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.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 27th Feb 2015.

We are almost into March! Somehow this is amazing to me. But I am pleased with things overall and having a little review of my goals and aims. It's too easy to wander off track (as everyone knows) from the goals we set in the New Year. If you get them out and look them over every month and make some plans then things happen!

Some of the ways I saved money this week were....

I made 3 dozen berry muffins from only one cup of berries. They were the best muffins I have ever made. Stretching one measly cup of berries into three dozen muffins is a bit "loaves and fishes" but this is how I did it...

I had one cup of berries... it was some blueberries and some blackberries. I am using fresh ones as the frozen ones here, or some of them, have had a health scare and have come from a dodgy location. So I have used fresh Australian grown berries.

So 1 cup berries,
3 eggs,
1 and a half cups milk,
1 cup melted butter.
1 cup yoghurt. (any type)
1 and a half cups sugar.
4 and a half cups of SR flour.
About half to 3/4 cups of berry jam. I used strawberry. Mine was runny so if yours is very thick warm it so it will be soft to miix through.
This should be a thick batter like cake mix. If you think it's too runny add flour, if you think it's too dry add some liquid.

Beat your sugar, butter, eggs, add milk, yoghurt.  Add in flour and mix until smooth. Fold in berries. Fold in jam. Mix so there is a swirl or strawberry ripple effect but no more.

Makes 3 doz. You want to make three dozen as it saves time and cooking and they freeze perfectly. You will thank me later that you have these :)

Bake medium oven until golden and test with skewer. Mine took about 14 minutes.

Once cooked sprinkle icing sugar over the top.
If you have kids hide behind something so you are not killed in the stampede.
That's it!

I did this because I just didn't have enough berries and my jam is just thick chunky berries and sugar. So I used less sugar (which I have already altered in this recipe) They look beautiful and taste beautiful. Now another use for jam! This is a real stretcher.

I went through my junk mail carefully and found several great deals to follow up.

I bought a sage plant. Both Mimi and Hilde have taught me how to make Gnocchi with sage. They both told me the exact same thing. This means it will be a winner for sure. And I am doing this as it will be another 100% pantry/garden meal and I am trying to build up more of those. When I have made this I will post the recipe. Hilde taught me to buy Gnocchi vacume packed which lasts for months so it is a pantry meal. I already grow every other herb I regularly use as the cost of buying the plant is onlly the cost of buy a bunch of herbs once or twice.

With the last of my Quinces I made Quince Paste. On a cheese board this is just beautiful. Plus it keeps a long time. Once you have tried this there is no going back. After that a cheese board HAS to have Quince Paste. If you are in Australia try Maggie Beer Quince paste with a nice cheese and crackers and you will understand.

I gave my hair a deep conditioning treatment. I just slapped on a good conditioner and left it there while I did housework for an hour then had a shower and washed my hair. It is amazing the difference it makes. Wrapping it in glad wrap and a warm towel is even better and even more attractive. :)

I built up my home with my storage trunk make over, lots of work on my organisation, pantry. preparedness and a fair bit of cleaning!

Every week or two I pop into our local florist. Firstly it is a hit of pure joy and I love the experience. Secondly I drop helpful hints to Andy! Thirdly I get so many ideas of things I can easily make! Recently they had an idea that I straight away thought yes I am doing this one...

It is just a big open jar with some dirt and pebbles then planted with little succulents and tied up with string. $49! It is sweet and would make a nice table centre piece. I can collect succulents for free. I can do this!

Truly gathering ideas and inspiration is wonderful. Go to the places you know you will see things you just adore and gather ideas. It is the best fun. Look at the prices too so you know what the things you make are selling for!  Truly easy and simple things that we can do for very little are just waiting to be discovered. I really feel nothing adds to my contentment like creating something.

(the flowers at the top are in this florist)

I hope your week was wonderful and your February was fruitful! We still another whole day to get things done!

What did you do this week to save money or build up your home?

Thank you so much for all the encouragement and help given in the wonderful comments. xxx

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Building up your pantry. Making the most of your space.

I have been really encouraged along in my pantry challenge. Partly by my own progress, just seeing my cellar evolve into an actual pantry, and partly from hearing what everyone is doing! I am not the only one to have noticed that like ants we are all out and about working on building up our supplies!

This week Patsi from A Working Pantry is talking about how to make room for storage and make the most of the space we have. There is a conversation you can join on facebook and I love this as every person has a unique home and set of circumstances. And while we have had heat and cyclones the American ladies have had snow and ice like you would not believe!

If you want some inspiration also read Anut Ruthies latest blog post on Sugar Pie Farmhouse . It is just lovely. Reading this made me feel like yes! I am on the right track! Her blog is always encouraging and sets me straight on things.

Last week I did a lot of re arranging and creating space. Patsi got me started on this with the trunk she uses to store gifts. This made me review the giant trunk I had on the veranda that I had found. Being huge it had a lot of storage potential! This has become my blanket and pillow storage and it means my overcrowded linen cupboard is now spacious and I can make that over. You know how one thing leads to another, now re doing my linen cupboard is next...
To do this first the trunk needed a huge clean. Then I rubbed oil into it to bring it back to life. I know exactly where all the filth went s it was all over me!

I added a big old padlock I had.  (it still reminds me of a pirates chest) Next I lined it with pretty paper. Then I scented it so as I open ii up the scent is lovely. To keep that I added cakes of floral soap to the bottom. (More soap supplies and left like this soap gets so hard it lasts a long time if you ever use it).

