I did not think of that 25 years earlier I do not know! Last year I bought a slow cooker that allows me to brown right in the pot and then switch to slow cook. It was expensive but I bought it with gift cards earned on Swagbucks so my cost was actually nothing. It makes starting the slow cooker so much easier and all the flavor from browning stays in the pot.

    Small bits of leftovers are good in quesadillas. A tablespoon of taco meat and some leftover refried beans with a bit of cheese is delicious after a taco night. This is the only way my husband eats refried beans and I am not sure he knows they are in there. Leftovers from fajitas get chopped up and added with cheese and it only takes a tablespoon or two of the meat mixture to make a really good quesadilla. A cup of leftover chili makes delicious nachos. The longer we have been empty nesters the better I have gotten at only cooking enough for one meal and there are no leftovers to deal with. If I want leftovers I cook for leftovers and plan for freezer meals.

    Back when I was growing up and we did a lot of camping we would sit a stuck on pot in an ant bed overnight and it was perfectly clean and ready to be washed in the morning. I am not sure how I feel about that now as an adult but it sure did work!

    1. Dear Lana,
      Your daughter sounds like a fabulous cook and also hostess. I notice how often your prices seem incredible to me. Also we were in the US years ago when the girls were little. We stayed at hotels and after a couple of days we learned to order two breakfasts as two fed four people. One one occasion one breakfast fed four of us. I was amazed! We loved it.
      Thank you for your food tips and use it up tips. The ant bed is a funny tip. I had never thought of that one!
      Thank you Lana, I have been slow getting all my replies done! With love

  10. I have been reading for awhile, but have not commented. I love your advice and to see how your family does things. I am in the USA so some things are different. I would be interested seeing how you are making your book for Chloe. It looks handwritten, have you typed the recipes? How do you plan to bind it together?

    1. Dear Cindy, I have hand written everything in the books including recipes. I bought big hard covered blank recipe books. They had some pictures but mostly blank pages to fill in. They also had pockets where you could tuck things so I put in card and photos. So it is already bound etc. Any hard covered note book would be fine I would just cover it with something nice. I included hand written recipes by Nan and Mum. I photocopied those so one would go in each book. To me hand writing is beautiful and personal and I value my Nans had written letters and recipes. Thank you for commenting I hope this explanation helps! With love

  11. Awesome tips, Annabel! Now that my daughter is married and has children, she is asking me for more tips and advice; I guess I've advanced to experienced and frugal from being old-fashioned and cheap, haha! One thing that I do regularly is make chicken stock. We occasionally purchase a whole cooked chicken from Costco for $5 when we want an easy meal. After getting as much meat as possible off of it, we put the bones in the freezer. When 3 or 4 bags of the bones are in there, I take them out, plunk them in a huge stock pot with a bunch of water and a bit of white vinegar (to get minerals from the bones), and cook them on low for a day. I let it cool overnight, then take off whatever meat was left on the bones to give to my dogs, strain the rest, and can it (could also be frozen). Great for use in soups and other recipes.

    1. Dear Chipmunk,
      I think the chicken broth is a great thing. I heard this about adding vinegar and I do that now! There is so much goodness and now I am noticing bone broth is suddenly popular again and people buy it! It is really basically free to make since it is left overs! This is good nutrition and valuable! Thank you for sharing this! With love

  12. Thank you for sharing! There is always a need for a recap on the basics. I love my "servant girls". My kids love to tease about them. And I love to give crockpots as wedding gifts.


