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.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Winter Sunshine Cake.

In the middle of winter when it is cold and gloomy here in Adelaide oranges are in season. So many gardens have an orange tree that often I have free oranges. Otherwise they are cheap to buy this time of the year. And they are so big, juicy and healthy.

I find myself drawn to the oranges and yellows as if they are a pop of sunshine that I start to crave. They are cheery and bright and fresh.

This cake is so quick and easy. It smells so fresh and orangey. The colour is divine! It truly is a burst of sunshine on a winters day.

On top of that it freezes well. I make a slab and freeze some which then are perfect to pop in lunch boxes, send fishing with the boys and that kind of thing. It is thawed by the time they look for it. So fresh.

This recipe makes a large slab cake or a dozen patty cakes and a medium cake. 

In my grandmothers ethos I make it in a baking tray as it is the biggest pan that will fit in the oven. This makes a lower flatter cake. The science of this is there is more icing area. As a child this was my idea of joy and I haven't matured much!

Its up to you. You can give one away as a gift or freeze one.

Winter Sunshine Cake.

1 whole big orange. (2 smaller)
1 cup orange juice from other oranges or bought juice.
2 cups castor or white sugar.
1 and a half cups sunflower oil or other oil.
6 eggs.
4 cups SR flour.

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees. 

Wash your orange. Cut it into quarters and pop the whole thing into a blender or use a stick blender to blend it. It is raw. You do not cook it first. It is peel and all. The whole thing.
(I have read recipes you boil the orange. This tastes fresher and saves all that electricity)
In a bowl cream your eggs and sugar, add oil and then add blended orange plus juice. Gradually add in your SR flour.

I do whole thing with a stick blender.

It is quite a wet mix. Plus it looks a little grainy due to the whole orange and peel. It is a divine colour, so deep orange.

Use non stick baking paper to line your pan or pans. If you cook it as one cake allow about 45 mins. I put it in at 180 but turn it down a little after about ten mins to more like 160. It depends on your oven.

If patty pans check after ten mins. Just do test where you insert a skewer and if it comes out clean you are done.

It puffs up golden like this...

When your skewer comes out clean take it out and let it cool. When cool enough tip it over gently onto a big plate or board and peel off paper. It smells so good! Like buttery orange.

For your icing use a tablespoon of melted butter, icing sugar and orange juice. Make a good thick consistency. It is so yum and more lovely colour.

By luck I had these roses in the garden and they matched perfectly. 

Inside the cake looks lemon/orange and beautiful.

I made this last night. And it has been rainy, blowing a gale, hail and not far away snow and Adelaide DOES NOT get snow!

This is really a great cake and so cheerful and bright. I ate a piece for breakfast telling myself it is eggs and orange juice!

Thursday 24 July 2014

Keeping track of your "earnings".

One of the greatest deceptions of all times is whatever it is that makes women think they aren't "contributing" financially as stay at home Mums. Apart from the obvious ways you are contributing in taking care of everyone and taking care of the home in so many ways, the massive amount of money we save is just mind blowing!

I say so often that I can save in a day much more than I can ever go out and make in a day.

Yes, we need an income for our household. But often a second income comes with child care costs, work related costs, travel costs and then a list of expenses associated with no longer having time or spare energy to shop, cook, clean, make things and so on.

There is a thread, on Simple Savings, a savings site I belong to, run by Mimi. She highlights how much she was able to save the household in a day by her work at home. I join in with this and we guess how much this and that would have been if we had bought the item that we just made or cooked and how much we would have paid for someone to do things. 

Between the two things.... one, all the extra expenses of working and two, all the savings you can make, often the actual profit from working is very little. Now not always, but often.

Add to that, when you save a dollar you have a dollar. When you earn a dollar you have maybe 75c. (as you are taxed on earnings) And that doesn't include what else you need to take out... )(petrol, child care etc)

I have had similar inspiration following The Prudent Homemaker. She posts each week "Last weeks frugal accomplishments" and lists what she did through the week that saved her family money. Then followers post their own as they join in with her. It is fabulous to read! Well that woman's work is priceless and beyond imagining what it would be worth in dollar value!

