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.

Sunday 29 November 2015

The Vicky Challenge.

My favorite time of year is the days between Christmas and New Years Day. I love those days. In this time I have a review of the year and write down all the major events and things we achieved. I am usually amazed when  I do that look back at the year. Then I start to think about what I want to do with the new year and what I could change and even what NEEDS changing. A fresh new year is so exciting to me. A brand new diary and I am set!

The photos in this post are Thanksgiving photos some of the ladies sent me!  This one is from Colette. She has her wedding photo on the table. I just love this! Also later her Mum arrived and added two more pies!

I already know that come January I will be straight into making Christmas and birthday presents and as so many of you said that this January you want to get started too I am making it a challenge that hopefully helps us all! So that is challenge number one.

The other day I was talking to Vicky. And as she often does she said something that stopped me in my tracks. Her Mother would say "it's a Vicky thing"! I LOVE a challenge and this is the best one ever I think!
We have often discussed the value of our work and savings. Mimi frequently talks about this too and she calls it "insourcing". The idea is you count your savings as earnings.  So if you wash the dog yourself instead of paying someone to do it then you just earned.... (whatever it costs to have a dog washed!)  That money you just saved you pay yourself or your emergency fund or where ever you would like to pay that money instead of the dog groomer.
I think about this all the time. Usually I try to know, roughly, what things are worth. So if I just made four dozen sausage rolls I will try to keep track of what it cost me. And I try to know about what they would cost to buy. I know these would cost about $170 from the local bakery. Then I subtract my expenses and am left with how much I saved/earned.
When you look at the value of things it's amazing!
You could stop buying work lunches and take your own. Or take on some task yourself of make your presents... but the idea is to have an estimate of the savings.

Now, I know the numbers add up. If I was doing The Vicky Challenge I would have kept track of our savings last week and that would have included the $800 we saved making our own range hood  and all the other savings from sending Andy's lunch each day, using freezer meals instead of take away and so on. Already I just saved more than I probably could have made elsewhere less tax, travel and so on.

The difference is Vicky writes it all down. Daily she does a rough calculation of her savings/earings.

(I always mention that savings equal more than earnings since you are not taxed on them. So $1 earned might be 75c. $1 saved is $1. So your savings stay intact!)

Then Vicky tallies up each week, then month... then finally the year. At the end of the year she knows how much she saved/earned. Last year she earned $15,000 this way.

While I think about my savings and even report them in my Feather your Nest Friday posts I have somehow never thought to do a weekly add up. Let alone an annual calculation that would mean I can say how much my job at home equals for our family. It makes no difference if you are working outside the home or not. When you are home the savings from your effort count just the same.

Colette's Thanksgiving table.

As I love a challenge I can see that keeping track would be very motivating. Exciting even. Plus you know what? It would do a lot to make you (and the family) aware  of the value of all you do towards the building up of your home.
Society can be  a bit "what do you do all day and why don't you get a real job?" (which I hate!) and this means you can think of the huge financial advantage that your works actually gives your family and what a massive lie it is that if you don't work outside the home you don't contribute financially! What a scam that one is!  I have great suspicions about the motives behind whoever perpetuates that belief.  And this is all apart from  the many other sides to homemaking me cannot have a dollar value placed on them!

After I asked Vicky about a hundred questions on this she wrote something up to help me explain it...

