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.

Saturday 31 May 2014

A shiny new month, a shiny new season!

It's exciting for me, a Sunday, a first of the month and a new season!  All in one day!
I always like to plan my week ahead on a Sunday. A few minutes doing this really saves me a lot of time during the week. it's a amazing. And I get more done if I have a list and some goals. I really achieve so much more.

On top of that at the start of a new month I look back over the last and think about everything we achieved and things that were special then work on what it is I really want to do with this brand new month. And in this case as well what do I want to do through winter? For me that includes how to I enjoy and love it instead of just survive it! Doing this turned the last two winters into very happy snuggled in ones instead of gloomy long ones that had me desperate for some sun. One of the things that has helped me is to take every opportunity that the sun is out to be out there in it. And today even though the first day of winter the sun is shining! I always keep a spot to sit for a cup of tea or to write a letter and make a phone call out in the sun. This makes a world of difference to how I feel.

My next one is to illuminate the evenings so they just don't seem gloomy. We have a little chimnea outside and have a little fire, make toasties and have candles. THis makes a very cosy atmosphere that I love.

From past experience I know that Christmas time seems to be the time that I either am so happy with my year or that I wonder where it went and wonder what happened to my good intentions! And I want this Christmas to be in the first group. So the first of each month is my day to take a look at how my goals are going and not forget them!

I am just doing this now with my diary out and it is really lovely. And it is only June we still have more than half a year to (insert your things...) make lots of presents, meet my health and fitness goals, finish our kitchen, achieve my blog goals and so on. And I already have some happy ticks on some of my goals.

This all stops me from later going "oh yeh I was going to....." and "whatever happened to that!?" 

I think I have learned a lot this year. (so far) I feel I have and I have read a lot of books too. Some of them have given me so many ideas and tips and most of them have been free ebooks along with a couple that were two dollars or so. 

Winter is a good time for saving too. I think pots of soup, long slow cooking and crock pot meals are good money savers and filling too. Inexpensive meat and vegies turn into masterpieces that are so delicious and comforting. I get stuck into my present making and churn out lots of things that come Christmas time I am amazed at all my gift giving options. Busy as a bee is also my way of not feeling gloomy about winter. For winter gifts I make lots of really soft rugs. They are lovely to work on and make great gifts. I keep several for emergency gifts as well and smaller ones for children and car rugs.

My goals and savings etc are where I am in my life, family and circumstances and yours will be different. But the idea is the same, to take just a few minutes to consider and plan and get the most out of a year that goes by too quickly. I'd rather enjoy the moment if I can than long for another time. And winter has some beautiful things... marshmallows melted on hot chocolate, bon fires, twinkly lights, snuggly evenings, layered outfits, scarves and boots, delicious soups and hot baths. It doesn't sound too bad!

Thursday 29 May 2014

Win win savings.

I really love changes we can make that have multiple benefits. Like something that saves you money and also improves your health. Or organising your wardrobe and making new outfits from things you have saves you money and has you feeling good as if you have new clothes!

As we are all talking about our budgets and the budget overall it got me thinking about things we have done already that have had benefits on several levels. And then to take inspiration from this and see what else I can come up with!

Years ago I stopped buying lemonade. It was the only soft drink I bought and I loved it. I stopped dead buying that and fruit juice. So that money was saved and I wonder how many kilos I also saved right there. That was a good one.

Recently I decided to make a change that would save $100+ a month which was to replace going to the gym with other exercise. As I drove through busy traffic, burning petrol, to get to the gym and back I would think blaaahh this is stressful, petrol is costing me heaps and my precious energy is spent doing things I don't like one bit! It was stressful and seemed ironic that I should be getting so stressed doing something good for me.  I made a commitment and followed what Laine had done. Just as Nana did she worked hard and was fit and strong. I set the timer in the kitchen and would go like crazy on housework, gardening, window washing, vacuum cleaning. I mean get my heart rate right up and work! And it worked. I have hand weights I use for a few minutes a few times a week as well and I don't mind doing that. It's a win win. My energy bursts are good for me, I get my heart rate up, save $1200 a year and my house is much more sparkly! So this is what I have continued with plus drinking my water and other little things I try to do. I really feel I have had multiple benefits from this change.