    1. Dear Leslie, I really think the crockpot is the best gift ever! I am sure in the old days one of the jobs of hand maidens was the washing which probably took all day so the washing machine is absolutely doing this work. People have forgotten how long these tasks take without the appliances! We certainly do have handmaidens. Its amazing really. Now and then I have a look at new appliances and improvements in appliances. Some are no use to me i.e. I do not want a fridge with a computer screen on the front! But others mmm I think that could help me! I might even put on another handmaiden! :) With love

  13. A great post, full of wisdom and good old fashioned advice, Annabel. Thankyou. Another great tip, is to simply ensure that you have the right equipment for the task. Good sharp knives are essential, and can make all the difference in slicing your roast meat or poached chicken for sandwich meat, chopping and dicing your veges, and cutting up fruit for smoothies. The right knife can turn a 15 minute hard slog, into a five minute breeze. They don't have to be expensive, but keep them sharpened with a good tool. There are many types. I got an electric knife sharpener from Aldi for $12 on sale. It's brilliant. But even then, the kitchen shops have other alternatives that are not expensive. On the subject of slicing meat, freeze your bacon in stacks of four slices, allow them to thaw just slightly, then it's really quick work to dice them or remove rinds for future quick pan frying. Allow poached chicken or corned beef to cool in the liquid too. They'll slice thinly and economically. Partially freeze red meats, and slice into wafer thin slivers for stir frying too. Thinly sliced meat is always tender no matter the cut. I often will pan sear a piece of blade steak, allow it to rest, then slice it thinly to add to a stir fry as well. You add it at the last minute so it just barely steams in the middle, and it's melt-in-the-mouth. That's all I can think of for now. I hope that's helpful. Love, Mimi xxx

    1. Dear Mimi, We have that knife sharpener! Well Andy does... he is in charge of this! I agree about the knives... I found this out with cutting pumpkins... when I got a decent knife suddenly it was easier!
      The thinner slices is a very good tip. When I do this I think of you. I did it the other night because I had almost run out of something but I made it work!
      Thank you so much for your tips. Your poached chicken and rice cooking tips are amongst my mainstays! Love them! With love

  14. Hi Annabel, so full of wisdom there. Last week I made my first ever crockpot meal in my new crockpot. I cooked a piece of lamb and a zillion veggies. We had that for dinner then I made meat pies. My partner went crazy over them. Then two days later I made your chicken soup, it did make litres. It was delicious and I took an ice cream container full to the mother in law who was unwell. she sent me a text saying it was so lovely and she feels better already. I have another container of that soup in the freezer. then this morning I put on a piece of beef and again as many veg as I could. These are in the process of becoming pies. I have made 16 so far, about 9 dollars of beef, probably about 4.00 of veggies and three packets of puff pastry at about seven dollars. I have stopped and come back to this - I got 24 pies. for 20.00 and they are really gourmet! Very delicious. I am heading interstate for a few days so they will no doubt form the basis of his meals whilst I'm away. So what a saving, and what wonderful fresh food. I never realised how wonderful a slow cooker is. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Another saver I have is the thermomix. I know it's expensive but I bought it six years ago and I have loved it. It has replaced multiple kitchen appliances. The slow cooker was a difficult one for me to buy because with my thermie mentality I think, that's all I need. I made two batches of pumpkin soup this morning, they are dished up into containers and also in the freezer. That is a great saving, and I do love meals for when I'm not going so well. I've also made my cold pressed soap recipe and put in some essential oils as well. I have started sewing again after a few weeks off being not well. Going well on my 365 challenge for this year. So far as at today, 5 July, I have made 224 items! And when I sewed myself, overlocking small pieces of lovely terry towelling, about 2 dozen small face wipes, I called it one item. So each of those items is a good thing. I have been making many many things of the new baby and also have made a start on Christmas gifts.

    Fi xx

    1. Hi Fiona,
      Well done on all of your sewing and your slow cooker success! I am curious about your 365 challenge - are you aiming to sew 365 items by the end of the year, or are you aiming to sew a little bit each day for 365 days? I think I should set myself some kind of sewing challenge too, as I love it so much, but after a long day of doing everything else that needs doing, I feel too tired and unmotivated to actually go and sew. So maybe a challenge will help me to change this up a little. Any tips you have from your challenge would be appreciated! Cheers, Kelly

    2. Dear Fiona, You have hit the ground running with the slow cooker. Perfect time of year too. Google Mimis Greek Lamb slow cooker recipe. It is on her blog... maybe under recipes in four sentences. It is sensational and you get several meals.. As you try more things you will love your slow cooker more and more!
      Your sewing challenge is amazing! Your gift cupboard will be full, the coming baby will have everything too!
      I hope your trip goes well... sorry for slow reply I am catching up now! With much love,

