The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Tuesday 31 March 2015

Pantries and Preparedness, April 1, 2015.

This post is a progress report. I am looking over what have I done to build up my pantry and supplies so far this year. It is April now after all!

First of all I worked to fill all my kitchen pantry jars, canisters and tins.
I cleaned out my kitchen pantry cupboards and re homed things that were just taking up space that didn't really belong in there. And got rid of some outdated things, weird things and had a good clean out. This freed up so much space! I then built up my supplies of things that will make an easy meal when shopping is impossible for some reason.
I made a list of what to make from pantry ingredients so I know I have plenty of pantry meals.
Over time I built up my meals in the freezer. There is a good supply of options that I can just thaw out and dinner is done!

We greatly improved our first aid kit and there is a kit in each car as well.
I added a fair bit to the medicine cabinet.

We have a place with emergency numbers in print as well as an action plan to help us act quickly if we know a storm or shortage is coming (or a blackout etc.)

Now for the cellar...
I started with a dusty and dark cellar that was unused. It is thanks to Wendy that I decided this was a terrible waste and I should make the most of it.  I got it cleaned up and we found shelves (road side find) that fitted down there very nicely.

Once my kitchen cupboards were looking healthy I started adding things to the shelves in the cellar.
There is a large plastic tub which I add packaged goods to, canned goods go on the shelves. There is a space that also has heavy plastic sheeting, gar bags, masking tape, candles, matches etc.

We continually add water. As we have containers empty we fill them and add them.

I have built up supplies of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste etc.
Over summer I make heaps of jam and also froze stewed fruit and fruit pies.

I got a first aid app on my phone and a first aid book next to the kit inside.

I have learned a lot! Plus it is a fun project and another way to build up my home.

A little review is a good idea. Am I even heading towards my goal of building up a pantry and cellar pantry over the course of the year? Well, yes, I am going ok. And I can't wait to see how things are in a few more months. But you have to keep on it!

My cellar shelves are filling and I need to add a big tub for more dry goods. These include tea, pasta, powdered milk, flour etc.

It is kind of satisfying to look in the cellar and see almost a mini home store! Plus I am used to it now and pop down and up the stairs without a thought. Originally I was afraid to go down there!
Now it is an asset to our home. (Thank you Wendy!)

The images I have included come from a project I am working on. Making over recycled jars and tins for storing food... and these lovely labels are examples of free ones you can download from The Graphics Fairy. There are so many to choose from. Air tight containers, from infant formula tins to pickle jars can become beautiful pantry storage! You can have a lot of fun printing labels to pretty things up!

As you know I love contributions and comments. I really appreciate the time it takes and the help and encouragement it means to everyone. Fiona went to comment as I asked her to elaborate on the things she had been doing. From what she had said and the fact that she is an experienced nurse and had decided to do this... well, I wanted to hear! So I am sharing with you what Fiona has done and the insights from her experience... (comments would not let her post it there as there is a short word limit so I asked her to please email it to me and I would post it this way.) Over to Fiona....

I have always had the preparedness gene in me I believe.   But when the bird flu epidemic/sars was a threat, it came to me - I had the ability to render my little family somewhat immune.  I lived on a large property with chooks, vegies etc.  I worked part time and had paid off my mortgage. I decided that if this particular event hit & there was quite concern back then (remember worries diminish with time and you forget how topical this all was).  Both my kids were at school. I had decided that we would just close up shop, not go to work/not go to school.   I had under house storage as well as a brick cellar in the house and a large cupboard under the stairs.  I spent a heap of time analysing our food needs, how much of each we used and longevity of said products.  I had always menu planned – usually only a week at a time.  I made up a months worth and worked out what would be needed.   Initially I used cardboard boxes but did go and buy 12 tubs (huge) from bunnings.  These I just labelled 1 for January, 2 for Feb etc.

I am not doing this at the moment, so I forget the quantities, but I worked out that if say for instance each month I used 2kg of sugar, 6 of flour, 1kg of rice, dried biscuits, milk powder, pasta etc etc, that I would purchase those and put them in Tub 1.  I bought long life stuff including cream and that awful plastic Kraft cheese in the blue box that doesn’t need refrigeration.   I bought tinned soups, salmon and tuna and even that awful campbells spaghetti sauce - the meat one, fruit and spaghetti and baked beans, cordial and those orgran powdered eggs as well.  I could pretty much make most things.  Then before the month was out I shopped again and repeated it.  I did about three months worth in each month. Before long I had 12 months supply of food.  A lot of things I purchased I grimaced a bit at using, i.e. the campbell meat sauce, it was never half as tasty as homemade but when it came time to use the tin, I just added it to the meat sauce I made, thereby diluting its taste.     
Separately under the cupboard stairs I stored soap (which I have been making for years).  I stored laundry soaps, bleach, dish washing liquid, dishwasher powder, toilet paper (I had over 200 rolls of the stuff), shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste – basically all the supplies needed.