Now as for keeping track of your savings here is what I do:
Many people only see the value of a paycheck we earn and not our value at home. When I left the workforce I decided my full time job would be to save money. I wanted to see if instead spending a 40 hour work week check if I could save it since we would be essentially losing my income. So I thought if I do things to save and my husband's paycheck covers the bills and we could have a little surplus things wouldn't change much. It was the best decision I ever made. I also decided that since I am a visual person I need to see if my efforts are really saving us and what those dollars and cents amounts look like? Maybe it's a throwback from having a pay stub all those years? I do have to say not all the saving efforts are mine. When I showed my husband my "records" the first time he started and still does bring me receipts or give me a value to put running tally.
First let me point out it doesn't take a lot of time even though it may sound like it does. It's no different than entering totals in a checkbook. And you can use a notebook, a pretty journal, a folder or a binder whatever works for you.
Last year at the end of the year when I added up my totals we had saved over $15000.00 yes thousand dollars. Other years have been higher and when I was first learning lower. I devised a system to put most of that towards debt and we are now debt free even if it took a few years. I looked at those dollars and cents as money still in the bank that didn't have to be touched thus increasing the bank account instead of depleting it.
Everything counts each week! Small things add up at the end of the year!
Things that I include:
I cut my husband's hair = $10 we are not paying the barber
If I pay a bill online or over the phone = .47 per stamp not used+I am not using a check from the checkbook either
I add the difference in my savings from a sale price versus full price I pay for an item
I add the difference between full price and a clearance price
Any extra money made that was not from my husband's work check because the extra money is tax free!
See a penny pick it up! More tax free money!
Items we have bartered for.
If I buy things at thrift stores throughout the year I allot a lump some for buying used and not "new", but I keep the values realistic.
Money I have saved using coupons
Gift cards I have earned or are given, more tax free money
Things that are given to us. If they are new and never used I allot the full price if something is used I give it a yard sale value.
Any produce given to us fruits, vegetables, plants for the garden or flowers, canning jars, pantry food or food that can be given to the animals. Someone paid for these items before I was blessed with them so again I don't add in a used value versus new value.
If I get something like buckets I add a dollar in my book because I would pay at least that much at Dollar Tree.
Homemade birthday cakes or cupcakes or pies or rolls or anything like that I base on the price at the store minus the cost of my ingredients.
I put in a value for all of the foods I grow and can, dry or freeze and base it on how much I have added to the pantry so it varies.
If we recycled anything for money that is added.
If I got a free sample(these do save) I a lot at least .25, but if it's a travel sized one like they sell at the store I
give it the store value. Examples: laundry soap=the soap is free for 1 load, pet food samples, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.
Anything I get from online sampling programs and the value of them. Example: I get a free pizza coupon to try and the pizza is $4.99 I add that into my savings since I am not paying for pizza.
One of the biggest is if we do things ourselves that saves immensely so I add a value for the cost of labor we saved.
Gas savings, either from not having to drive much or fuel rewards like $1.60 off a gallon up to 30 gallons
Oh I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist of it. So if you keep track of just how money gets saved in your household you get a better idea of just how much it all adds up. Everything counts from hanging laundry on the line(no electric used there) to you gave the dog a bath yourself instead of a groomer, doing your own hair and nails how much do you save there?  Maybe you use the library instead of buying books your saving.
Here is a good example: The other day I had to take my Mom shopping. I had $5 and some change to spend. The 2 stores are across the street from each other. I had a coupon, a promotional gift card and store rewards between the 2 stores. I got: a girl's lip gloss set , 2 girls tops, 1 girls pants and 2 infant clothing. So with the coupon and gift card I saved $20. But wait most stuff I bought on clearance so let's factor that in as well which =$29.50+$20 and then the other store I got 3# lemons free store price $2.99 each, a loaf of bread free=.99 and 2 yogurts free=$1.29 so I spent $5, but saved $60.75 total. That will go in my savings book! It all adds up!

So I am in! In January I will have a little book to write my savings/earnings in each day and tally them up. I am pretty sure that knowing myself I will then try to beat last week, beat the best week, make the next month better than the last and so on! Also I am pretty sure I will feel quite proud of the numbers. It will certainly be an interesting experiment. I remember Laine would show her husband her work. Imagine showing him these numbers!

We would all have to make decisions about what to count and how to do it. Personally I think I will count anything that if I was not home and able to do we would be paying for or paying more for. 

I can't wait to start. If anyone would like to join in on The Vicky Challenge this is advance warning that can be used to get yourself a note book and also learn and record the prices of things that you often make. That way you know what you saved and the value of the things you produce. This is very handy information.
Some gathering of this kind of info will be helpful. I do this along the way ie if a friend has their windows cleaned I ask how much it was. Then next time I clean the windows I have an idea of what I just saved. Also I try and know what people spend per day on bought lunchs, coffees, takeaways and so on.
In the shops I take notice of things like how much is a muffin (since I make a lot of those) and I take photos on my phone ie I took a photo of the whole bakery price list. 
Other times I don't have a clue like when we were given the barrels for water. I found out online that rain barrels at the hardware store are about $100. So I would record that amount in my book.

I know that for this to work it needs to be simple and fast. In most instances I will be fairly approximate in my guestimations, jot them down and add up the days and weeks as we go. If I try to go to the last dollar and cent it will be much too time consuming.

Mostly I think you would be amazed at how much your work both saves and benefits your family. It would be a mind boggling exercise for even a week, just to see the financial reality of it. I can't wait to see what the first week is like and look at each month until I can say how much my efforts equalled for 2016.