This is so big I have four blankets in there so far in this picture and it looks empty...

In my kitchen pantry everything changed as I moved long term storage into my cellar. Space! This continued. I went through every item and a few things were thrown out (not too many) and other things I wondered why were they even in my pantry when I wanted more space? I had spare drink bottles, thermos, water filters and all kinds of things that if only I could re home I would have lots more room for actual food.  And so began a lot of moving things and looking at spaces I have or could use.

I started to eye a laundry cupboard that is full of "stuff" and the space above my fridge and the gap I have between the fridge and the end cupboard....

Helen had created space by de cluttering, adding shelves and getting a metal storage unit. She created a lot of space! Having a re assess, a re arrange and clean out can produce space we never dreamed of!

Here we have IKEA and Howard's Storage World. Both are great for ideas on maximising space! You don't necessarily have to buy their products to benefit from brilliant ideas which have come from top designers and experts on the subject. Study what they have done! You can do this online, in storage stores, pinterest etc. If you go to IKEA look in all the cupboards. IKEA is like DIsneyland.. all the good stuff is below the surface! The ideas are fantastic. I had a lot of light bulb moments in there. I just snap a photo on my phone so I don't forget it!

Some ideas I have loved to add space or create space have been...

To turn a spare room, closet or linen press into a pantry.  Yes, the whole thing becomes a pantry! The addition of shelves can turn many spaces into a wonderful storage space. Even a whole wall along a passageway can become a pantry if it is lined with shelves.

The area under the bed can be a huge storage space. Remember how old fashioned beds were high off the ground and you had to climb up onto them? This looks and feels romantic to me. Well, any bed can be placed on something to make it sit up high. Then you can have a whole storage space under the bed! Laine used to use under the bed space.  It could be something simple like suitcases for storage or drawers but that is a whole lot of space.

Gaps. Most homes have odd spaces that seem unusable. Mine has a gap between the fridge and end bench. A gap between the pantry cupboards and the wall. A gap between the laundry sink and the wall. Each of these is about 6 inches wide or so.  You can slide in there a basket and fill it with your baking trays. Or buy a skinny set of shelves on wheels (they are made for such gaps!) or how about something like this...

This is from Classy Clutter blog and they have full instructions to built this! (I have never used any other persons picture on my blog before but this is such a good idea and I have no hope of building it in time to show you!) This gets you thinking about the gap spaces in your home!

Adding a shelf. Adding shelves on blank walls, above doorways, into existing cupboards...

The space above your fridge or cupboards. This doesn't have to look messy. Lovely baskets that fit nicely look great and can store heaps of less often used items. It is a fine place for seldom used things. The top of my fridge now stores trays, stacked, plus I had this really rustic old bread bin.  It is big. I added transfers and lined the inside with lovely paper...

It is Shabby Chic in the extreme... but now it houses all those spare drink bottles, thermos' and water filters and my pantry has more space!

Slide out trays or baskets that fit under cupboards, the bed etc. they are like an extra shelf.

Hanging things. If you have shelves run a row of hooks underneath where you can hang utensils, pots and pans or other items.

A pots and pans hanger. Saucepans and fry pans take up a lot of room! Hanging them from a hanger can free up so much kitchen space. In my last house I had an old ladder suspended from my kitchen ceiling. I hung all my pots and pans from there plus baskets, dried herbs and all kinds of things. It was fabulous and saved so much space. It looked really good too.

Do you have things inside that could be in the shed if stored properly? I did. Wrapped, covered and some things in tubs, they have gone into the shed freeing up cupboard space.

Do you have clutter that is really useless stuff and if cleaned out you would have pantry space? A lot of things build up. A garage sale might clear a room or a cupboard, free up the space and fund starting stocking up your pantry at the same time. In a crisis a tennis racquet from the 80's is probably not going to be much help! But a stockpile of food, water and first aid will be.

Convert a bookcase, trunk, stack of suitcases, wardrobe.

Fill a shelf or ledge with baskets. In our hallway I keep baskets of things that are ready to go out the door... gifts, things for the girls, books to take back to the library and so on... These are really handy.

Some of these things do not directly create pantry space. But I am finding as I create space things can be re homed that have been stored in my pantry that really don't belong there. Others can become pantry space. I now have a free top shelf in the laundry and much more kitchen cupboard space than I had before. The difference is amazing.

So my week was mainly about re arranging and creating space. And now I have all this space to fill in my kitchen pantry cupboards. I did add some things but it is going to take me weeks to stock this up. I added polenta, couscous, tuna and vanilla paste.

I want to end with something lovely from Sharon at The Shepherd's House Blog.  Loving pantries and loving jars I think her mason jar gift tags are just beautiful! Yesterday was Helen's birthday and I had to include something for her pantry in her present! I wish I had made these tags. Mason Jar Love. A future project!

It feels good to make progress! Helen and I were talking about how it was with the cyclone coming in and imagining how it is for the girls with so much snow. I had realised things I had never thought of (as we are just not used to anything like it...) that peoples water pipes freeze so they have no water, that the chickens water freezers so they have no water! That people can die just if their car breaks down in the freezing conditions! Both of us felt there are so many reasons we are working on this project.

Thank you for joining in. The comments, conversation and friendship is just wonderful. I appreciate your thoughts and ideas so much.