I had an animal section & stored wheat and layers pellets in bulk.  I also bought slabs of dog food and worked out how much the dog ate and multiplied the grams per day into a weekly/monthly amount and purchased the 8 kilo bags of dry food up until the expiry dates.
I began to keep any plastic bottles (not milk) and my dad kept his too for me.  I washed them carefully and filled with water and stored in the huge linen press upstairs.  They just lived on the floor, about 60 bottles wide and as high as I could get it.   I knew that I could keep this water about 6 months.  I kept note of this date and when the six months was up, I painstakingly emptied each bottle into the garden and re washed and refilled.   I have a feeling I put a drop of bleach into each bottle, or was that what I would have had to have done had  I needed the water. Water is a biggie, we need clean fresh water.  I also purchased the ten litre water containers the ones with the taps in them and used one at a time, probably monthly.   Just re purchased when one was gone.  They had long life.
I had a tub with salt, spices, oils, sauces and kept that topped up well. 
I have a methylated spirits camping stove that has all sorts of attachments.  I knew I would be able to cook for us on that.    So I cooked a few things and worked out how long it took to get water to boil or to boil spuds or rice etc.  Multiplied that by daily/weekly/monthly and stored up the big 4 litre bottles of metho.  I had a lot of that.    I had boxes and boxes of candles and matches also.
Each of us had a torch in our room and I had spare batteries as well as a battery radio (now where did that go???).  I also had those hand wind up torches which don’t need batteries.   The first aid kit including medication was topped up as well.
Re the expiration dates on things, I made sure that if a product was to be used by June, that it did not go in the number 6 (June) tub, it went into 3 or 4.  There was not one tiny piece of waste in this.   It was probably the most economical year of living ever.   I also remember just loving the first day of the month, cos I would go downstairs and open up the tub.  They were too heavy to lift, so it was a several trip empty out and bringing everything up to the bench and putting away.  It was actually quite a lot of fun.
Several years later, my circumstances have changed.  I now own more property, have that dratted mortgage thing again but I’m far better off. But, I don’t have good stocks of anything.   I am getting back into it and watch your posts with interest Annabel.
I’m sure this is a bit boring, but you asked me what I did back then and that is the best I can remember.  I now have a new desire to recommence all this and hope to learn more from you and the others.
Re the freezer I had a system of large garbage bags I tied up with a knot with a tag hanging from the knot. The number corresponded with the number of the month.
In each bag I had blocks of cheese, butter, peas, steamed fish, frozen cream, basically all the hings that make life a bit nicer. I bought a few months ahead.

I was conscious that if the S#it hit the fan then likely power would be lost so I concentrated on dried food in the pantry store etc and a huge effort was on water and fuel to feed the camp stove. (Metho)
But if power was not an issue and it likely wouldn't be if it was ill health or job loss I was planning for then I had a full stash of food.
If it was a pandemic then certainly at some point there would be power loss. I do remember clearly when the Longford gas explosion happened, we were without gas in Melbourne for almost two weeks.
I never believed that this could happen, not in this day and age and in an advanced country either. That was an eye opener.

It is a comforting feeling to know that one is somewhat prepared.   Fiona.

Thank you so much Fiona. Thank you for the effort to write all this up. If there is the threat of another epidemic (and of course there will be) I feel I have some tips. To be able to avoid crowds in itself would be a big thing. And I am grateful to be able to ask you what you would say about things from a nurses perspective as well as a Mums perspective.

If you would like further reading I enjoyed Cath's blog post about her pantry. She shared how her Mum was always prepared for anything. You all know Wendy and her blog My Abundant Life (on my side bar). Wendy also writes a column on The Cheapskates Club (also on side bar) called The $300 challenge. Her family of four live on $300 a month for all their groceries (in Australia). Wendy posts how they do it. There is really a little community that supports and encourages each other in the quest to keep the grocery bill down. I have learned heaps from reading this! The Cheapskates Club has a free newsletter and face book page also. This is the link to Cath's article on pantries...        How to stock your pantry.

This week I have had computer problems! I am needing to learn some new ways to do things. This may explain a lot! Eek

Also I have discovered some wonderful blogs that I will share coming up. The right blogs have an amazing power to inform, inspire and motivate!  

How are you going with building up your pantry and general preparedness? The little ways we add to our supplies, the skills we learn and the steps we can take to being better prepared all add up! Little by little we greatly improve how we are going to handle all kinds of things from being stuck home because of a storm, snow, sickness, or a loss of income or so many scenarios that just happen!

"She is not afraid of the snow" as she has been busy doing stuff! xxx

Sunday 29 March 2015

The sweet holdiays of yesteryear.

Our trip away (and the way we take short breaks) brings back memories in us both of the holidays we were taken on as children. I remember how exciting a holiday was! My Nan and Pa hired a beach house at Christies Beach each year for many years. It was big enough that Mum, Dad and my brother and I would go plus my aunt Mary and my Uncle Jim. It was a street away from the beach. We had the most wonderful time. Nan ran the kitchen as we still ate family meals mostly and some fish and chips. Pa would take us down to the beach and swing me endlessly in the water. He never tired apparently!

Other holidays included our family staying in a farm house. There was a wood stove and no electricity. We had great adventures during the days, walking to look at Eagle nests, going to the sea near by, padding in a lake that was there. A fire at night and board games, reading and early nights, early mornings.

Andy's family rented a beach shack at Stansbury. This was a couple of hours drive for them. Andy's parents and four kids set of excitedly and the holiday featured lots of fishing everyday. Meals were what they caught! Andy's Nana made giant jars of shortbread glued together with icing and sent these away on these trips. This was so wonderful. (Just as my Nan did.)

The holiday was spent outdoors all day, they collapsed in bed at night exhausted to do it all again the next day!

My Mum and Dad's honeymoon was a trip to the south east of the state with a caravan. I am told Dad looked at cows a great deal as he dreamed of owning cows some day. So their honeymoon pictures are mainly cows :)

Nan and Pa would never have taken a holiday or purchases anything they could not afford. Pa was very mathematical. Every decision was carefully considered. How far away from that are we now? Holidays are routinely paid for on credit and great debts are gone into for them.

My childhood was filled with various holidays and I loved them all! Once we stayed in a shearing quarters and had bonfires in the evening. I never felt deprived that's for sure.

I have noticed something and have been thinking about it. Young people now are told to go see the word and travel extensively. And I can see why to some extent.

But at the same time the dream of owning your own home is becoming a harder to achieve dream. Many are deciding it is impossible. And personal debt levels go up and up.
Is one connected with the other? At least in part?

We decided holidays and breaks are important to us. The way you feel refreshed, revived and things are in perspective,  convinces us of that. And we decided to take breaks we can afford. Nan and Pa had no spare money and they managed it as did Andy's parents.

Helen and her husband have a little caravan. They take mini breaks that they love and do it for very little. I know that some places they stay are only $15 a night! You can see Helen's caravan here... Helen's Caravan.