Other win win swapsies are line drying clothes instead of dryer. Sun and exercise and free drying.
Spot cleaning instead of dry cleaning... Big savings and less chemicals.
Grow your herbs instead of buying them. Savings and outdoor activity is good for you. Plus I find I tend to use many more, I just dash to the back door and snip some off. And overall it's a boost of flavour, vitamins and looks wonderful.

Walk or cycle to the shops if they are nearby and save petrol and improve your health.
Swap take out night for assemble your own pizza or toastie at home night. Much cheaper, you can make spares for lunch boxes and use up your left overs, all for a fraction of the price....
Swap buying cards and gifts to making them. (I have a tutorial coming up)
Swap coffee out with friends to crafting with friends and produce your homemade presents together.
Give up magazines and use pinterest and blogs for your inspiration and ideas.
Don't buy lotto tickets use this money each week to build up your pantry or save for an annual 5 star weekend away! ( a nice surprise for your husband!)
Start collecting and trading cuttings for your garden instead of buying plants. My friend Sue has a whole beautiful garden mostly from cuttings and bits and pieces, each plant has a story, is a memory of a garden past or the person who gave it to her. Beautiful! And free!
Give up iffy products like margarine for olive oil or a healthy alternative.
Learn to DIY your hair treatment/colour/nails/pedicure or whatever it is that is costing a lot. They are all easy.
Stay out of the cleaning product isle and save a fortune, make natural cleaners instead and also save on exposure to toxic chemicals.
And the same with air fresheners... save your money and use vanilla or natural oils and essences and good old cleanliness and fresh air.
Pack your own lunch and the families as they are usually healthier and this saves so much money it's ridiculous!
Use travel mugs to coffee on the go, they stay hot ages and usually have less calories than purchased.
One of my favourites is stop buying water in plastic bottles and save money, exposure to plastics, the environment. A water filter if you need it installed still saves hundreds a year.
Putting the crock pot on in the morning when I know the day will be busy... saving money or temptation on take aways, calories and health.

What are your win win swaps? I am always trying to find more. Many times I am finding getting back to wholesome basics proves to be a good switch that saves money in all areas. And I feel like I have a song in my heart as I work on things as you know it makes an enormous difference and reap the results.

Have a wonderful weekend. And start of winter (for us here in Australia)! xxx

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Beautify your phone.

Yesterday I shared my discoveries of lots of free and pretty things for our phones. Too much to cover in one day so this is my second instalment.

After making it feel pretty and personal useful apps are the next thing to take advantage of. You never need pay a cent as although there are apps that cost a dollar or two many are free. The point is to think of any area in your life that you could do with help and go from there. There is an app for everything.

You can search in the app store and online. Doing this I am just amazed at what there is. Some of them are so beautiful I just want to play with them. 

I started with an app to help me sleep as I heard they were good. Well they are! Last night listening to the sound of waves I fell asleep like a baby. I chose Sleep Pillow which is free but there are so many. You choose any sound that is soothing to you and set it for as many hours as you wish. I pinned my  earphones to the top of my pillow. It worked wonderfully. WHy I didn't do this sooner, I have no idea!

Next I chose Wunderlist. It is an app of lists. You make your own categories. Mine are things like Todays To do list, This weeks to do list, Aims for the Month, Ideas for presents... and so on. Then you fill it in as you think of things. You swipe off done things and they are ticked off. You can have a list for everything you can think of! I am really liking this app as how often I go to the shops and forget my list! It is satisfying to me to see great lists of things ticked off, this appeals to me so it's a good app for me.

Another I like is Coletto which is really a very pretty calendar you can fill in with appointments, birthdays etc. It is lovely.

There are wonderful apps for everything from tracking your exercise, calories, what to make for dinner from the ingredients you have, track your period, meditate, yoga apps,
language, you name it. Whatever you need an assistant with theres an app for it!