How have you built up your pantry and preparedness this week and how have you managed through the cyclone or the snow if you are in those areas?

Every little step is progress. Some weeks will be bigger and some smaller but over the year we will be amazed! xxx

Sunday 22 February 2015

Amazing savings from small things (and card making).

I really love stationary and cards! I do write quite a few letters but also there are birthdays, thank you's and notes that mean I use at least a couple of cards a week (but usually more). Each week I write to Kath in the nursing home. Now her life has very little that is pretty so that is one card a week right there that I like to be lovely, cheerful and something special. This week it is my brothers Birthday as well. Anyway I use lots of cards!

Regularly I look at cards and writing paper in the newsagents. It seems to call my name as I walk past every week. And I get quite a few ideas from looking too and I take notice of the prices. The average card I seem to like it around $8. Even gift tags are still a couple of dollars and up to four dollars each.

The other day I realised my card supply has run low and I am scraping the bottom of the barrel. I remembered some cards I had seen on etsy that were just gorgeous and started to dream about these! Then went and had a new look and the fact that each card had a matching sticker that you put on the envelope just made me fall in love with them! I actually started to pick out what I would like to order. And within a couple of minutes I was up to over forty dollars. And I was just warming up!

This happens easily doesn't it! But I remembered my pantry challenge and the holiday we are saving for and 101 other things...

It was the stickers that did it.

Now, I have card making supplies. I buy blank cards for $2 for a pack of 6 with envelopes and I save books to cut up for images. I have a boxful of lovely things. And I had a brain wave that I could just cut out little matching images and GLUE them onto envelopes and that would be the same as stickers. What is the difference after all? So this weekend while it has been hot I took over the dining room table and began.

So far I have made 12 cards with matching envelopes with "stickers" and I have cut out images to make a few dozen more. At shop prices the 12 I've made would have cost $96 and they cost me $7 to make (2 packs of blank cards plus op shop rose book for $3)

These are the simplest cards I have made. Just a rose image, a dot of bling and matching envelope with sticker.  The old fashioned book of roses was a great find and has given me over a hundred  pictures for $3. Images that are too small will be gift tags or go on my envelopes.

I do make some for boys too. The men in my family all like wildlife and mostly are farmers so I made cards with eagles, ducks, deer etc. and have a supply of these.

It is such a lot of money when I look at it, to save or to spend. But $8 here and $8 there really adds up. At two cards a week if I was to buy nice ones that is over $800 a year. Imagine what I could add to my pantry for that! Maths always amazes me. How a small amount like this a week is $800 a year of $8000 over ten years just is mind boggling!

Making cards is not a new solution for me as I have made cards regularly for years (and have a posted tutorial here and lots of pictures of other cards plus my ruffled cards here here I like to make). But thinking how easy it is to spend lots of little bits and how they add up so quickly has me really appreciating what a saving this is. And it allows me to write a card and send it without thinking too much of the costs.

I decided to show my simple cards as there is nothing to them. Anyone can make them and in any theme you like. You could get the children making them as they love cutting out and glue!

I started a series of bird cards from a bird book I just love the images...

Just think of the images you love or will suit your family and friends. A book of ballerinas or horses or whatever is going to be loved by the people you are most often sending cards to.

Whenever I am away I take a box of cards and paper and write letters. As I make cards I think who will like which ones. My card box is my little box of gold. Last holiday I sat outside in the sun and wrote letters and popped them into cards and once a day walked to the post box. Heavenly!

When I visit Kath she has my cards around her room and I know she loves them. Plus they brighten up her little world.  They are my extravagance without being extravagant! I guess this way they are costing 
50 or 60c each at the most. 

During the week I will get a couple dozen more made, I might show some more on Feather your Nest Friday. 

There are so many things that we can make ourselves and actually enjoy the process too. Many things don't even require any artistic talent just are a simple process/production line. And the savings can be just huge! In the case of something like cards they can also be packaged up into groups of six and tied up with a ribbon to use as a gift. I have added a pen or stamps and then I have a present. For letter writers/card lovers this has been a hit. 

Now that it is Monday and I need to grocery shop I know I have the money I didn't spend on Etsy and will add something to my pantry instead! I feel good about that already!

Have a wonderful week. After a really hot weekend we have much milder days to look forward to! xxx

Thursday 19 February 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 20 February 2015.

Today I'm writing while the cyclone is coming into QLD and it is quite hard to concentrate. I have lots of friends in Queensland and some right in the line of the storm. As I write it is 50 kms away and looking shocking. So to everyone in QLD I hope you are safe and sound.

The week was really good and busy. I still had fruit to use up and make things with and now I am down to Quinces which I will use next week. For two whole days I had jam on all day. Today I am trying to have a general clean up and catch up day. (needed!)

So here are some of the ways I saved money and built up my next this week...

I had more figs given to my by my sister in law. This was wonderful as I thought I had seen the last of figs for the season.

So I made different things (last time fig and almond jam and roast chicken with roast figs).  This time I made figs stuffed with soft cheese and wrapped in prosciutto, then baked. These were beautiful! Very luxurious.

Also I sauteed some and served on a platter with cold meats and salad.

I had some very cheap zucchini and used them in several ways. One was to make zucchini fritters which we had with salad. These were really nice!