If it can be afforded then travel is life changing, educational and amazing. I had the chance to take the girls to the US and see Disneyland and Hawaii when they were little. This was a gift from my Dad. It was wonderful! The memories will last forever! What I am saying is we can holiday within our budget. We don't need to risk our security to do it. And wise decisions need to be made about what is it we want? A home? A world trip? To be debt free? To have an emergency fund and plan?

It seems our Grandparents (and possibly our parents) were very thoughtful with their money and they are starting to look wiser and wiser as we look back at that!

The trip we just took might be the only one this year. But we can go to the farm and that can be a mini break in a way. We saved up for this from last October. I knew once Lucy was getting close to due I wouln't want to go anywhere... so I planned March was the latest....

Our long drive was a mobile picnic and crochet fest! When we arrived this was the view from the front doors....  (the tide was out)

I posted about my magazines, op shopping and ways we do this very cheaply on Feather your Nest Friday. Andy loathes flying and I have to say I am feeling the same. So we have no airports and no stress, just a drive. We arrived and felt so relaxed and were eating lasagne and salad on deck chairs looking at this about an hour after arriving.

I slept so well with cool sea breeze blowing over me and only the sound of sea and birds. We made friends with these guys who got to know quickly we would feed them...

Andy could fish right out the front. I could take him a coffee by exerting maximum effort and walking across the lawn lol

I have always wanted a zoom lens camera so I could take photos of birds. But here they pose for photos at a distance you can touch them, pretty much eliminating the need for a fancy lens! If anything it was like "could you back up just a little bit? You are fogging up the lens..."

I found this really good fun and so did Andy who has 101 Seagull portraits! Also here was a decline in front of us before the water which meant the birds would fly down and be really close to our heads....

These guys are HUGE and heavy. They put their feet down (landing gear) in anticipation of hitting the ground, several times a foot like seen below almost touched my head! haha they are really funny!

There is no getting around the fact that nature is wonderful, de stresses you and makes you happy. Nature is free.

After a day of this I realised how much better I felt. And I didn't know I had felt bad. I just felt so much more relaxed and was sleeping so much better. Five nights of sleeping like a log was beautiful!

If you have any chance take a leaf out of our Grandparents books and enjoy a quiet and relaxing break for little. Or pack a picnic and go somewhere beautiful for the day.  Maybe you know someone with a farm? Or like Helen you know of inexpensive cabins or caravan parks... but something that is a change and will not ruin the budget.

We could have gone ANYWHERE and I doubt we would have relaxed any more or enjoyed it any more than this.

What did your family do for holidays when you were little? I would love to hear. I would love ideas. The US ladies would have stories too that I will probably find amazing! What did your Grandparents and Great Grandparents do? There may have been some that never had a holiday. But I hope most had some opportunity sometimes. How do you save money on holidays and manage to get away within your budget?

Lets re assess holiday expectations. Lets not be paying them off for the rest of our lives! 
Now to plan our next one and aim for that. It is fun to have a plan and work towards it even if it is going to take a while! We have picked where we want to go next and this time it is only two hours away and also on the beach. For relaxation I can't beat the beach.

I do notice that vintage caravans are very fashionable. So maybe vintage holidays are making a comeback. I can see why. It makes sense and saves a fortune.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 27th March. 2015.

This week we were away for five nights on a little holiday in Tumby Bay. This is the sweetest little beach side town! It is a six hour drive (or bit more) from home so I can do a lot of crochet in that time!

Sorry for no posts Monday or Wednesday on account of this. I don't say much about going away as it is a bit dumb security wise to advertise being away from home. I think I have caught up on replies. Thank you everyone who commented and I am sorry it seemed I hadn't replied. They were a joy to read when I got home last night. What is lovely is that we all live in different places and in different circumstances. But we all work to build up our homes, happiness, security and to save money and look after our families. That gives us so much in common.

We planned this little holiday last year. I knew that once it got close to Lucy's due date I would not want to be going anywhere. (She is due May 14) And I knew once the baby is born I won't want to go anywhere either! mmm and we hadn't had a break for ages. And Andy needs one I thought. So I booked this. We stayed in a little cabin on the beach. I am a believer in having breaks and that it can be done inexpensively. A break changes your perspective and is so healthy in so many ways. It was beautiful. We arrived and felt relaxed immediately! And the sea air made me sleep like a log!  But I will post about this on Monday and on inexpensive holidays. This was standing on our front little lawn... the best rainbow I have ever seen. The photos shows it but doesn't show how bright it was. It was INCREDIBLE!

Today I will stick to how we saved money and built up our home.

The night before we left I made up ham and salad rolls and packed a basket with a little fruit cake, serviettes etc. Then in the morning I added the rolls and a thermo each of tea for me and coffee for Andy. This way we can stop and have breaks, something to eat and drink, when we see a nice place to stop. This saves a lot. Once ages ago we stopped at a country town far away from anything and had coffees and toasted sandwiches and it was $40! Never again falling for that! This is nicer as we can stop and have a sea view or wherever we want. Packing a picnic the night before a trip is my habit now.

The weeks before we go away I start to save up groceries to take. In the last days I add fresh things. So we take bacon and eggs, tomatoes etc for BBQ brunches, teas, coffee and all kinds of things. So we had things for lots of easy meals.

On the morning we left I took a lasagne from the freezer and wrapped it in a tea towel. This was so it could thaw for the day and be dinner on the first night. We were tired and I heated this up and we ate it watching the sun set and the birds on the ocean! Lovely.

On Sunday we went into the local store to buy fresh milk. I looked at the magazines and saw one that looked lovely. I picked it up and it was $15! I said to Andy I will wait until Monday when we go to the op shop. And guess what!?? At the op shop I bought 40 beautiful current and recent magazines for $2.
Yep that is 5c each. I can't tell you how much fun I had with those magazines! Bliss. So many ideas, crafts, recipes.... I tear out the pages to bring home for my various scrap books. It was lovely. So relaxing too. And Andy bought a couple of dozen motorbike magazines, also for 5c.