A "bit different one" I like and am using is called Carrot. I stumbled on this one! Essentially it is a motivational tool. It is a grumpy Robot who thinks humans are really lazy. If you like sarcasm you will like this. You list your tasks for the day, anything you have been procrastinating about and want to get done. Carrot is not confident you will ever do anything. And is amazed when you actually do! Over time you earn rewards and impress (or disgust) Carrot. Well it sounds strange but I like it! If you don't do anything for ages he gets grumpy. It's between a list and a game. The more you do and go up levels the more interesting it gets! If you liked computer pets and games you might find it motivating and fun. From this one I can see apps could be wonderful for teenagers. They like their phones so lists and organisational tools presented this way may be quite helpful.

A big thing for me is now having all my lists with me and on hand. And if I am waiting anywhere I have work I can go on with like planning and sending some cards in a text that are super pretty. No postage! 

If all else fails as you walk out the door take a photo of your shopping list. I keep one on the fridge so while I'm working in the kitchen I jot things down as I realise I am running out. That tip has saved me quite a few times!

In spite of what are great leaps forward in technology for me I still have Chippy as my "Blog overseer" so I don't get too carried away. It's quite good he is happy to be paid in small instalments.

Using a new app is a bit like learning a new game. A few minutes invested in understanding the basics of it and then you get to enjoy it. And if it isn't helpful then delete it. I have mostly used free ones and have not mentioned any over $4. If having trouble understanding an app watch a video on it on You Tube. Usually they are a three minute, or so, little video demo which can be the fastest way to "get it".

I have to go and get some jobs done before Carrot gives up on me! xxx

(Please share if you have any apps to recommend, that would be wonderful)

Monday 26 May 2014

The world of pretty apps.

I have discovered a whole new world and I'm probably the last one to do it!

Since my new free phone a few things have come together and I have found that my phone can be much prettier, much more useful, much more "Bluebirds" and I'm so thrilled with it!

Years ago I had a cute little flip phone I adored. It was kind of like a cute little robot. It had personality.  I loved that phone.  We have no landline not seeing the point of paying for another phone. So my iphone is it for me. Having a brand new one you get to choose a new cover etc as they cunningly make each phone a different size. You have rows of ugly covers to choose from. Last time eventually I found a nice cover in Forever New. 

The very next day my favourite Blog Brocantehome was about phones. I had a sudden lesson I really needed! Very timely.

The phone itself is good. Good camera, love that , it's so much better. But really they are functional and ugly. And with us all the time and our link to everyone!

In my revolution I discovered apps. Yes I knew about them but they seemed functional and also ugly so I never really went any further. Oh dear. This was a mistake! 

I have always adored the way Laine classed the modern things that help us and work for us like our crock pot, bread maker, washing machine, dishwasher etc as our handmaidens. She said to get up and get all your handmaidens working! I just loved that. It is true and helped me so much. Well I just took on a whole heap of new handmaidens. This is what it amounts to.

First of all getting a new cover. Shops like Forever New have actual pretty covers. Etsy has an amazing selection, you need to know the specific type of phone. I chose this one...

as my first preference.  Or this one....

There are so many to choose form you need to narrow it down. So search your model and type and add pink, flowers or whatever you would like and narrow it to a few hundred! 

NOW.... there are apps so your screen is not ugly either. My excitement just went through the roof. And even I could do it. I really am not much good at these things but it was easy. So now my icons on the front and screen look like this...

Don't laugh... I chose this pink and little cakes. This is an app called Pink Home Screen Designer. But there are a million to choose from. Whatever it is you would like you can have.

THEN texts do't have to be ugly either. Who knew this? Why didn't anyone tell me?!
They can look like this...

Or this...

Or this...

Plus several dozen others that include ones for guys, birthday, thank you, Christmas etc. and they are all gorgeous. It is called Cartolina and it is $3.50. You just go to the app store icon on your phone and search Cartolina purchase and you're done. It is so easy to use. I sent one straight to Helen. She replied in a minute and said "How did you do this!??" as she loved it!

Another frontier revolutionised!

Next I started on things that are both cute and useful So I have a pink calculator which was free. Much nicer!