The recipe was 2 zucchini grated,  a packet of Haloumi chopped into little squares, 2 eggs, parsley and mint (fresh chopped), pepper and SR flour to combine to a soft batter. I think some corn kernels would go well in this too. Drop into pan and fry until golden. Andy took cold ones the next day to work as he seems to like everything cold just the same!

I coloured and trimmed my hair and painted my nails.

Andy went fishing and came home with several large crabs for a meal. I wanted to show you what a beautiful colour they are.

This was on the outside table and I sat down on my chair next to it and it moved! The big claws mowed towards me! You never saw anyone move faster. Luckily Andy was inside and missed this spectacle. 

I have the cot all cleaned up and am making over my craft room into a little nursery. Getting the nest ready for a baby is quite exciting! Also I have cot sheets, little rugs and all kinds of things that I have made in recent years. I have much more if the baby is a girl! But if it's a boy I will get sewing!

As a flow on from the pantry challenge I went through all my junk mail. I had not been doing that very well as I check my main store on line catalogues. Well, the ten minutes it took me saved me quite a bit of money. So I will make the time to do that every week again.

I have had beautiful flowers in the garden. I keep planting and things keep growing! I count my garden in my building up my home thinking as our garden is such a part of how we live and adds so much to our home. We spend evenings in the garden much more than evenings watching tv or indoors. (at this time of the year anyway) These are some lilies that have been out and I have white ones coming on.

How was your week and how did you save money and build up your nest? 

I hope all the Queensland ladies are families are ok and that everyone is safe!

Have a wonderful weekend! xxx

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Feb 19, 2015.

It is so exciting to have an update! Probably because I have progress to report!

Firstly during the last fortnight I managed to:

Add surgical masks to my first aid kit. The ones you wear to avoid picking up air borne germs. I looked in the chemist and saw they really don't keep many. So in the event of even a really bad flu they would sell out of these fast. So I am buying enough for everyone to have a few on hand.

I added lots of jars of homemade jam to my pantry. Fig, plum, strawberry and peach. Except for the strawberries which were very cheap all the fruit was free so this cost me the cost of the sugar only. On Monday I wrote about all the things that you can do with jam! Thank you for so many extra ideas and recipes. It is very handy stuff.

I re arranged things so that my kitchen cupboards contain the things I constantly use, a couple of everything at least. Then the cellar can be the things that last a long time and duplicates. You know when you start moving things how it has a domino effect? Well, it made a mess but the end result is much better!

In my kitchen cupboards, which aren't large, I freed up some space. I packed up all my cake making and cup cake making  things into a giant tin. Patty pans, sprinkles and those kind of things. It gave me a whole small free shelf in my pantry. I had this tin and it says "cakes" too.

I also made a little bit more room by getting a big jar, bigger than fits in my pantry shelves, and using it to store pasta nests. These nests are Jamie Oiliver pasta and we love them. They are a bit of a luxury but my non pasta loving husband happily eats these. But they take up a heap of room! So now I have this lovely huge jar full of them on my counter. 

I added some pantry meals to my list of things I can make just from my pantry. Quite a few were thanks to Hilde and her ideas.

We made a decision. First we need to build up our emergency fund but then we are going to get a rain water tank. We have room for a small one or even a couple but we think we will get 1000 litre one and it will be a few hundred dollars. This would be more water and easier and better than trying to store enough bottles of water. Our rainfall is reasonable too. I think this would be a good investment. I think we can get our emergency fund looking better the first half of the year then we will get the tank at the end of the year, all going well. It would be a massive improvement on our water storage and reserves.

Then I added goods. This last fortnight I added powdered milk x3, pasta, honey x4, tinned milk, beans, soup, pasta and rice. (and the surgical masks)

My last picture is for Patsy. I have been following her series on A Working Pantry. It is fantastic. Last week she posted a picture of her trunk that she uses to store future presents in. I wrote and told her I have a huge trunk and it is empty on the verandah at this point. I found it on the roadside... I really love it and need a plan for it. So Patsy here it is.. I am not sure if I should paint it or just clean it up and oil it... or what. But it has a lot of potential! I think of pirates treasure every time I look at it!

Speaking of A Working part 4 of the current "This is Why" series Patsy talks about the ways we can shop that help fill our pantry. Point 18 she says she sits and studies the fliers/brochures before she shops. Every week I study the specials of my main store and I get that brochure delivered online on Wednesdays. BUT we get a lot of junk mail and mostly I don't read much of it. I think the sheer volume of it is off putting. But today I sifted out the things I know I don't want ie furniture brochures and electrical and made a small pile of possibly interesting ones. Then I made a drink and sat and went through them properly as tomorrow I will be shopping. It was worth it. I found four things we use and need on major specials, a $10 voucher I can use and a recipe that I loved! I would have missed out on all of these! Thank you Patsy. So this will now not be overlooked. I only need to do it properly once a week as most brochures come at once. This will help me stock my pantry!

Last fortnight I had my eyes opened to how a contamination in one countries food can create shortages world wide. This fortnight we saw this again here with a whole heap of berries contaminated with a life threatening disease! Now I am thinking in terms of stocking up these in incidences show how easily something can go wrong with food supplies, safety etc. Also again I see the most massive amounts of snow in areas of the US! I look and think I so hope those people are ok and have been prepared.  My eyes have been opened!