We went op shopping. I got a Queen Anne plate and several other old English bone china pieces. And books for card making. I found two glorious rose books and a Shabby Chic book to use to make cards. They were each $2. Each one gives me so many images to use. The rose photo book has over 50 suitable pictures for cards. So I have new supplies for very little. And now I am looking forward to card making one rainy day.

In quiet times (and when I wasn't reading magazines!) I wrote letters. I used my last lot of cards I made recently. With my "stickers" to pretty them up. This is so enjoyable to me. This was the table at one stage before I headed to the post office!

We walked out the front and fed our scraps to these guys. They were so beautiful and funny. They will eat out of your hand but you have to be a bit careful as their beaks are really sharp. We were good buddies by the time we left. :) This is what you call inexpensive entertainment!

A local tourist magazine had vouchers for free coffee in the local bakery and we used those.

We had a day op shopping at a nearby town. That was a good fun day and we found some amazing things.

It was very relaxing and beautiful.

Now back to the real world! I need to go and get some groceries today ready for the weekend.

How did you build up your nest and save money this week? I hope it was a good week.
Also Easter is almost here! I need to think quickly about that and the holiday break. I need to make some lists and get organised. Next week will be a busy week and a short week with a public holiday for Good Friday.

Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Thursday 19 March 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 20 March, 2015.

Friday again already! I am pleased to say it was a pretty good week and with beautiful autumn weather!

Some of the ways we saved money were...

I cut Andy's hair for him. He would never go to a hairdresser so this is a must!! But who knows what it saves per year?

I made a big pot of spaghetti sauce. I let it simmer for almost two hours with fresh and dried oregano which I love.  I have a "thing" that mince must turn out deep red not brown. Helen and I had this conversation once about when mince looks an icky colour. The other alternative is to make a deep brown gravy meat pie type mix and make pies...

Anyway, this is my spagheti bolegnase mix and from this I made a pasta dinner, froze several batches and made 2 lasagnes and 3 pasta bakes. Most went in the freezer and I gave Lucy one of them to help her out.

Then I made a crock pot full of chicken and loads of vegies. At the end of the day when this was really tender I made chicken pies. Also I had heaps of chopped celery in the freezer from when celery was $1 a huge bunch so I used some of that, We had chicken pie with relish and a side salad for dinner and I froze six chicken pies. The idea is that when the baby arrives I have back up. I might not be needed to help but then I might be!

These tasted really good. All I do is use chicken, loads of vegies... celery, onions, corn, carrots... whatever you have and a tin of chicken soup. Let it go all day so it is very tender. Use puff pastry to make up pies and bake. It is a cheat recipe really and very versatile but it works every time!

In the garden I have a huge parsley plant that went to seed. A couple of weeks ago I buried some seed heads to encourage it to grow. This week I saw this...

The top shows the seed heads I cut. I give loads of these to the birds, to the budgies and to Ricky. And then I buried heaps. And below are the baby parsley plants. I have clumps like this in a dozen spots. So I repeated this process in about 20 other places around the garden where I could fit some parsley! I was so excited to see this! If I had vast quantities I can give away bunches and all kinds of things.

I built up my home with more meals in the freezer, more items in my pantry and cellar. I keep a basket that I add items to. When this is full I take it down into the cellar and stock my shelves and bins. It is surprising how much it grows. It is starting to look like a little shop!

During the week I snuck into the florist. I have already collected a fair few ideas from there for myself and for gifts too. They had sold out again of the jars with succulents. Still $49. The simplicity and sweetness of this is so easy to copy and I am searching for the big old jars to make some.

But this time I got more ideas! They had another version of this which was old fashioned looking squat shaped jars with a succulent plant in them. Collecting succulents for these is just so easy. And as you can see they were $25!

Well,  how simple is that? I can do that.

And...  the simple posy is back. Like very simple. Like your five year old makes you!

But they are sweet and adorable and realistic in that many of us can make them up from what we can pick. Very small ones were $10.

Larger ones were $15. 

Then the next thing I liked that I think is a nice gift were bowls filled with mixed herbs. The way things are going I will have the parsely plants for this and a couple of punnets of other herbs and these could be great gifts.

These were $25. I would say the bowls were around the size of a dinner plate. Very simple, fresh and a nice gift!

Gathering ideas like this helps me heaps. Then I know what to collect.... succulent cuttings, big old jars, interesting smaller jars or containers... and bowls I could drill holes in for the herb gardens. So I start watching out. How simple, easy and cheap to do all of these! Love that.  I just like finding ideas that are selling for heaps like this but I know I can do for a dollar or two!

During the week Kelly asked a question. I have thought about you a lot Kelly. I always say there are seasons in life for different things and you can't do everything at once. We need to set little goals each week that are reasonably realistic or we just won't do them! Also I think working as a team, as far as possible, in your family helps. Whatever the ages of your children teach them how to help. Lynette said that age appropriate jobs and responsibilities is helping them learn for the future. So true! Also responsibilities make children feel important. Laine called this "harnessing the energy" and her children had a lot of chores and responsibilities. This helped her and the family in lots of ways.

The next thing is to harness wider support and encouragement which might be your wider family, church and friends, books, blogs etc. I know that is possible as when my girls were young I would read a Laine's Letter and feel encouraged and energised! Up I would get and start cooking or doing the next thing. That half hour of encouragement, planning, a cup of tea, was like good fuel. It was like having a good coach.

Then as we do here, at the end of the week, consider how much you achieved and count your blessings. If we only look at everything that needs doing still we will never be happy. There will always be stuff to do! Life is made up of the ordinary weeks. There is a lot of joy and knowing you kept everything afloat, everyone fed, the household running and whatever other progress you feel you made this week! It is easy to forget how much you did. I do. But just now I thought wow I am really happy with all those pies in the freezer. What a good thing! That makes me happy.  So consider all the good things. Appreciate them. Later we can go on and plan new things!