So, I have begun trying to track my savings and the ways I build up the home just as I try and track and think about the things I have to be grateful for. And we all know how much just that improves our lives and what a difference gratitude makes!

So this week I have :

Helped my husband with our kitchen renovations. From our quote doing this ourselves has saved us about $4000
Repaired a cardigan rather than buy a new one... saving $50?
Made all our own meals on the BBQ rather than takeaway saving ??? (a lot probably)
Worked on crochet wash cloths (see last post) toward my present cupboard. Saving big dollars!

You get the idea... Many days I think of what I achieved and I know unless I worked for NASA I could not earn as much money in the day as I saved by my work. 

If you ever feel you are not contributing financially try this. It is wonderful to realise how much our work is worth. Having said that the greater value is in just being there as much as you can with your children and family, creating a warm, safe and happy home. A peaceful sanctuary from the world. How we need this.

Instead of "my frugal accomplishments" I am just naming my list "ways I built up my home this week" and where applicable I am calculating the money saved. 

Where the idea came that makes Mothers feel they are not doing enough came from I don't know but it is a lie. Time is easily stolen from us and what is precious lost. The work we do is so valuable. You are worth more than rubies and I want you to know it!

My photos are of a little project... I love anything architectural and I found old windows on the side of the road. Some have clear glass and I am making them into rustic frames for Lucy's black and white wedding photos. I am so excited with them! 
But these have textured glass and one has the most gorgeous worn old mirror. I think it was a mirror on a bathroom cabinet in it's day. I just love it. I have added transfers from Arwen Moore Design Studio, they are very reasonable in price. 

My plan is to use them as props ie on a table with roses in a vase in front of them, on a mantle piece with candles... wherever I can work them in!

They were filthy and pretty grim. Anyone seeing me load these into my car probably wondered!

But I love their shabbiness and age. To me it's so romantic!

Have a lovely weekend. Keeping warm is my mission, it has been so cold and wet. I will be snuggled up inside crocheting if I have my way.xxxx

Sunday 20 July 2014

Building up your gift cupboard.

After my crochet blanket I needed a new project to get into! Also I need to build up my gift cupboard as we are now in the second half of the year, which means one thing.... Christmas.

I have a good supply of cottons, some that Mum gave me as a gift. It is lovely cotton. So I decided to make useful dish cloths, cleaning cloths or wash cloths. They have turned out very thick so they could also be used as pot holders I think.

I saw this lovely pattern but had no clue on how to do it. I followed this tutorial on You Tube and it took me about half an hour to learn it....

Really it is easy. If you can chain and double crochet then you are set. If not learn those first on You Tube or get someone to teach you and practice a little bit. It is really good fun and easy to get the hang of.

My plan is to give these away mostly in sets of three, tied up prettily, and paired with either soap or a a bath bomb or with kitchen things to set a theme.

While the weather is cold and windy it is so nice to be happily working away on something nice in spare moments and in the evening. And it's amazing how doing things now adds up so that at Christmas you find you have a great supply of gifts. I can't even estimate how much money this saves. Something huge!

I am going on with some pale blue yarn then doing some in a natural raw looking yarn which I will tie up with string and I think they will look very "french kitchen" (I hope!)

Last week I was talking about how important it is to keep our minds thinking on nice things. I really find handiworks and sweet projects help with this. They make us happy! I also worry less about Christmas and Birthdays etc as I know my supplies are increasing and the cupboard isn't bare!

And on that I have exciting news... I am almost finished my first e book! This is a first for me and something I have been working on. It is about how to save an absolute fortune by making your own gifts and how to stop dreaming of cutting costs and making gifts and start doing it. It is a step by step guide to help you work out what you can make that you will be proud to give and that come Christmas time you have done all the work already. All you have to do is some wrapping! 

Many families could save thousands by making some changes to their habits. And free themselves from so much financial strain. We love Christmas and love to celebrate but it does not have to involve credit card debt! 