How have you been going? Any step big or small is a step! We are like ants gathering in. In fact the other day I went to the letterbox and there were ants everywhere. The whole path was covered in busy ants. I think we all see that at times before a storm. They seem to be working frantically. They somehow know the storm is coming. I stood and watched them.... and it hit me. I am seeing exactly this scene around me and amongst my blogging friends and around me too. And I have never noticed that before. In years gone by I noticed at times there were various bursts of activity (ie remember the millennium bug?) but in my life I have never seen so many people suddenly feel it might be wise to be prepared. Maybe I am just aware of it now? Or maybe somehow like the ants we just know it is time? I don't know but I have been thinking about this as to me it seems the "ants" are busy. Has anyone else noticed this?

Your progress, thoughts and ideas are making up a major part of what we are learning. Thank you so much. After the ideas on what to use jam for post kept coming in I am amazed at what a good thing jam is for our pantries... it has far more uses than I even ever imagined! What a gem!

What have you done in the last weeks to increase your preparedness and build up your pantry? We are building up an insurance policy and a buffer against unexpected events.

"when it snows she has no fear for her household" Prov 31.21

Sunday 15 February 2015

Take a jar of jam...

Lately I've been making jam. I have had heaps of free and cheap fruit and have made the most it it! Everyday I have been doing something with fruit in the kitchen. Right now Figs are waiting for me..

But this is a chance, like most things, a fleeting opportunity that if I don't make the most of it will be  a year before I see this again! Just now I don't need to buy fruit at all or I might spend a little to get such a lot. So it's a saving and I can spend that money on my pantry instead. And in winter we will enjoy peach crumble, plum cobbler, stewed peaches, vanilla poached plums and all sorts of things that are such a treat then as they are all neatly stacked in the freezer.

Also we have fig paste to enjoy with cheese and crackers throughout the year.

When the freezer is full, we are eating as much fresh fruit as we can, and I have kept the girls in fruit also, I make jam. It is easy to make and keeps for years. I make mine higher in fruit and a bit lower in sugar. It is bright and vibrant and chunky with fruit. Not much like shop bought jam really at all.
My jam making instructions are here. This stores away fruit and is so handy for so many things!
You might think really jam is jam! But there are so many uses for jam all year round.

Firstly, I make lots and different varieties. I will ask for fruit that is clearly being wasted in exchange for returning with jam or a fruit pie. This tactic gets me so much free fruit!

Next I will use it as little gifts. Or for a larger gift I will make up a basket with four or five different jams. This is a really nice gift. Many times I get asked for more. So I guess you would say in several ways I use jam as a sort of currency!

Then you have so many ways to use it. Many are big money savers.
One is to make pancakes for breakfast or desert. This is inexpensive and cheaper than breakfast cereals or fancy deserts. Warm jam as a pouring sauce to top your pancakes. Add several flavours to the table. This is a lovely brunch too. At home extra pancakes were cooked up in small sizes and then went in my  lunch box to school and I did this for the girls and they loved them. When the girls had friends to stay over I would often cook them all pancakes for breakfast. This was always such a big hit.

When I am having visitors I will often make scones. A couple of different jams go onto the table in my little glass bowls plus cream. People go crazy over warm scones! (in the US biscuits) They take minutes to make and again very cheap plus left overs have many uses! I basically love anything that provides lunch box variations!

Fill a sponge and decorate with flowers and cream. So easy! This was Chloe's Birthday cake last year...

It was a bought sponge filled with jam I had made and cream. I sugared some roses for over the top. Total cost was under $5.

This cake was another for a friends birthday. In this case I had used lemon butter I had made but jam would be an alternative. 

Jam fills little cup cakes making them into butterfly cakes.
Jam can top or go into the middle of muffins.
Jam can be the centre decoration on biscuits (Jam drops)

Nan used to make a steamed pudding that used jam.

You can make Jam Roly Poly or a Jam roll.
(My other Nan made sponge jam rolls. Oh my goodness that was amazing).

Jam can be warmed into a sauce used to top a nut sundae or fancy ice cream desert.

Berry jam and cream can fill a chocolate cake to give a Black Forest Cake effect.

 Mum always used left over pastry to make jam tarts. It was decorated with little pastry rosettes and baked and looked like a stained glass window. It is just a matter of spreading jam over a pastry base and baking. Served with custard this was wonderful. Or made as little individual sized sweet tarts in a muffin tray. I still love these. Never waste a bit of left over pastry! Surprisingly I saw this on a fancy cooking show last year! It was always the girls job to make little pastry flowers for the centres.

Jamie Oliver uses jam in pies. Ie instead of sugar added to apricots in an apricot pie add some apricot jam. It acts as the sweetener but adds body as well. This works with crumbles. You might have fresh apples. Add some berry jam instead of sugar then your crumble topping. Then you have apple and berry crumble.

Make bread and butter pudding. Jam is wonderful in this. My recipe that turns out like a cake is so beautiful. I copied the idea from a restaurant I went to. This uses up left over bread, buns or pretty much anything and is the loveliest desert. The recipe is here.

This is spectacular and so inexpensive. If you make this once you will never stop making it. Once sliced this is how it looks... add berries, cream....

Jam also makes a great glaze. Melted apricot jam over chicken pieces and baked gives a deep colour great flavour.  Plum jam as a marinade or glaze with pork or spare ribs...

Use jam in scrolls or in homemade pastries.