I hope you had a wonderful week. How did you build up your nest and save money this week?

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Pretty up your Pantry.

We have been talking about building up our pantries and supplies. Today is about prettying up your pantry.

Many of us would remember our Nanna's pantry or have seen pictures of pantries from years ago. I think of shelves lined with pretty paper, a row of lace stuck along the front of the shelf, all kinds of old jars with labels. Remember lovely old canisters that had "Sugar" "tea" "flour" written on them? And bread bins, stackable cake tins, biscuit tins (cookie tins) and so many lovely things! Mum always lined shelves, things looked fresh and clean. Later contact was the in thing to transform the inside of your cupboards. Both my Nan's and Andy's Nan used big jars with screw top lids and they would fill them with biscuits to send with our families on holidays. We both had Nan's who did this! And they both made biscuits with a forcer and "glued" them together with icing! So nice.

I know that women used to cut paper trims, even from newspaper, to decorate their shelves and add transfers (decals) to pretty up jars or cover recycled tins with pretty paper so they could become kitchen storage. Baby formula tins were transformed into a row of canisters. Women just found one way or another to pretty things up, create storage and build up their pantries.  I know all kinds of things were used including wooden crates to create shelves, recycling and repurposing back before that was fashionable.

We can still do all of these things. I can't help but love a row of jams lined up with pretty labels or covers. That somehow represents something so lovely to me! I am happy to make over jars or tins to use in my pantry.

Once I had a comment from a lady that she disagreed with me and didn't understand why I needed to make pretty cards and note pads and things and why couldn't I use an old envelope? Well, I didn't mind for her to do that and good on her for recycling I said. But my answer to why do I want things to look nice is because God must have made me that way. Even in Grade 1 I decorated my pages at school with flowers in the corners. Mum and Dad got a letter from the teacher about it...
Anyway I know I am not the only one who likes making things look nice. Women have been making things lovely from nothing and straightening things up forever!  And in the case of jams and preserves it makes them into lovely gifts as well.

When we first moved here there was no pantry cupboard at all. My first attempt to create storage space was made from an old bakers stand Andy found on the road side. Actually a lady came out and said to him it was junk and he shouldn't take it. He said to her he thought his wife would like it. She thought he was crazy! Lucky he stuck to his guns and I loved it! It needed a new shelf and painting. Andy cut a new wooden shelf and I painted. Then I decorated tins and lined up my jars ready to fill...

Once I stocked this up it was a great help in the kitchen.

Good storage is really important. But I want to spend my money on produce not the containers. I have been able to collect all sizes of jars and tins over the years and I am still collecting. When I get a few the same size  I paint the lids and decorate them.  Just love doing this!  I used to use decals but now tend to cut out little flowers or birds from pictures and just varnish them on.

Some jars have come from cheap shops but I often don't like the lids. So painting is my solution.

I have also bought spice racks for a couple of dollars and painted them up. These are also awesome for nail varnish collections! This one came with all the little jars as a set.

I really love labels. You can print free labels for just about anything. If you search online you will find just so many. You can use contact to stick them on or print them onto special label paper. This is a good list of labels that includes jam labels as well as pantry labels... Kitchen Printables.

Another idea is to paint your lids with blackboard paint so you can identify the contents with chalk and change it anytime you want. Blackboard is also available now in contact form so you can make a lot of labels by cutting out the shapes and sizes you want.

Jars that have the lids that come apart have great potential! I think most canning jars are like this. You can add any picture or label your heart desires! I did these for Christmas presents...

I added birds to a row of jars just recently as the lids were just plain...

Old tins are really wonderful too. Often you can find tins that have contained biscuits or chocolates and have a brand picture on them. It is really easy to paint them any colour you want. I find tins keep things really crisp and fresh. I am saving tins just now and when theres enough my palest pink paint is coming out and then rose decals.

Having a day where I have time to fluff around with kitchen things is lovely. We have nice shelves now and my cellar storage to bolster up my supplies on a more serious level. But I keep my pretty stuff in the kitchen cupboards.

We have a trip coming up and I will be hunting for more jars and tins. The best jars are really old thick glass preserving jars. They are amazing. Country op shops are pretty good for them and they are usually 20c or 50c. Larger ones with lids can be a couple of dollars. But comparing that to some brands of plastic containers that are huge prices each I think this is a bargain.

Looking at old images of past kitchens is really interesting. One picture I saw gave me an idea. Helen will faint at this I think. It was a narrow strip of red gingham softly gathered up into a ruffle and stuck along shelf edging. Ooohhh it reminded me of I Love Lucy and old kitchens like that. Adorable! A plain old book shelf painted up with shelf trim could be an improvised and lovely pantry.

How do you pretty up your kitchen? It might not be "pretty" it might be stylish or country or industrial or another theme. It might be making do with what you have or what you can recycle into storage containers.  I think we can all be quite inventive when we need to be.

Overall I like things to be practical/useful and pretty. I think I like old fashioned things a lot over modern. I would choose jars and tins over plastic containers. It is really fun to collect things for my pantry and as my storage grows I need more containers so I have the excuse to hunt for more!
I love that we can find so much joy in this important aspect of building up our nests!

Sunday 15 March 2015

She brings home food from far away places.

I have had a really good summer season and we had so much free fruit. My photos are some of the free produce we had this year, so far, which has been a huge blessing. Much of it is thanks to my Aunt. Also the Bay Leaves are from Mum's tree at the farm. The peaches were from a neighbours tree. They were going away, we knew that, so we asked if we could pick the peaches and they said yes!
I always keep a basket in the back of the car. You never know... I am always on the look out!

Several times recently I have mentioned and thought of the verse "she is like merchant ships, she brings home food from far away places" (Prov 31. 14) You know how you can read a verse a hundred times then one day something hits you about it? Well, I've been thinking on this verse and I keep seeing it in action.