My friend Helen loves Christmas more than anyone I know! She starts early and just is in heaven! But she does not break the bank over it, they celebrate whole heartedly but without the financial stress. 

So my ebook is really partly inspired by Helen. All joy and no stress. We absolutely all can do it!

Have a wonderful week. Next week I will take you on a tour of my new kitchen and the changes we have made! xxx

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Cure all chicken soup.

It is so cold and so many people are unwell. It's time to make chicken soup. A really good chicken soup is wonderful. I've heard it called Antibiotic soup because it is so good for anyone sick with the flu. 

I make this as a regular winter soup but I make it and try and keep some on hand for anytime someone is unwell.

It is truly nourishing and I think it's the onion, garlic and broth that is a boost to your immune system which is what you need when you are sick.

I'm going to share my way of making it that is really easy. And flexible.

I use the crock pot as that is by far the easiest.

This makes at least several litres of soup.

In a large crock pot throw around 2 cups dried soup beans. I use a mix of a finer soup mix and also a larger one with lima beans and kidney beans etc. You can use what you like or what you have or even just barley.
Throw in one or two chopped onions, several chopped fresh garlic. (I do 4 to 6 but you could do more) a couple of bay leaves, a few carrots chopped, a cup or so of celery chopped. (I save all celery tops and leaves in the freezer chopped up, when I make this soup I toss a whole lot in as celery tops make the best stock ever!) I add parsley, pepper.
I drain a tin or corn and that goes in.

Now your chicken... you can use a whole chicken or parts. Or just drumsticks (as they are often cheapest) or just fillets. If you use a whole chicken you will need to get it out and all the bones and then let it cool so you can lift off the fat that will set at the top. So usually I use a couple of fillets as there is virtually no fat. And then I can serve it at the end of the first day. And no bones to fish out. For economy one chicken fillet is enough for a whole pot of soup. It is nice to do more but you don't have to.

Cover with your stock. This can be water with stock cubes added. Purchased or homemade stock. Water and dry chicken soup mixture or a tin or two of chicken soup. Any of these or a combination work. Your ingredients are going to make a basic stock into a much richer stock.

If I am doing this I like to fill up the crock pot! It freezes well, can go to work or school in a thermo and make a couple of dinners. If it is for dinner I will serve garlic bread, cornbread or a toasted sandwich even. Or make a desert like a baked egg custard for further goodness.

Pop it on and let soup simmer all day. I usually boil the kettle so the water I add at the beginning is hot. This gets things off to a faster start. This is wonderful to come home to! Break up chicken with a spoon at the end of the day. Taste and season and add more flavour if you want to ie sometimes I will add a packet of chicken noodle soup or stock cubes. Fish out your bay leaves. Did you know bay leaves impart strong health giving properties? Very important to use them.

You can add a cup of dry pasta to this. For kids add a novelty or alphabet pasta a couple of hours before serving. They seem to love this.

It will be a thick delicious soup. It is very flexible, use what you have. Honestly as long as you have a little chicken and garlic I think they are the most important bits.

This can be served as a chunky soup. I usually do it this way. Sometimes it's so chunky it's almost a stew.

Or you can blend it. Some children like smooth soups better. If I was planning to blend it I would happily add left over roast vegies, potato or anything else on hand as it will only add to it. Thats the beauty, you can use things up, use whats in special and pack in so much wholesome food to feed your family. 

Many things will come from my freezer. The leaves and tops of celery that I chopped and bagged when I was using celery for something else, left over vegies I chopped because they were going to go to waste. Left over parsley that was getting tired or half an onion chopped that was too much another night. It's all saved in snap lock bags and when soup is on it all goes in!  All these bits and pieces build a beautiful stock and add so much goodness. And for free if they would have been thrown out otherwise.

Either way it is so good and healthy. 

You might have a family chicken soup recipe and I would love to hear your version. But for some it is daunting without a family recipe as there seem to be so many ingredients! Truly some days as long as I get the water, beans and chicken in by 10 am I will add something every time I go past the kitchen all day, chop some carrots, chop some celery... just keep on adding! It turns out just fine. Or you could do it the night before, keep it all in the fridge and put it on in the morning.