If you have jam that just won't set call it "Strawberry syrup" or "whatever syrup"and keep it in the fridge. Use this as  sauce over pancakes and pretend you meant it to be this way. :)

If you have other uses for jam please tell me as I am always looking for more. I never mentioned jam on  toast! I have ambitions of making Jam Doughnuts and Bakewell Tarts.

If you have jam in the pantry it is just very handy. It is such a basic that can become a whole range of things and really a little luxury.  Of all the fancy things in the world I think scones, jam and cream would be one of my favourite. With a cup of tea...

 Once I was in Kuala Lumpur  in the most luxurious motel I had ever been in. There was a string quartet playing and a waiter came out with the most beautiful silver tray and silver tea set. And you guessed it... he placed tea, scones, jam and cream down on the table.  Just all so beautiful and one of the easiest things in the world I can make at home! Every time I make scones  I think of that moment. Sometimes the simple things are the most beautiful. There I was having one of the fanciest moments of my life and there was my trusty friend Jam.

(This could be why I also love silver trays and lovely teapots, creamers and pretty plates! And we can re create this quite easily at home with our own pretty little things).

Have a lovely week. I will be back on Wednesday with a pantry update. It has been a busy fortnight! xxx

Thursday 12 February 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 13 February, 2015.

This week started off well before the ink was even dry on last Feather your Nest Friday! As I finished last Fridays post I headed off to my aunts to pick fruit. It was quite a warm day but I didn't even notice as picking fruit and my aunts garden are both so lovely and so  much fun.

Oh my goodness it was wonderful! We picked Figs, Plums and Quinces. This is some of my haul, when I got home I spread it out on the outdoor table...

Over the weekend I used figs to roast with roast chicken. This is just a lovely combination.

I also made fig paste. This goes with cheese and crackers and on a cheese board it it so good. Plus it keeps absolutely ages. I will give away a couple of these... (after packaging) Essentially it is like jam, about half fruit and half sugar but it is cooked down to a thick paste consistency. It was on the stove top all day to reach that point.

I took so many photos in my aunts garden but too many for one post so will use them other days as well. To add to the loveliness of the day she gave me two big bags of jars that she had saved and washed. She knew from my blog I had used heaps of jars and was getting low. As I loaded them into the dishwasher I said to Andy how jars just make me happy! He said "I know" and he does, he might not understand it but he knows I love jars! They came out all sparkling ready for my jam making this week. Plus there are some bottles with lids so I might make plum sauce. This is as nice a gift as anyone can give me. They are full of possibilities to add to my pantry.

On Sunday Andy came home and said "I think I have something in the van you might like" mmm interesting! So now I need to mention I am clearing my craft room and having a craft cupboard so that I can set up a little nursery for when the baby arrives. I had decided to get a cot from Ikea as Lucy is planning on a few babies so I might as well get set up! Even at Ikea a cot is around $300 depending on what one you choose of course plus then the mattress etc. This is what Andy had in the van...

You guessed it. Road side find. So far I have checked it's measurements against safety standards and washed it out on the lawn with bleach. It is gorgeous and has moulded swags at each end. I could hardly believe it! It is nicer than any I have seen and Lucy saw similar ones she was loving for over $1000.  So this just made my day. Amazing. I keep looking at it! I was over the moon about this!

I got strawberries for $1 a punnet and froze some.
Also very cheap lebanese cucumbers and tomatoes. 

I made my last figs into more fig and almond jam. My easy jam making method is here and with this Fig version I add the almonds in the last ten minutes of cooking. They make it. My Dad and I used to fight over the almonds in the jam so now I just put in plenty so it isn't a matter of life and death or like winning the lottery to get some almonds when you dig into it!

I made up a double batch of miracle cleaner. This is my must have cleaner. The recipe and other cleaning things are on this post.Clean and Fresh.

I had a couple of lucky things. I had to go to the doctor and was in there a fair while. She charged me a standard appointment when it could have been much more. Then when I came home I found I still had some medications she wanted me to take. One of them I know was very expensive ($50) and I still had it and it was still in date. So this was another big saving.

Every day and every week there are so many opportunities to make the most of what comes our way and to save. I am always amazed how this adds up and if you put a dollar value on it what it would be worth. And different seasons seem to present different opportunities. Now is my opportunity to build up my pantry and freezer with all this fruit so that's what I'm doing!

How did you build up your nest or save money this week? I hope it was a good week!

I am ending with a photo of my aunt in the garden. Her watering can is like Mr McGregor's from Peter Rabbit, I thought it was beautiful!

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Stocking the Larder

In true Buddy System style Helen and I are building up our pantries together. It is so motivating to talk about our pantries and ideas as we go along and our progress! I am handing over to Helen as we catch up with what she has been doing....

Stocking the Larder.

Cooking-yes,and living become simpler rites this month. I have made a list of satisfactory meals planned around only one cooked dish.  This list is hung on the door of my kitchen cabinet for reference.  When I am lacking in ambition I do not wonder what to have for dinner.”