Most recently I saw this in action in Pasty! She diligently checks prices and shops around and so it is not a big surprise she finds some amazing specials! Plus she does something else. Like Laine she prays before she shops! Well, she had a haul of specials that you wouldn't believe. I'll let you read about it here.

So what does the verse mean and how can we apply it? Firstly I notice "she brings home food like merchant ships" so it's "ships" not "ship". She is bringing home a lot of stuff from different places! Merchant ships still exist but back when this was written ships really brought back amazing and exotic things from different parts of the world you never would have even seen before. Very exciting possibilities! They provided a far greater variety than otherwise existed. Now the world seems smaller. Routinely we have so much choice! But the verse still applies and there are other ways of bringing home food from far away places.

We have online shopping. We can compare prices, products and details easily online and we can order things from just about anywhere!

We can compare around using the junk mail we get. Sitting and going through the catalogues updates us what is in our own area.

If we are travelling we can look for specials and specialities in the area. The simplest way is to ask the locals. Locals know! We do this with op shops too. Chatting to locals you find where the best markets, op shops, fruit and veg shops etc are. This is so helpful. We have come home with some amazing things, some bargains, some free. Last trip a huge basket of free lemons!

We can shop in different supermarkets, farmers markets, private fruit and veg shops and a whole range of places. Here in Adelaide we have a good wholesale huge warehouse called Giganis Bros. It is everything from cookware to beans, herbs, pasta, dehydrated products all at wholesale prices. (Bacon Street, Hindmarsh) This is a great place to stock up and save money.

Last week I mentioned how in Wendy's family all watch out for specials. Her husband does, her daughters do, together they all are on alert. This team effort really is a help. You can do this with family and friends, neighbours... you can do it online via Lasoo here in Australia (it is all the current  specials catalogues), your junk mail, My Abundant Life as Wendy lists the best specials and where they are located, I follow a wholesale butcher on face book so I always know the specials (mine is Specialty Foods Thebarton, South Australia) Doing this you don't just widen your net you are increasing the number of fishermen!

When I lived in the country I knew a lovely Christian lady with five sons. This woman really was like the merchant ships. She knew all the best places to shop. When they went to Melbourne she knew a factory that sold pies direct to the public at amazing prices. She would take a huge esky (cold pack) and fill it and bring them home. She knew places in Adelaide, she phoned around the butchers and would get 50 kilos of mince meat at the best possible price and then package it into portions, she knew how to use Rain Checks at various supermarkets and shop in bulk. She also cooked non stop and timed the bread maker to be just finished as the boys walked in from school! She made giant biscuits on trays, instead of making 12 to a tray she would make 4 or 6 giant ones. Faster and sensible for big boys. She was one industrious woman. She decorated cakes to bring in extra income. I think of her so often. She shopped far and wide to feed her family.  Once the boys were teenagers she had the expense of feeding six men.To do it she really used the merchant ships method.

All of this takes some doing. It is a priority. It might mean shopping in more locations. It might mean travelling further but doing it less often. I think there is something else. I think the idea of bringing food from far away places and merchant ships means this woman cared what she fed her family. It is not rubbish it is good food, good value. I can't imagine that after all these she wasted anything either. Cooking and storage and stocking the pantry for winter were all the next steps in this process as was helping the poor. We all know this all takes loads of work. Lots of diligence. Lots of reward.

When I lived in a country town the prices were high. I used to do a once a fortnight shop in a town an hour away. The first couple of purchases covered the petrol then as the savings were so significant. Then a couple of times a year I would go to a further away town. That one was an hour and a half away. But it was worth it. Of course you have to consider petrol prices when it's travel related and postage or delivery prices when it's online shopping. My favourite "free" way to do it is if you are in a different area for any reason then while you are there check out the shops, specials and prices if you can. Different areas just have different specials. Some places have factory direct sales, whole sale butchers, shops that sell seconds, road side stalls, pick your own produce... all sorts of possibilities! If you have a long trip you need to take then you can plan to do both things. This is mainly how I shop in far away places so I save petrol which has to be considered in your costs.

For many of us food prices are just going up and up. And for many of us incomes have become less reliable. Or both of these at once. And many of us feel the need to be prepared and be prudent.

In our pantry challenge we are doing our best to create a buffer between ourselves and hard times. We are storing up, preserving, preparing and stretching things the best we can. To do it I am sure we will do better if we consider this advise from Proverbs. Maybe there are possibilities that we haven't thought of that might help us in our food budget.

How do you maximise the amount of food you get for your money? How are you like merchant ships? I would love to learn more ways we can be like this. If it helps our food budget it will help our pantry also. Somehow I just know that this verse being on my mind so much is going to lead to some good discoveries!

Have a great week! xxx

Thursday 12 March 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 13 March, 2015.

We had a short week this week due to a public holiday. Technically, yes, it is still seven days in a week! But the routine is changed and I don't seem to get so much done. So on Tuesday I got a wriggle on and tried to make up for it!

A weekly review and lots of lists help me get more done. When we talk about building up our homes, feathering our nests, it can mean a lot of things. Building up relationships is also building up your nest. It is strengthening your home. Some weeks we might achieve more in one area than another. All progress is progress! But considering our achievements helps us see how much is possible. That progress has been made. That definitely helps me feel happy and more positive than only looking at what needs doing rather than celebrate what has been achieved!

There are so many reasons that saving money can help you build up your home. Security for one. There is nothing like an emergency fund and some financial leeway to create a buffer between us and unexpected circumstances. And there is nothing like a pantry full of goodness to create another buffer between us and shortages, full prices, the takeaway shops, the times we are rained or snowed in or the times the bills come before the income has come in.

We can incorporate any goals we want into our weeks. It is just amazing how small steps add up!

This week I feathered my nest by:

Doing some deep cleaning. Like moving the bed and wiping down skirting boards etc.
Tidying up and making the dining room table look lovely.
Trying new recipes.
Further building up my pantry.
Improving the first aid kits.
Improving the meal situation in the freezer. (and pantry)

This week I saved money by:

I had a day I didn't have to water. We had rain! Just enough to wash everything and freshen everything up.