So that is The Vicky Challenge! If you would like to join we will be starting the first week of January so start observing prices and gathering information and a note book etc. 

Rosanne's Thanks giving pies!

Have a wonderful week! Tomorrow is the first of December! That is the first day of summer for us. And the day we put up our Christmas tree and decorations! Very exciting! I am baby sitting, posting parcels and shopping today... I better get going.....xxxx

Thursday 26 November 2015

Feather your Nest Friday, 27th November, 2015.

For me this is really Feather your Nest Friday for a whole fortnight since I didn't post last week. It has been a really long week!
Luckily I write down things I am happy I achieved. Since we have been in crisis mode a lot of what I actually did was just keep things running and the wheels from falling off. I kept all the basics going along ok. I know I am overall much better if I can keep things as normal as possible and be busy. So I keep going and think keeping everything as ok as possible helps everyone. (as far as actually possible!)

And times when I  do get ahead all come in handy now. There were meals in the freezer, easy things to put together, I was not worried and didn't need to go to the shops etc. All a big help.

One of the ways I got ahead was I kept wrapping Christmas presents and I have posted four. I am glad of that.

I get very excited to post and deliver presents I have been putting together all year! And also if I know my friends have their trees up I really like them to have presents under it. Seriously I am like a five year old. I haven't got all them posted but I've made progress at least. And this is a happy thing.

Andy had finished the range hood and it was my part to paint it. But even that Andy helped with. Overall and taking into consideration the cost of materials this saved us about $800. I am very pleased with it!

I also saved money by freezing some bananas Mum gave me,
Earning a $5 Woolworths voucher.
Earning 500 points towards another voucher.

I found 21 lebanese cucumbers for $3! I am making pickles...

Also I got five bunches of radishes (which Andy loves) for $3.

I went through the catalogues and shopped the specials.

I made progress on my freezer challenge. I could now fit in a turkey which is a start!

Some things that were nice for the nest included...

Lucy gave me flowers. They are artificial and will last forever...

The garden is full of flowers and at the moment the Hydrangeas are out. We have white ones out the front...

And purple ones out the back...

I hope to have more good things to report next Friday!

Just now I am having computer problems and my ipad is out of order.  So HOPEFULLY I can post the  introduction to the challenge I mentioned next week.

We have less than a month until Christmas!  I want to appreciate this special time.

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

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. After the Harvest by Teri.

Hi everyone! Once again I am blogging with the help of a friend today thanks to Teri.
Dad is doing pretty well and came out of intensive care so we are very happy about that!

Today we are discussing using your already preserved, canned, dried and frozen goods. Just being able to go tot he pantry and right there you can whip up all sorts of good things. I saw Rosanne had done this last week. She went to her pantry and got out apples she had canned and used the crock pot to make apple butter for over Christmas. It looks amazing. One ingredient can be used in many ways! Just having preserved it means it is there when you want it. The possibilities are endless. Over to Teri and how she uses her harvest later in the year...

I thought it would be nice to share some ideas and recipes about how I use all the
produce I’ve been canning. Actually, my “canning season” goes most of the year.
But the produce from our garden and from others who have so generously shared
with us is done for the year.
A couple weeks ago, my husband asked if I would have time to make some goodies
for him to share at work. So, I took a package of grated zucchini from the freezer
and made two big loaves of zucchini-chocolate chip bread. This is the zucchini that
my friend gave me and I will be making more bread in the coming weeks. I’m sure
everyone has lots of zucchini recipes. Bread and muffins are a favorite at our house
and adding chocolate chips, chopped walnuts or pecans or different spices can
change up your recipe a bit. And just leaving it plain is often how I make it. This
past week, I made our Christmas fruit cakes, using my own dried fruit.