                                                    - Nell B. Nichols
                                 Woman’s Home Companion June 1925

Sarah Ban Breathnach in her wonderful essay “ Stocking the Larder” tells of her favourite literary domestic Nell B. Nichols, a columnist in the 1920’s for Woman’s Home Companion.  There was nothing she couldn’t do.  But Nell’s great gift was that she never made you feel inept; you knew if you followed her blithe instructions carefully, you could also experience domestic bliss.
Nell encouraged her readers to have a plan for managing their household.  And that dear friends is what I joyfully want to open with you today!
We have a small two bedroom, 2 bathroom home.  We love every inch of it, but it’s comfortably full.
I have just in the last couple of weeks downloaded the 12 month preparation list from the Mormons who are experts in food storage.  Their programme is called “ Safely gathered in”.  I like the sound of that.
My main reason for building a pantry is provision for my family for the unexpected and the joy of not having to go grocery shopping if we are sick or it ’s inclement weather.
With that in mind here is the list for building your pantry one month at a time:
12 Monthly Emergency Prep Lists
January: Water, Beverages, and Water Storage
February: Breakfast Foods and Communication
March: Tomatoes, Pasta, and First Aid
April: Soup, Fish, Beans, and Sanitation
May: Condiments, Spices, and Emergency Cooking
June: Grains, Vitamins, and Bread Making
July: Summer Foods, Emergency Drills, and Canning
August: Fruits, Vegetables, Shelter, and Bedding
September: Meat, Potatoes, and Earthquake Prep
October: Oils, Fats, and Fire Safety
November: Holiday Baking, Emergency Heat, and Clothing
December: Baking Basics, Power and Light Sources 

Annabel and I love having a plan.  We are “ step by step” girls whether we are saving or renovating or building a pantry, so this works very well for us.
The thought of purchasing and storing one years pantry food while undertaking your regular monthly grocery shopping can seem daunting.
The Safely Gathered In programme encourages you to purchase extra’s as you are able and to do that consistently.  It also has a motto “ Store what you use, and Use what you store.”
Glen and I have been busy at home, sorting through our belongings and making sure that we are using everything!
As this has led to a little bit of decluttering, it has opened up some cupboards which we are now installing inexpensive shelving ourselves.

We have been through the house and we can see in tops of wardrobes and our pantry that we can install more shelving.
Recently we bought 3 second hand filing cabinets for $45.  They hold nearly 700 cans and will be a wonderful aid as we fill them. They are not pretty, but they are strong and in good shape, so we are going to spray them with some left over spray paint.

As the year progresses, and the pantry grows, it frees up more income towards  buying the requirements for the present month.  The end of January saw me with being able to add significantly to my pantry with beverages.  This month is breakfast foods and communication.

In closing dear friends….building a pantry should be a pleasurable exercise for creating a calmer home, so let’s joyfully encourage each other in the art of stocking the larder.

Love Helen xxx

Annabel and I would love to know, what is your plan for Stocking the Larder?

Sunday 8 February 2015

Show a little extra love.

I really think Valentine's Day is beautiful. It is a good celebration and can be sweet and romantic not just for couples but for anyone! I know we don't need Valentiens Day to celebrate love but anything that is an extra dose of love and affection, well, I am happy about!

You do not need to blow the budget. Like everything else you can celebrate and make it special without spending anything at all or very much at all!

If it prompts us to think of a new way to say thank you, I appreciate you, I love you, then its a good thing. A really useful tool is understanding the Five Languages of Love. This is just the best thing! And it expalins a lot. If you haven't read this book take a look online as there is a great website and even a little survey you can take. This could be a huge help to you as it was to me.
Different people express love and recieve love in different ways. It might be to do with their up bringing or their personality or both. And as soon as we see it we can understand people better.

Have you every given a gift or tried to helps someone and it fell flat? Or you feel someone doesn't seem satisfied with your efforts? Or maybe your husband gives you beauiful gifts but they leave you still not really feeling loved? Well, once we understand a persons love language this expalins it.

It applies to children as welll. You can hear someone say they give their children everything but they are still not happy. This is a classic. Maybe the child's love language is they want time spent with them and presents don't mean much? 

The love languages are
Acts of servie. This person really appreciates acts of servie as signs of love. If that is your husband he might see a clean house and nice cooked meals as love. Or you might feel that way yourself. A man who is like this might naturally wash your car as an act of love rather than buy you flowers.

Physical affection. This person doesn't want gifts or words they want physical affection. That is what makes them feel loved.

Words of affirmation. This person feels loved and appreciated when they are told how much you value all they do for you and their good points etc. When they hear you speak of them hightly. They value words above things. 

Quality time. This is spending time together, doing stuff together. This person would rather a date than a gift. A picnic rahter than a card. 

You can be a combination of these. So think about it. What ways really do you prefer to be loved? And think about what you think it might be that your husband really appreciates? 
Unwittingly we often express love in the way we like to recieve it. And it can miss the mark. My husband is a combination of two of these categories and I am a combination of another two. Luckily I figured out the ways he likes to be loved the most and basically I spelled it out to him what I like :)! I think men like this. Rather than scratching their heads trying to figure it out why don't we just tell them? So much easier! Mostly they are so grateful!

Andy listened to a guy on the radio who shared his secret. He says to his wife "I guess you can't figure out what I got your for your birthday?' and she will say "oooh is it that bracelet I saw" and he will say no it's not that. Then she says"did you get me that dress in the window?" and he will say no. Then she will say "did you get me that book I was talking about" and he says no. This goes on for five or six times. And he hasn't bought anything but now he has six ideas from her answers! The man is a genius!

I try to do something different and surprising. One year I set a table out in our front courtyard and make it look gorgeous. So when Andy came home he saw this lovely setting as he came in. And I baked a brie with walnuts in pastry and a lovely salad and special desert and so on and we ate outisde and had a lovely evening. 