On the weekend Chloe came over and I gave her the container here with the green lid. It was enough for three meals. The others I froze. And there was enoguh for three meals in the fridge. It is thick and filling. 

Some basic soups really help the budget and get an enormous amount of vegies into the family. Soup is also comforting. Soup reminds me of my Nan and Mum has always soups in winter. And nothing is wasted, my vegie bits and pieces make their way into a yummy meal.

Now I am going to have soup for lunch it is a freezing cold day and it keeps me feeling full. 
Then I have to pop to the shops. If there are any amazing specials on vegies this will probably determine what my next soup will be! xxx

Sunday 13 July 2014

The wise woman builds her home...

I think we would all have words, music, artworks or even movies that we know just send our hearts into raptures of happiness and we know the way they make us feel. Actually thinking about that and coming up with a list of them is an interesting project. When I see/hear/watch these things I think WHY don't I include them all the time? I notice how happy they make me feel, it is kind of silly not to include them in daily life somehow. 

I mention Laines Letters a lot. When I discovered them and started reading my heart just leapt. (Unfortunately the links I posted earlier are now not working and I don't know how to find them currently). I felt the same reading Aunt Ruthie from the beginning on Sugar Pie Farmhouse and there are a lot of similarities between the two. 

This information is important! You know what words inspire you and what words encourage you. Having them around you is a really good idea. Life can be hard. Days can go wrong. We really need daily encouragement and some good material coming in to help sustain us.
I certainly do. Lovely words, encouragement, something beautiful, uplifting music... that all are medicinal to me and I can feel it. It's doing yourself a favour to keep these words where you can see them!

A favourite piece of scripture is " whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely , whatever is admirable,- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy,- think on these things".

 God knows we need to feed our minds with good things and we are instructed to do it. I think it's part of guarding our hearts. So we need to think how to go about this and include as much good material as we can. And we all know how much difference it makes to how we feel. Aunty Ruthie on Sugar Pie Farmhouse makes sure she fills her home with happy words. You feel happy just looking at pictures of her home! She is really onto something...
For my second kitchen sign I decided on one of my favourite verses that is short enough to fit on my lovely bed head piece. It's something I love and encourages me loads!

As I was painting this Andy read it and paused and said "well, what does the foolish woman do then?" and I said "the foolish woman tears her house down with her own hands"... he was super impressed lol! 

So what does it mean? I think each year I understand it a little bit more. I loved it from day one but it keeps revealing new things to me. 

It doesn't mean you need to start hauling bricks. Luckily! To build up is to increase, strengthen, beautify and secure... so every little thing you do to maintain, make a nice atmosphere, budget, decorate, take care of your family is building your home. 

We see it all around us. Hopefully we all have some good examples of building up our homes. Mum and Nana cleaning, making things look nice, warm, safe, an atmosphere of security and comfort, building up the pantry, prettying up the garden and all the millions of things involved in looking after the home and everyone in it!

Almost as often you see people tearing down their own homes for one reason or another... recently a friend has lost a fortune as his wife became addicted to online gambling. That is tearing down your home. Living outside your budget, neglecting things, domestic violence and a list of things that cause destruction. 

What has been built can also be torn down sadly. And fast. 

When I see these words I know I am doing an important thing. I know the girls have very happy memories of a beautiful childhood as they both tell me they feel they had a "fairytale' childhood. That is one thing that makes me so happy as when you are in the thick of things you hope to be successful and when you look back you will have no regrets. Sometimes it is hard. So to hear the words "thanks Mum for my fairytale childhood" and Lucy included that also in her wedding speech! That was a moment I knew each little thing had added up to give them both beautiful childhoods. 

Whatever season of life we are in it is the same day to day effort. But if we understand there is a bigger mission and a result that will affect future generations then we know we are doing important work. Don't let anyone tell you it is not important work! They have no understanding to say this!