    3. Hi Kelly, my goal is to make 365 full things. Back in 2016 Annabel sent me a beautiful covered notebook and i thought and thought how I could use it and keep it for some time, as opposed to one that fills up and then becomes useless. And I love a goal, I find I have to have one or I get slack. So I decided to set myself a goal of 365 items made in one year on my sewing machine or overlocker. I only got to just under 200 I think it was last year as I fractured my arm and was out of action for a few months. And so I kept the notebook going as there was space and now I've made 224 items. I have a grandchild due any week now and my son and daughter in law joked about the things I've made but they are very happy with them. So lots for the new baby and my son's best friend is also due and I have made things for them and for a few girls at work who are new grandma's and some maternity things and so on. I don't sew every day, but would like to. Thank you for your comments, and if you are seeking motivation, I personally find writing it down and having a plan certainly makes me accountable.

      Annabel, yes I've just jumped in with the slow cooker. I am rapt! I will check out Mimi's recipes. Re the sewing baby cupboard, I took two garbage bags - black plastic ones - full to the brim to the kids with blankets, bibs, bunny rugs, pants, tops, burp mats and so on. They were amazed. Thanks, I'm bit nervous about my trip as the weather forecast is severe - and i'm flying Rex. Yep the little 33 seater saab aircraft. About 11 years ago I had a job with a surgeon, we flew Rex once a week and I had to give the job up after a particularly hairy winter, flying in that little plane each week, it was too stressful!!! And there I'm doing it again tomorrow. Wish me luck. Fi xx

    4. Thanks so much Fiona. That certainly is inspiring! I'm going to write up a plan of my sewing goals today. All the best for the happy & safe arrival of your grandchild. Kelly

  15. What an amazing post, Annabel. I need to come back and take notes. It really is fabulous and full of information. I LOVE that you are making these beautiful books. They'll be treasured for generations and generations. There's nothing quite like the handwritten word from someone that you love and who loves you. I have kept cars, letters and a handwritten recipe book from my late grandparents and they move me every time. Lots of love, Bridge

    1. Dear Bridge,
      I am so glad you have kept those letters and recipes! I have seen a hand written recipe framed or reproduced onto a t towel etc so there are some craft and gift ideas here too but I would always preserve the original. These days everyone is decluttering and I fear these kinds of things re just chucked out when in fact they are priceless! Thank you Bridge! With love

  16. Dear Annabel,
    Wonderful post with lots of tips! I love the books you have made for your girls. They are so special and personal. And helpful! My mom made the girls in our family similar recipe books as each of us got out on our own. There are no pictures but she has tips and special memories in them, ie she wrote by her caramel frosting recipe that this was always her birthday request as a child, chocolate cake with caramel frosting. I made that for her birthday one year after reading it in the cookbook and she acted like I could not have ever given her a better gift! She also included really basic instructions for those without much experience, like how to cook rice, how to bake potatoes, etc. Very helpful.
    One of the things I learned recently is a grocery shopping tip. Sometimes when items are on clearance, the sale price doesn't ring up properly at the register and then there is a hassle of the cashier having to call someone to go look for the item to verify the price change. The tip is to take a picture with your phone of the item and price on the shelf before you put it into your shopping cart. If there is an issue at checkout, just show the cashier your phone! I saw a man doing this at the store a couple weeks ago and thought it was brilliant!
    Along the lines of books and memories, I have decided that for John's birthday (Sunday!) I am going to write him a letter. I want to do this every year and then give them to him when he is older :)
    Thank you ladies for all the excellent tips! I hope everyone has a good week.
    Love, Kelsey

    1. Dear Kelsey,
      I love how you made your Mum her favourite frosting! Also I love the idea of including basic instructions for simple things.
      I love the tip on a photo of the special price! Here if they charge you the high price and it is meant to be a special price then mostly we get that item for free! Bonus!
      How exciting for John's very first birthday! That year went fast! I love your idea too... memories are so precious. With love