Tomorrow I will go into apps I am loving. I have tested out a few. I am adoring the one that sends you to sleep. I have trouble sleeping sometimes and it truly works and is another free one. I LOVE it. There are glorious to do lists, challenges, motivational, organisational and inspirational ones! 

I cannot believe I have been missing out on all this. It really is a whole new and lovely world of handmaidens and happiness. Whatever area you would like help in there is an app for you. I am amazed. 

We had a huge amount of rain last night. Things re truly soaked. This is so good, the garden was so dry. 

Lucy has had a day surgery and I was so worried. One of my not sleeping moments. She is out of it and has gone well. I am very thankful. That is enough for me

Sunday 25 May 2014

Economical and yummy cake.

Today I want to add a recipe that is a great way to use up left over fruit and yoghurt. Quite often a have a bit of left over yoghurt. I either freeze it in ice cube trays (for protein shakes later or to make this recipe down the track) or use it up in this cake.

It also uses left over fruit. When I have apricots on the tree or nectarines I use some on this cake. It then is a good desert or handy in lunch boxes.... also the whole thing will freeze very well.

You can use fresh fruit like apricots, nectarines, plums (I have used all these but you could try others...) But also you can drain a tin of apricots or whatever and use that. This is what I did this weekend as I had yoghurt in the freezer to use up.

The recipe is very flexible.

It is   250 g butter or margarine, 1 and a half cups fine sugar, 6 eggs, about a cup of yoghurt, even flavoured it doesn't matter, 2 cups SR flour. 

Mix eggs, softened butter, sugar, add in yoghurt and flour. It is quite a runny mix.

Line a baking tray with non stick paper. I use my roasting pan. You could use a lasagne dish. The idea is it is a flat cake more like a slice. This is so you can use loads of fruit to cover it. If using plums, nectarines or apricots I just cut them in half to remove seed and place cut side up all over the cake, this time i used a tin of apricots so it looked like this....

If I had plenty of fresh fruit to use up I would cover every bit of the top, no spaces, but this is what I had. So you can use heaps of fruit. If you had a bit of this and a bit of that use that too and mix it up. The idea is to use what you have.

Bake 180 deg C for about half an hour. I would watch and test when it is risen and golden. To me everyones oven is different let alone your baking dish size etc. Test with a skewer and as soon as it comes out clean it is done.

Now dust it with icing sugar through a sieve. Liberally!

The bits with the fruit sort of soak up the icing sugar... it's really yummy.

To me the more you use up fruit that might be wasted otherwise the better value this is. I have taken a large round one on a tray to someones house as a gift and it was a hit. It's quick and easy and rustic looking.

We have had a lovely weekend. Sunny and beautiful autumn weather. But this week it is the start of winter! 

I had a serious look at some of my goals for the year and also budget this last week. Chloe had commented my mobile phone monthly payment was high. Plus my phone was quite old. Old being three years, that's old these days apparently! I went into my phone company.  And just like that I had a brand new upgraded phone for free and the girl looked at my usage and said my plan could be half what it was. Then as usually I was friendly and chatty with her as I always would be.  I remarked I was trying to get my bills down as the budget would affect us especially with increased costs for medications (Andy has heart related medications and a lot of them). Then she paused and said "just wait, we can get this plan down a bit more" and reduced it again. So I walked out with a new phone, and a massive yearly saving. Nice work! This goes along with what I said the other day. Ask, talk, tell. People want to help you and they often can. I was so pleased! 

At home I decided to set my phone up so I really love it. We have no landline so we save there and my mobile is it for me. It may as well be lovely. I have never really used apps etc much. Very basic. But you know me, love pretty things, love encouraging words, lists, planners, things that help me. Oh my goodness have I made some discoveries!  This week I will share some of the gorgeous things I've found that make over your phone and  also how it helps you. Revolutionary! 

I hope you had a lovely weekend too. xxx

Thursday 22 May 2014

To gather.

I was brought up gathering wood for the fire, mushrooms from the paddocks, fruit from the trees, pinecones and sticks as fire starters, flowers from the garden, eggs from the chook house... and a million more. A basket and off you set and I LOVED it. We would walk miles picking mushrooms. I adored it and didn't even like to eat them but others did.