I can't wait until we get the first good rains. The garden is dry in spite of all the recycled water it gets. But this was great as a start.

I baked a birthday cake for my brothers birthday. He likes a fruit cake. So I made him one and I doubled the recipe. This recipe makes one very large fruit cake. So doubled I made three medium plus two tiny fruit cakes. It is a recipe that improves with age. Also this makes it a perfect pantry cake. It keeps at least a year. Having this on hand is wonderful. Unexpected visitors, a gift, a busy time, it is a great cake to have in the cupboard. The recipe is here. I have set one aside to take away on our holiday. One for Andy's birthday cake as it is his favourite. We had one mini one for desert and one mini one I sent to my Dad.

As a gift for Dad, along with the little cake, I sent him jars of plum and jars of fig and almond jam. He is mad about old fashioned jams like these. It was a big success he rang me up so pleased!

We experienced some culture in an arts festival in our city. It was a light show and the evening was beautiful. It was totally free and a lovely night out. Checking for free events can be a really good idea.

I made some extra meals by cooking double or triple. This included tuna mornay which saved cooking one night. When I do this I try and make it different. One night I served tuna money in vol au vent cases. Then two nights later I served it with breadcrumbs and cheese baked over it. Both were yum.

I picked basil and chillies form the garden.

Lucy is finishing her nursery. I was able to give her a lovely bookcase and a bedside table. These were both things she said she needed. I told her I had one of each in the shed! Both were road side finds. The shelves were handmade heavy wooden shelves and the table was a Queen Anne style little bedside table with drawers. She was so pleased and yesterday I saw how they turned out when painted up! Gorgeous! So that wasn't my money saving but a big one for her. I love being able to do this!

I couldn't show you this before or Helen would have seen but for her birthday I made kitchen gifts and added pantry items! One gift was gingham serviettes that I did a crochet edge on. Helen loves red in her kitchen. So I made the whole parcel red. This was easy to do and she loved it. Making presents overall saves me a lot of money and I can make things just to suit what someone loves. This was a success! (At Christmas I had made her a red gingham tablecloth).

I am starting a frugal craft, a rag rug. Here is Nanna Chels tutorial that she posted this week. I almost have enough fabrics for this. We have a chance to go to some country op shops coming up and I will get the material I need then. My ambition is to make a heart shaped rag rug for next to the bed and for the little nursery I am setting up. Nana Chel's Rag Rug Tutorial.

I love reading how people save money and the things they do. Patsy was out of her usual shopping area and decided while she was near other shops to check out the prices. She struck gold in some amazing specials. This reminds me of the verse "she brings home food from far away places." Many times exploring new markets, shops, garage sales etc we come across things we would normally never see! For us the country op shops are so wonderful and if we didn't check them on trips away we would just miss out. I come home with gorgeous fabrics and everything I need for planned crafts, presents and clothes too. So always remember to "bring home food from far away places." Some of the best fruit and vegetable buys I have ever had are from far flung suburbs out of my normal area. But calling in on them has turned out so well! Being ever watchful is always going to help.

On My Abundant Life Wendy has started a column to alert each other to great specials of the week. This is such a good idea. Straight away via her blog and face book I saw two of my favourite brand shampoo's were half price at Coles! Helping each other find specials is a wonderful idea!
Wendy also posted recently how her daughter spotted tomatoes at a fantastic price. This helped Wendy heaps and I thought I wonder how many teenage daughters know WHAT is a bargain price on fruit and vegies and would both NOTICE/watch out and alert their Mother? Very impressive. And this is what we need to do. Use the eyes and ears of all our family members and friends! Get everyone on board, tell them what to watch for, what you are looking for. Andy has sent me a text saying "is $2 good for cauliflowers?" as he has seen them in front of a shop.... yes it is!  Get everyone on board to help you and work as a team.

I hope you had a great week and I love hearing what you did to build up your nest and save money. We both learn new ideas and encourage each other. As we "encourage one another" we are helping each others households as well!  xxx

Tuesday 10 March 2015

A Reminder of Why we are Building our Pantry's (by Helen).

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 starts with "There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on earth".
And so it was this past couple of weeks when I found myself incredibly thankful as we calmly, but busily prepared for Cyclone Marcia here in Australia. Tonight there are two cyclone systems off the Western Australia coast and the Queensland Coast.

Thanks to all of you and Annabel starting our interest in building our pantry's, food, water and alternate power were things that I knew we had in place. The joy of not having to rush to the supermarket and try and get supplies in while I was stressed or the weather was worsening.

My husband and I live in the mountains, where there are an abundance of large gum trees.  In the past, the road to town has been blocked by landslides that make the road impassable. It also means during severe weather events, we usually lose power.  This also means we don't have water to the house.
The key here, is knowing what you are likely to face during a severe weather event in your area.  As Annabel said in her area, it's often bush fires, but for some of you, it's snowstorms or flooding.
I kept moving at a busy pace as the morning unfolded, and cooked several meals, using the chicken we had in the freezer as well as making a cake and a pie.  We have recently bought a oven that attaches to our wood stove and we have plenty of firewood.  We also had purchased a generator, and my husband bought it up and started it to make sure it was running as well as checking we had enough fuel for it.

Once I had the food taken care of, I cleaned and tidied the house and lit candles.  With the smell of the food, and flicker of the candles, all was snug and safe in my home.
We had our youngest son coming home for the weekend, and it was lovely to welcome him into our cozy circle.
After this event, what do I realise about where we are short if we face this again....and we will.  I don't have adequate lighting.  I have several hundred tea lights, as well as various candles, torches and battery operated fairy lights.  On my wish list are some Kerosene Lamps from Kirkman's in the U.S.