Each day I try to at east cover the basics of course and then add something to in some way improve things in the home. It might be an added freezer meal, adding something to the pantry, brining in some flowers, having an extra clean or rearrange, saving a little security money... but something that is building things up. Usually I write a little note in my journal. It is amazing who things improve and grow when we try and do something everyday. It doesn't have to be much as long as we are building up and not tearing down! 

I want this sign to set the tone in my kitchen. Which now has counter tops, a stove, a cook top and is really coming together!

Have a wonderful and productive week. And keep encouraging words close to you. xxx

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Bless this Nest.

My last post was about my ladder that Andy found for me on the side of the road. I just realised we are on the side of the road again...

A beautiful blog I follow (see link on my blog list) is Sugar Pie Farmhouse. I cannot fail to feel happy reading that blog. It is uplifting and gorgeous. Aunty Ruthie loves chalk boards and writes lovely happy messages on them as she believes we should think on happy things. And I couldn't agree more.

Some of her chalk boards have been made from old wooden bed heads, the top parts are a pretty shape and the bottom is flat. So they sit on a shelf very nicely (or a mantlepiece).

I thought this was genius. So I explained this to Andy and evidently he "got it" as a little while ago he came home with huge pieces of wood that looked like a bedhead. I think it was but it had been dismantled somehow.... 

Well, he got it right! 

And here I am waiting on the one thing in our kitchen we are hiring someone to do and that is put our countertops on. While waiting for Friday to come I can do no more. So I decided it's time to paint my chalkboard signs. 

Here is the first one which is going over my pantry cupboards. Last year I made a few chalkboards and it's very easy. You can buy the paint in any colour these days too. There are chalk markers which look like a texta and this lasts rather than being smudged off which is good on a decorative sign. I soon realised if it is a sign and you really won't use it as a blackboard you can use a matt black paint or even if it is going to be framed you can use black cardboard. And you can use paint for your design.. I have used chalk paint and acrylic paints and a paint brush here.

The shapes are lovely and couldn't be more perfect! They are heavy too. 

This is a really easy craft. Imagine the possibilities. Finding an old coffee table and painting a chalkboard on the top for little kids to draw on or an old door and mounting sideways somewhere for works of art. Painting a wall in your kitchen or inside a cupboard door as your place for lists. I love the look of menus on chalkboards and we did these for Lucy's wedding.

I use a bit of real chalk to roughly make a design as it can be removed. If you need ideas Google or use Pinterest keeping in mind we mostly say "Blackboard" and the US they say "Chalkboard".  I've heard that so many times now I tend to say it that way!

My kitchen is hopefully going to look quite farmhouse style and I am using several recycled things to give it country charm. Well, thats the plan!

This sign makes me feel happy! Bluebirds are cheerful and sweet and just make me smile!

Having words and images that lift my heart where I can see them does me good. We need that!  If you have a favourite verse or inspirational quote put it up where you can see it. Words have a powerful effect.  I have a series of favourite verses I am working on. I will post on of them tomorrow! 

Sunday 6 July 2014

Beautiful old ladders.

I just love old wooden ladders! In a past house I had one hanging from my kitchen ceiling and I hung all my pots and pans from it. It looked wonderful and saved me so much cupboard space! I also hung herbs and flowers to dry. Re creating this is an upcoming project as I look for a ladder just right for it. The one I found for my old home was a huge ladder several metres long and Dad cut it into three lengths for me. I'm so sorry I let that ladder go when moving!

But I am half way there! Andy came home with this lovely old ladder a few weeks ago. He was driving along and this was on the side of the road. He KNEW I would want it and did a u turn to pick it up for me! And I was thrilled!  

A quick clean up and paint and I was ready to work out how to use it in my new kitchen.
I have found this one suitable to use as "shelves" or rungs to hand things on and am thinking it would be good for my t towels and pot holders in my new kitchen. So this is how I have it set up for now...

Every year or so I have a sewing session and make a heap of new t towels and pot holders. I find it quite hard to find good and pretty t towels that are actually absorbent. Now and them I see nice ones but they are often really expensive. These are made from old sheets, doona covers and curtains from the op shop. I have washed them all well first of course and sun dried them. I use a plain absorbent cotton (also recycled) to back them so they are double thickness. I also make them a generous size. Apart from being t towels they are great to line or cover a picnic basket, cover food and lots of other uses. I am always on the watch out for material for these. 