This continued on when the girls were little we had a fireplace and we would gather our pinecones and sticks for fire lighters and figs from a nearby tree, apples from a road side tree we knew about. Some days of gathering were so epic we would take a picnic and thermo to make a day of it. Beautiful days. The following days were spent cooking apples or whatever had been the result of all that gathering.

Nana B was a gatherer master. She was a florist and I doubt she ever paid for a flower. Yet she won more ribbons at every show including the Royal Adelaide, more than I could count. She also appeared in books with her floral work. Her home was always full of flowers, huge displays like you would find in a church or now, modern hotel foyer. Massive! It was all gathered. Even the flowers for weddings were gathered. She would march up someones driveway and ask if they would mind if she picked some of whatever it was she had spotted. She was so happy and charming, she made friends this way.

So I grew up knowing I always wanted my home full of flowers and I wanted giant impressive arrangements. One trip to a florist reveals you don't get much for $100! So a huge urn of flowers a meter high must be thousands? Nan would laugh about that. 

There are so many things you can collect and dry or enjoy fresh. Plenty of greenery sets off your flowers and helps you gain an impressive size. Taking a leaf out of Nan's

s book I am happy to ask people do they mind of I pick some of whatever it is I am after. At the farm there is huge potential and in my own garden of course. My hydrangeas improve each year and I fill the house with them but then I dry them and they go on in other arrangements. 

If you have neighbours with hydrangeas chances are they prune them and all the drying flowers go into the bin! Just ask as there are so many things you can do with them. The bulk of my big arrangement is something I picked that a neighbour was pruning and I asked if I could have... and I took on the task. They are giant spirals of white flowers that dried perfectly and I filled in gaps with silk flowers. I keep adding to this...

Placed in front of my side of the road mirror they look even bigger. I saw a bunch of sticks (yes sticks) at our local florist and I had to check out the price. It was $60 for a bunch of sticks. Yep. 

I'm no flower arranger or anything but gradually I have achieved my aim of big arrangements!

When we go to the farm I have the chance to gather bay leaves from Mum's tree, bunches of rosemary, pinecones for Christmas crafts, native flowers and sticks....

I gather enough bay leaves for our kitchen and bunches for my cook friends who love this.

I'm always on the look out. In the supermarket I see people buy rosemary when the whole suburb is surrounded in it! Many of our family or friends will have herbs and flowers we can use. I've never actually met anyone who has said no to picking some of anything. 

The most exciting days are when I come home with a bucket of lemons or figs... I know a house where there is a fig tree. Oh my goodness figs are almost a dollar each at times in the city. Here is a tree covered in them. The million dollar tree!

Jamie Olivers "Save with Jamie" series and book has a great section in gathering and preserving herbs. You can freeze, dry, infuse into oils... all kinds of things to make a bunch of anything into something to keep you going for ages.

Pinecones, interesting pods and berries and all kinds of things have come home with us from our little driving holidays. I keep a basket in the car and scissors at all times!

When I moved from the country to the city I wondered if my gathering days would be less... but no. Maybe even better. But I have the best of both worlds and I'm lucky with that.

My motto is the do what I can with what I have where I am. We have to make the most of what comes our way. If figs come your way, or apples or tomatoes... what ever it is you can turn it into a great asset. Busy as a bee using up the things you have gathered is pure happiness! 

Today it is Kath's Birthday. We had a circus as I thought it was today and I rang the nursing home and they wouldn't confirm or deny... so I had to get Kath on the phone (yesterday)... which was another circus! But in the end she was so thrilled to get a phone call and yes today is her Birthday. Andy has gone in with flowers, pink biscuits, a present, a handmade card. I have just had a message from him about the excited reception he got and how thrilled she was! And Wilma had requested fruit so I made her up a bag lined with pink tissue paper of pears, apples and bananas (there are the favourites) and she was thrilled too. It has made Andy's day from the sounds of it.