I also need to keep building our pantry with the delightful company of this group to share ideas with. This month for March following the " All is Safely Gathered In" programme, I am adding tomato products and also making sure my First Aid is adequate.
So let me ask you....if tomorrow or later this week, you found that you had a big event in your life, what is it that you need to do to be prepared?
Love Helen xxx

Sunday 8 March 2015

There is more to craft than meets the eye.

Some of my best early memories are of Mum sewing baby sheets for my soon to be born baby brother and Nan knitting. I was very lucky and I learned to knit when I was about four and crochet not too long after.

Later my memories are of Nan who would have her spinning wheel in the lounge room and she spun her own yarn and knitted her projects from her own wool. She loved it. Evenings were industrious times. No one ever just sat and watched tv. You worked on your projects! We all did. It was a little hive of activity. Very pre industrial revolution! Nan also had friends who all got together with their spinning wheels and they would talk and spin and make a day of it. They were very happy times.

I am so glad I had all this going on around me as it was just natural to be creating something. But you don't have to have learned things when you were little to learn them now. I didn't do a stiitch of embroidery until I was in my thirties. Learning this was wonderful. Actually exciting and utterly addictive! And only last year I learned a heap of new crochet patterns and I found that just as exciting. It was so much fun I barely noticed winter.

Once you are absorbed in something you really relax and your heart just sings. I forget what time it is and that I should go to bed! I used to make up little designs from childrens books and just have so much fun with sweet little stories and innocence. It was just delightful. It did me good. 

You cannot think unhappy thoughts when putting a nappy on a baby mouse.

I made up mouse and bunny weddings, mouse flower girls, mice visiting friends with baskets full of goodies! lol

I know my Nan suffered anxiety. I look back and see now that when she sat there not doing anything (which was rare) she seemed anxious. When she was spinning or knitting she was happy!  When she was productive she was relaxed. It was visible. This is so applicable to me. Anytime I have stopped being creative has been a sign I'm not doing well. If I want to up my happiness and contentment I need to get itno some new projects and learn something new.

Many times I hear that people don't sew/knit/crochet or whatever as they aren't as good at it as someone else in the family, their work isn't good enough... but it is a natural process to go from learning, to being a beginner to being really good at something. That is part of the fun. Don't let perfectionism rob you from all the joys that should be coming your way.

Making things has always meant I can mostly have the things I really want. I am not tempted to pay hundreds of dollars for a huge vase of flowers or for decorator items when I can make them.
Making things means I can produce gifts all year round and have a stash of presents and cards to give that are personal and special and for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them all.

Being able to give or help through creativity is even better. You may not be able to donate large amounts to charity. But you might be able to make warm rugs for children that need them or beanies for premmie babies who's heads get cold! You may be able to bless a new mother or a person with something lovingly made.

In earlier posts I have shared some of the beautiful things people made for me when I had babies and how much they meant to me.

So what will I learn next? Nanna Chel has got me onto rag rugs. I have always admired them but never made one. So I am going to learn. Nanna Chel is putting up a tutorial and when its ready I will post a link to it. Start saving old sheets in pretty fabrics!

The proverbs woman was busy making things. Her skills were many and varied! You just never stop learning and fine tuning your skills. The Bible says that the skilled worker will stand before kings. 
Like everything in the Bible it turns out to be true on more levels than you ever thought. Now there are countless studies on crafts, knitting, crochet and their health benefits. Yes, health benefits.

We are meant to be busy with our hands. We were built that way. We are happier and more content. We are more relaxed. Our blood pressure goes down. (mmm except when you are making mistakes and then it goes up!)  Our minds are distracted from our worries. Our sense of achievement and satisfaction go up!

Creating things helps us balance the budget, earn an income, decorate our homes, feed our families, gives us purpose, helps us feel content at home. CONTENT AT HOME. If you can imagine how much this means. If you are content at home you have no desire to be loitering in the mall wasting money. You just don't have that unquenchable thirst for the next thing. You are content at home. What a thing to cultivate and instill in children. You never compare yourself to the Jones' as you are too busy to notice the Jones' (I hope this is also a US expression... "Keeping up with the Jones' is an expression here to mean the competitive pressure to keep up materially with those who SEEM to be wealthy).

So often I hear women say that their Grandma taught them to knit and gave them a life long gift. The other day I read this on a face book story. The question was when did you learn to knit and crochet? Many said that their Grandmothers had taught them and how thankful they were. One lady said her Grandmother had taught her to crochet and now she was herself in her 70's and it had given her a life of joy. How beautiful is that?

So for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren it is so important we work creativity into our lives and teach the skills to others and learn new ones from someone who is more advanced. It is so much fun. This is another aspect of "encourage one another."

If you have skills you have let go for a while try getting started again. If you haves something you always wished to learn take a little time, even half an hour and take step one to leaning. It might be watching a you tube tutorial or go to the library for some books. When you are learning something new you will thrive! It doesn't need to be needlework, painting, cake decorating, card making, decorating and so many things are being creative. I think it's creative to make a meal from a few basic ingredients.

Mum is in her 70's and has always been very productive. No idle hands around her home! But she is still learning. I actually was able to teach her some more crochet patterns last yeatr (thanks to you tube) and we had heaps of fun trying these together. But now she is trying something new and making head bands and boot toppers. I can tell she's having fun! 

Here is my youngest Niece modelling some of Nan's headbands on the weekend. Very willingly I might add :)

I said she could be on my blog and she was very happy to help out. 

This was one of our collaborations, I made the flower and Mum makes the headband. My niece wanted this one. She said "Nanna this feels so soft and nice on my head."

Seriously do yourself a massive favour and be creative and productive. And keep learning new skills or resurrect old ones. 

The last picture reminds me today it is Lucy and Kato's first anniversary! They have had a big big first year. They got married, had a wonderful honeymoon, got a baby started and moved into a bigger home. That is pretty good for their first year! Now Lucy is painting up furniture, creating a nursery, decorating a house and cooking up meals I can see the creativity in her and that she feels that satisfaction too.

Have a wonderful and creative week. I always say busy hands really do mean happy hearts. It's true. xxx