On a day that he would be working I made his whole packed lunch in heart shapes. This is the thingwith men. They are tough on the outside but gooey insdie and he thought that was really sweet. AND if another guy saw this it means they give you a hard time but are secretly jealous, apparently.

Another time I wrote a letter that said how much I appreciate how hard he works and all he does for us and all of the things that he does that I notice and am grateful for.  So many men work really hard and long hours and are never thanked. So many women do too. Thanking someone for all of this can mean the world!

Cooking a favourite meal or planning a picnic can be beautiful ways to celebrate. Planning something romantic or some sort of surprise. Do you know what, I think anything that shows you have thought about it and gone to some kind of trouble is going to mean something.

I am big on heart shaped food. Really,  you can make anything in a heart shape from scones, pancakes, biscuits etc and I always sent them to school with the girls. 
But pizza, pies, and really anything as so sweet as hearts. And they make you smile. They are lovely.

This year I made a heart shaped pavlova. It looked beautiful!  And was just a little bit different so it was special. Baking a favourite food is always going to be a hit.

It is just a little bit of extra fun and sweetness. The world needs more sweetness.

I hope you have a wonderful week. Helen will be posting her pantry progress on Wednesday and my Feather your Nest Friday is already shaping up as over the weekend I had a heap of good things happen and did some fruit cooking.

Mondays are a great day to do a little extra and get the ball rolling. A good start helps the week go well! xxx

Thursday 5 February 2015

Feather your Nest Friday. 6 February 2015.

This has been a busy week. I think it got February off to a good start!

The weather has warmed up but that is normal for this time of year and we were very lucky to have it so mild for so long. That was a saving in itself. No air conditioning and less watering.

This week I was able to use some jams as a little gift.

I picked some cuttings of a palest pink geranium and a heap of pretty succulents as well. All free plants!

My own little Quince tree produced half a dozen Quinces this year which I picked to cook next week.

Someone  else moved out of the units and left behind heaps of stuff. I swooped on a carpet sweeper!
I always did the carpet sweeping for Nan. Mum had a carpet sweeper for years! I have wanted one for ages! I have had two re chargeable hand held vacuums that have both been worse than useless. The idea is for quick clean ups in between a proper vacuum. In theory. You know when you keep running over something and it won't suck up but you think it should so you keep running the vacuum over it? It would be miles faster to bend over and pick it up but no...
An old fashioned carpet sweeper takes no power. I have been using it every day and it picks up much better than my useless electric one! This is great. What a find. I can't wait to see who moves out next and what they leave behind!

I made biscuits. Some to give away as a small gift and some for us.

With the last of the last (and very soft) peaches I made Peach Crumble. Lana had commented that she made Peach Crisp. I had never heard of this. I think it turned out to be one of the name differences between Australian and the US like Biscuits and Scones. I googled and it seems to be what we would call Peach Crumble. Best idea ever!  I just made it as I would apple crumble and it was he yummiest thing ever! Thank you Lana, I made several of these and they were just wonderful!

I have always liked the saying "make hay while the sun shines." This is how I feel about using up the fruit when fruit is coming in or making the most of beautiful weather and washing and drying the quilt when it's hot!

But there are times when we need down time. We need rest. I've said I waste less time overall if I have a rest before a headache gets really bad than if I keep going. But whatever it is there are times we are sick or exhausted or injured and we have to rest.
And there are seasons where we are flat out with a new baby, a sick child or something that is taking all our effort.

These times are ok! Everyone has them. And so when I am well I think "make hay while the sun shines!"
Two years ago I got something nasty and was really sick for about six weeks. It was terrible! Well, there was no feathering my nest I was just trying to get through it! But overall it is ok. You just do what you can when you can.

I am talking about this because just now I know someone injured and confined to bed and someone struggling and unable to do the usual things. Also I know I have a reader with a new born baby! In whatever circumstance there is only so much you can do! Don't be discouraged when you have had a bad week or a sick week.  Be encouraged! 

Today I am off to see my aunt and her lovely garden. She called me to say she has a bucket each of Figs, Quinces and Plums for me! Now, I know this free fruit time is not going to last much longer. This is another time to make hay while the sun shines. This helps me to save money and build up my pantry! 
It is a reasonable drive to get there but there are several lovely op shops in her area plus a fantastic vegie shop I can go to on the way home. So it becomes a great day in many ways and a great start to my next week of Feathering my Nest!

Yesterday I had coffee with a lady I met recently. I gave her some of my Fig and Almond jam as she said how much she loved it. Making a new friend I found out she loves preserves and she has a lemon tree! I said to her if she likes Lemon Butter I would make it for her in exchange for lemons. Deal! And so I have a new source of lemons.
I am mentioning this as I get a lot of free fruit and this is how. I ask. Make it known to people that you make jam and pies etc and ask if they have spare fruit, offer to do a swap.... knock on the door where you can see fruit falling to the ground... let your church family or relatives and friends know you really appreciate produce. Reward them with a jar of jam or a pie. Doing this has always kept me in free fruit.
Depending on where you live this could work with vegetables or other things. But here there are good fruit trees and a good variety of them so it mainly works with fruit.  It is an example of "ask and you shall receive" it really works, you will be amazed. 

How have you saved money and Feathered your Nest this week?  Every little bit helps!

Have a wonderful