And it's Friday. I must get on and do the last things on my list so we have a relaxing night. I had a wonderful week! We had glorious weather and many blessings, my head is spinning!

We are ordering the basics for the kitchen Andy is making me. I am so excited about this!

Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Never waste one slice of bread!

I once heard of a lady who bought bread everyday and after using 4 slices on sandwiches she threw the rest away. I have never forgotten that!

We don't use much bread and when I do buy it we have left overs. But I know left over, going stale bread is a pretty usual thing in many households. The first thing is if you are buying bread to toast then keep it in the freezer and toast it as you need it. Then none goes to waste at all.

When you do have tired bread there are so many things you can make that really stretch the budget. The more people you have to feed and the hungrier they are the bigger the issue this is.

Years ago we went to a beautiful cake and they had a huge "cake" on a stand, covered in glistening glazed mulberries. It looked so fabulous. It was Bread and Butter Pudding, gone glam! I tried it. They warmed it and served it with cream. It was one of the best things I had ever tried!

Over time I decided to try and re create it at home and this is what I came up with and I pretty much got it the same. 

It looks like a cake and cuts like a cake... it is not mushy and does not collapse as you cut it... so it looks beautiful to serve.

Trying to demonstrate this...

I don't know what it is but men seem to go mad over deserts like this!

It uses about 3/4 a loaf of white bread. But it would also use up left over buns, raisin toast, hot cross buns, croissants, pastries etc as well. And all of these are in supermarkets a day or two old for about a dollar a packet so perfectly suited to being re created.

Use a medium sized cake tin or casserole dish, not spring loaded ones as it would leak.

Line your dish on the bottom and right around with non stick baking paper.

In the bottom line the dish with fresh or frozen berries, any kind and/or plum, berry or strawberry jam. I used a whole small jar of jam. Be generous. I microwave it for a minute so it pours in. I was being economical so had no fresh berries just jam I had made in summer. I make a lot of jam so this uses up a jar. Yay! You can skip the berries but you cannot skip the jam.

Then cut the dark hard crusts off the bread. Put these out for the birds. :) 
I used about 3/4 of a load of white bread. Arrange half of your bread in the dish trying to fill in the gaps a bit so it is covered right around. I admit a square dish would be easier. I just like round as I want to sit it on a cake stand.

Wizz up one can of Evaporated milk ( I use the light one) with three eggs and 3/4 cup of castor sugar (really any sugar will do) and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence.

After you have lined the dish with half your bread add some berries or jam to make a middle layer. Pour over some of your milky mix. Now top with rest of bread and pour over remaining mix. 

Poke it a bit to encourage the mix to get through all the bread, you don't want any dry spots. Let it sit for half an hour. In this time the bread will soak up the mix and plump up like crazy! 

At this stage it looks pretty tragic. Have faith it will be fabulous.

Cook in a medium oven until it is risen, golden brown. Mine took about 40 mins. Test with a skewer. 

Let sit and cool a bit but while still warm carefully tip it upside down on a lovely dish or cake stand. Carefully peel away the papers. The bottom is now the top. It is a sticky gorgeous glazed drippy divine top that looks amazing!

Serve warm with cream.

It is so good. 

Mine would serve 8.

The fact that you could use buns or mix in croissant or raisin bread etc means you can really use up so many left overs.

In an earlier post I showed you how to make Nan's tomato pie. She served this with most roasts she made and I loved it. Now I know she was probably trying to stretch the roast with many vegies and this pie. But I loved the pie most of all! This was covered in torn up left over bread and grated cheese and baked until golden. 

Similarly you can make a tuna mornay and tear up bread over the top, top that with grated cheese and bake. This topping is yummy and stretches the meal by a mile.

Mum used to trim the crusts from bread and roll the slices with a rolling pin. Then press them into muffin pans to make bread cases. She would cook them until firm and dry. Then these are preserved like croutons are. She would fill these with mornay or eggs and we loved this.

I used to use slices of bread to make little pizzas for the girls to take to school. I cut them diagonally and cooked them in the oven covered in tomato base, bacon, cheese etc and they loved that. We also had jaffle or toastie nights and some bread was just cut into squares and dried for a few minutes in the oven. I would keep these in a big jar to go with soups.