  17. Thank you for your encouragement,hard work on this blog, and advice. I am happy that you are getting to move out to the farm. When I am already in the mess of baking... because I always seem to make a mess.... I measure out the dry ingredients for pancakes, cookies, or bread dough for bread machine. Saves time for me later. I put them in ziplock style bags and use a Sharpe marker to label with additional ingredients and mixing/cooking instructions. I save the bags and reuse them as they are not dirty. I can store two packs of it in the bread machine itself when empty. The pancakes are nice when "Starving" grandkids show up. I buy the cheaper buttermilk and freeze it 1 cup to a bag as that is what my recipe calls for. When my son was in Montana for grad school, we would travel cross country to see him. I had lots of baking set up like this for cakes, bars, cookies etc. Doesn't take a lot of room in the van. We rented an apartment so we could cook. Made it much more affordable. Rather spend my money seeing the country. I like to cook extra and freeze. When we clean off the table after meals, all the food is portioned out in microwavable containers and used as meals for work (both employed) or another time. Saves a waste most of the time.
    Sheila Michigan USA

    1. Dear Sheila, You made me laugh as kids arriving, coming home from school etc they are always "starving"! lol
      It is a great idea to have things measured out and I love the idea of having a mix ready to go inside the bread maker!
      I love your food/cooking tips thank you so much! With love

  18. Dear Annabel,
    This has been such an amazing post and I have also enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I'm not sure I have anything to add that hasn't already been shared so I'll just close with a recipe that was given to me some 40 years ago when I was a young bride. I still like to use it as it makes the most perfect roast that satifies​ everyone's taste from rare to well done. It hardly uses any fuel energy and comes out perfect every time. "Perfect Roast Beef". Bring a roast of any size to room temperature. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Do Not Use any salt on the roast. Place roast in oven and cook for 5 minutes per pound. Turn the oven off and leave the roast in for 2 hours.No peeking. After two hours remove from oven and serve.
    The end pieces will be well done and as it's sliced it will get to rare or medium rare in the middle. Blessings, Cookie

    1. Dear Cookie, Thank you for this! I love it! Mimi has similar ways she cooks both rice and poached chicken. With power the way it is these methods are going to be so helpful! Thank you!
      Thank you for your kind comments too! With much love

  19. Hi Annabel and bluebirds,
    I agree with everyone, such a great post Annabel, thank you! So much helpful info and advice.
    I have a small tip that may be different and helpful to some. I use an electric cafe press/sandwich press that I use to make toasted sandwiches for lunches. I used to find it such a pain to clean afterwards, especially if any filling leaks in the press. But I have discovered a great easy way to clean it - works best when press is still hot, so if cold, turn it on to heat up a little, then turn off power & unplug, spray pressing surfaces with a spray bottle of 50:50 water and white vinegar, wipe over with a paper towel or cloth. Everything cleans off so easily and quickly. And its great as the cleaner is vinegar based, it is safe for food to be in contact with if any residue remains in the press.
    Thanks to everyone for sharing their tips and recipes too!
    Cheers, Kelly

    1. Dear Kelly, Thank you for this and I can say yes the sandwich press gets in a shocking state! Baked on cheese has a lot to answer for! This is a great tip! With love

  20. Wow! There was so much information in this post !! What fun. Truly I felt like I was reading a letter from our Laine !! :-)) I too will go through it again with a notebook so I can gleam out what I want to keep in my homemaking notebook.

    My daughter made a cookbook for her mother-in-law of her family recipes. She uses the method of a handful of this and a shake of actual recipes. So she sat with her over and over through months of her cooking to get the right actual amounts of each ingredient. They tried the recipes as she wrote them and agreed they were right. So now the family actually has 'recipes' of the meals they grew up with. Many of the recipes go back to the old country cooking brought over to the U.S. years ago. They have always been part of their lives and still are.
    Things done personally like that mean so much. Your books for your family will be treasured forever. Sarah


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