Then I either sew a trim around them or crochet an edge as that is lovely too. I have to say I do that for gifts more than for myself. But next time I do some I will post some pics as it is an easy way to upgrade a simple item into something pretty!

Other uses for rustic old ladders are in the bathroom to display and hang your towels, in the kitchen to display pretty table cloths and doilies or aprons... as a display for pot plants or kitchen herbs. I am on the hunt for a couple more!
If they are safe and sturdy to reach things in your pantry.
In the garden you could grow a vine over or train up beans in the vegie garden.

I just know another couple will come my way and I'll show you what I do with them. With luck you have an old one in the she or maybe Dad or Grandpa does! A little up cycle and they have a whole new lease on life.

I hope you have had a lovely weekend. Last night it poured here so heavily that I was slightly frightened! It was torrential! It rained like that for several hours. And yet today the sun shone and while things looked WET there was no damage or signs of flooding I expected. I had a little time in the sun and am working on some blackboards, also for my kitchen. 

Have a wonderful

Tuesday 1 July 2014

A little emergency preparedness.

We have had a series of storms and the coldest wettest and stormiest winter I remember in ages!  I thought it would be a good time to write a little about preparedness.

There are some things we can't prepare for thats for sure but for many things such as a power cut or a storm we can do heaps to make it easier and safer to get through.

It also depends on where you live. Here our most likely issue is loss of power and trees coming down. Other places I have lived we needed to be prepared for bush fires. 

I remember when the girls were little we often had power cuts for hours and hours or even a whole day and night. One night there was a massive storm and the power was out. Always worse at night of course as it's scarier! I had candles and torches and the girls played marbles on the carpet and had a great fun time. It was no drama at all. The next day someone said to me that they had driven past our place and saw we had light and asked me how did we do that? They had been sitting on their lounge in the pitch black, the kids were crying... so they decided to go driving. ??? Well my first thought was WHY? Why would you drive about in a storm with your children when trees are down, lights are out and emergency services are racing around? Why would you sit sobbing on the lounge in the dark?

Well, I guess there we have the comparison of a little common sense and preparedness vs no basic preparedness or common sense!

We always keep a big supply of candles and matches. We have torches and I check them once a year at least to see the batteries are ok and we have spare batteries on hand. Also we have a torch that plugs into a power socket. When they power fails this comes on. It is a really good thing. Then you can unplug it and you have a torch and light to move around with.

If a big storm is coming I fill the kettle and a jug of water and boil the kettle. If the power goes out I fill a thermos or two with the boiling water. Then I can make tea or coffee for the next 6 hours or so.

We decided to always have a gas BBQ so that in the event of no power we can heat water and cook. If you have a gas stove then you are also set and not dependent on electricity. We also have a little fireplace outside and can make jaffles. This is actually good fun and yum. 

I keep a good first aid kit and I have making tape and plastic sheeting and Andy has tarps in the shed. If a window breaks and you have tape and plastic you can stop the wind coming in at least. 

We always have food on hand and plenty of meals. If we were cut off we would be ok for quite a while and make do. With little kids it is a really good idea to have games and activities that will occupy them.

I keep emergency numbers listed on the fridge so I don''t have to search for them in a crisis.

Also you want to have some cash. In a real crisis all the ATMS go down and people are running around with no money. This amazes me. If the power is down or there is a crisis of some kind, there is not necessarily going to be access to the bank, ATMS etc and cash is king. That is one of the most important things to think of. I remember in the QLD floods people had no access to banks or ATMS for weeks and many were in so much trouble. 

Just a few things make life so much easier and safer. A little preparedness makes a big difference. And over time we can increase our preparedness, adding maybe some canned goods in the pantry and some bottled water, some candles etc.

What do you do and what is the biggest risk factor in the area you live in?

Every shop I try to add something to my pantry, first aid kit or emergency preparedness as over time these things really add up and one day we are so glad we were prepared.