There is just so much you can do. And if time doesn't permit throw the bread into the freezer until it does. Bread in the freezer is wonderful to make a stuffing for your roast chicken. I notice that Jamie Oliver makes extra stuffing in a baking dish so everyone gets plenty, it stretches your roast too. I love this idea. 

In winter a hot gooey desert is particularly good. I think I can serve soup for dinner if I follow it up with a desert like this pudding. Everyone is very happy!

We have a lovely sunny day. I am drying the towels and making the most of it. Days like this are beautiful and good to get lots of things done, they inspire energy somehow! And I'm off to Spotlight for some wool for my rug which is becoming HUGE and heavy. I am loving it. I live to crochet one more row every chance I get! xxx

Monday 19 May 2014

Use it up cooking.

This week I am on a use it up mission to save money for the week and use up random things in the freezer, having a bit of a clean out as I go! We have a tight week as Andy's van is "unwell" and getting repairs. But everyone has these weeks from a big bill or some unforeseen thing. Sometimes a session of shopping your own freezer and pantry is a big saving.

I don't mind the task of grouping various bits and pieces and getting a meal out of them. It's kind of a challenge.

Night one I had (in the freezer) two rashers of bacon, 1/3 jar spaghetti sauce, odd bread rolls and a piece of turkish bread, left over grated cheese... in the fridge I had olives, sun dried tomato and feta. I just thawed the rolls and bread and cut them in half, covered in tomato paste and piled on the rest and in the oven it went. I had half a cucumber and two tomatoes and one mushroom! So I sliced those thinly as a side salad.  This was a great tea and Andy will eat anything cold so he had the same for lunch the next day.

Often I will use up left over vegies in soup or a stew. Really you can pile the vegies into a casserole and be flexible with what you are using.

A really wonderful use it up recipe is Impossible Pie. Or Impossible Quiche. I really don't like making pastry and this gets you out of it! It uses up so many left overs with a very flexible recipe.

You can make a pie or make it up in muffin trays for lunch boxes. I usually cut some non stick baking paper circles so that they don't get stuck in the pans. 

The recipe is 3 eggs, 1/2 SR flour, 1 cup milk or cream or evaporated milk, pepper. Some people put in a dob of butter but I don't. Wizz/blend this all together. Add a handful of grated cheese. I usually double this and make both a pie and some in a muffin tray. This is good as they freeze really well.

The idea is when cooking the flour will sink and form a crusty bottom and make them easy to handle. This is helped is you make the mix, pour it into your baking dishes and let is sit for a few minutes. Otherwise it is good anyway! Throw into your mix baby spinach leaves or chunks of frozen spinach, chunks of feta cheese, left over roast pumpkin or sweet potato, sun dried tomato or fresh, cooked asparagus, chopped ham or bacon, cooked onion, chives, parsley or whatever herbs you like, salmon, caramelised onions, corn... any combination you like. You can top it with thinly sliced tomato and sprinkled cheese... I mean the point is to use what you have and stretch it a mile into a meal. I stuff mine with ingredients. This time I did cheese, sun dried tomatoes, a lot of onion and parsley.

Bake until puffed and golden. Serve warm with a salad and it is really good with relish. Tomorrow morning I will warm three of the muffin ones and wrap them as Andy takes breakfast out the door with him (with a coffee) and a warm breakfast is good.

Many of you will already know this recipe or a version of it. My Nan used to do it and so did Mum. But it's a goodie and it's very handy.

Many times when I make lasagna I have made a layer of spinach or roast pumpkin, mushroom or zucchini, all depending on what I might have. This is great to make it go much further and it only makes it better! And use up any left over bits of cheese in either recipe. 

Relish and a little salad and this is very tasty.

Warm or cold little ones are good in lunch boxes or frozen for emergency days! 

Andy has them warm for breakfast since they are basically eggs and vegies they are good and filling.

Yesterday Chippy was a big hit on face book, he's an internet sensation apparently! I will take more photos of him as he grows and learns to do new things. I have been making him toys his favourites are anything involving ringing a bell :) I may regret so many bells...

Sunday 18 May 2014

The importance of pets.

We always had a lot of pets in our lives. I grew up with kittens, there are pictures of me with kittens wrapped in blankets in a pusher that I pushed around, a lamb wearing clothes, puppies wearing bonnets. I dressed everything as babies it seems.

Dad brought home a baby Kangaroo that was an orphan and Mum bottle fed that and at one stage I hand reared an emu and various baby birds that were rescued. In high school I stayed home from school for a couple of days to get a pair of Wood Swallows out of danger because Dad had rescued them. They only ate insects and catching enough insects took me days, but they survived and were released back to where they had come from. They were just gorgeous! Baby birds are just amazing to me.

The girls were the same. At the farm there were always so many animals and puppies especially were a feature. They did the same as me, they liked to wrap them and play mothers and babies. And I do note even now when we go to the farm the puppies are given a bath and come inside and nursed just the same as ever.

Lucy and her husband have Wednesday. She is one hilarious dog and part of the family. Wednesday really likes me, she does this giant smiley face! I'm pretty sure she would be very protective if that was called for.

Chloe has her first home which is a unit. So she is limited with pets but she has Houdini who is the tamest budgie ever. He is called Houdini because of his tricks. If you put your hand anywhere near him he jumps straight onto it. 

When Chloe travels Houdini goes too. She puts the safety belt around his cage. Yep. And it is nothing to talk to Chloe on the phone and I will say WHAT is that noise? It will be Houdini chewing the phone. lol

Dad has had many dogs. When I was born he had Mitt. Mitt had been around for years and went on into his 20s and even then was run over and never died of old age. Another was Raffles who he actually won in a raffle. Another was Blue. She was a blue heeler and she got very old too. She and a Cape Barren Goose fell in love and slept together on the back door mat for several years. Very strange. They were the same colour so maybe that was it? I had similar luck with dogs living into old age. My first dog was Gidget. She went to live with Nan when I went to uni and she must have been well pst ten then but she lived another ten years, I know she was in her twenties before she died.

Nan and Pa rescued an abandoned dog. I went with them when they heard a dog had been dumped and tied to a tree on the side of the road. Clearly she had just had puppies but they were not with her. So she joined the family. And Dad rescued kittens which turned out to be Manx kittens... he gave them to Nan to see what she could do and this dog took them over and fed them. So there were kittens nursing from this dog. Well, they grew up fine although possibly confused.

I have kept a lot of birds including chooks. 

I just now have a new baby budgie and I have pink Bourke's Parrots and a fish called Barney.

So meet Chippy! He is going to be my Bluebirds mascot. It makes sense!

He loves toys and my hair. He talks a lot!

The long and short of it is that pets are really important. It is known now that pets are good for us too. Good for our physical and mental health. It is so true. In my darkest hour when I was sad and depressed I kept fish and fish may not sound exciting but I loved them and they were great for me. In fact I have a picture of my favourite fish who was called Rosie. I loved Rosie.

What a face. 

The harder your life, the more you need pets. For anyone who can't get out much they are even more important. The happy company and the funny things they do makes life much better. And I think we have proven that even with limited space or rules about what you can have you can still enjoy your pets. The thing is choosing appropriately. If you are unwell and in bed an energetic dog is no good but a cat might keep you company and be lovely.

Pets have life lessons for children, on so many levels. They can be a best friend when you need one and the world is letting you down.

Many "real age tests" increase your expected lifespan if you have pets. If you are living alone please please please have a pet. 

I know I do best if I have pets. They just are funny and brighten my day without fail. They put things into perspective somehow. They greet you and love your family unconditionally. At the end of the day the sort of greeting they give you is priceless.

If I had a teenager who was doing it tough or a child bullied at school the first thing I would do is get them a pet. 

I hope you had a great weekend. Back to Monday, I have lots to do and groceries to buy. Tonight we are having dinner with Mum and I am taking my last apricot pie from the apricots on our tree over summer. It is so handy to be able to just thaw a pie! xxx