I was able to can lots of tomatoes this year. We use them many ways but often for a
side dish, I make what we call macaroni and tomatoes. After cooking 2 cups of
macaroni (a bit underdone), I add 1 quart of tomatoes. To this, I add a little sugar
and some salt and pepper to taste and let this warm on low heat. Sometimes, I add a
small can of tomato sauce (mine or store bought). That’s it. It simple and very
yummy! (Leftovers can be warmed the next day for lunch or added to a can of
condensed tomato soup and served with a grilled cheese sandwich).
I also make our spaghetti sauce from scratch using my own canned tomatoes, some
tomato sauce and dried powdered tomatoes. I often just add veggies and spices to
the sauce and no meat. (The meat is not even missed). Served with garlic toast and
pasta, it makes a yummy dinner. (Several years ago, my mom was visiting us during
the harvest season. I needed to use a big lot of tomatoes, so I made spaghetti sauce
without meat and canned it in quart jars. My mom helped and asked where the
recipe was. I just started adding a little of this and that, (don’t have a recipe) and
when she tasted it, she said it was great but couldn’t believe I didn’t measure
anything! LOL This is a very easy, convenient way to make a quick dinner)!!
Another way to make a quick meal is to thicken a jar (pint or quart) of chicken or
beef broth, add some cooked chicken/beef (this can be leftovers from the freezer), a
small bit of dried onions (or fresh), some canned mushrooms and seasonings to
taste. Serve over cooked rice, potato pearls or mashed potatoes. We serve this
about once a week. Some of my broth that I can has meat chunks in it but this is a
great way to use leftover roast chicken or beef. Or, I make chicken a la king. I
make a “white sauce” using a little butter and flour; cooking that a couple minutes,
then add chicken broth and milk and cook until thickened. To that I add some
cooked chicken, canned mushrooms and salt and pepper. We serve it over toast,
cooked rice, potato pearls or mashed potatoes. This is yum! Serve with a cooked
vegetable or fresh green salad and dinner is quick and yummy!!  (FYI- potato
pearls are dehydrated mashed potatoes that have butter and salt added. Just adding
boiling water and a good stir and they rehydrate fast).
This past week, our daughter had some dental work done. So, I made a big pot of
chicken rice soup for her family. I used carrots and onions from the garden and
some rehydrated celery (all sautéed first in a bit of olive oil), then poured in 3 quarts
of my chicken broth and a package of cooked chicken from the freezer. Let it all
simmer (add s/p, garlic powder) while I cooked the rice in a separate pan. The rice
was added to the pot of soup just before I took it to them. (I was able to do my
“shopping” in my pantry/food storage room and this saves so much time and
Today, I have some stew meat (we were blessed with 3 packages of stew meat from
our daughter) cooking in the slow cooker with some dried celery, canned
mushrooms, some fresh onion and garlic, a little salt and pepper and a splash of red
wine vinegar. When ready to serve, I will cook some spaghetti noodles and serve in
a bowl with a hard cooked egg and a sprinkle of dried green onion tops and soy
sauce. This is yum! And so easy. Again, all items from our pantry!!
We love fresh potatoes, onions and other veggies. But when we don’t have them, I
use my dried veggies. It takes a bit of planning but I don’t mind. I’ve learned how
to adjust/substitute/leave out ingredients for many years. Slow cooking in a crock
pot or simmering on the stove work the best.
Another thing I like to make is our own sun tea. I use a 2-quart jar, add water and a
couple black tea bags and set it on the window sill for a few hours. Then, I make a
two quart pitcher of kool-aid (usually a fruit punch or berry flavor) adding half the
sugar and 2 cups of my fruit juice (cranberry-apple, plum, apple or raspberry-apple),
then fill with water. (When using a quart of fruit, I will save the juice to add to our
tea mixture or make gelatin with it). I mix half kool-aid and half tea together in
another 2-quart jar and refrigerate. Serve over ice. (In summer, I add a fresh sprig
of mint). This is so much better homemade and more economical too! When I do
go shopping, I always take a cooler with me and a big jug of my tea, along with some
homemade cereal mix, dried fruit and a sandwich. 
We like having quarts of fruit juice handy, so I thought I would tell you how I make
and bottle juice. I don’t have a “juicer” so I wanted to figure out a way to make juice
without a lot of extra work or steps. When I cook my fruit (this year it was peaches,
plums, and tomatoes) to can or to make fruit butter, I use my metal colander (food
mill) to strain the fruit. This collects the juice in one pan and then I puree the fruit
in another pan. To the juice, I add a bit of sugar and bottle it. Also, I like to hot
pack my fruit before bottling it, (instead of raw pack), so when I’m done there is
always juice left over. I put this into bottles also, and water pack it along with the jars
of fruit. Many years ago, I made grape juice by putting grapes, sugar and water in
jars, then water packing it. When using, just strain and add a bit of water. With this
juice I made lots of grape jelly. (I haven’t had grapes to bottle for a long time since
we don’t grow them and they are too expensive). But, I found that the other way
works well, (we get juice and fruit/butter) and I often combine two fruits together,
which makes lovely juice. And, if I find fresh cranberries on special, I will freeze
them until needed and they add a lovely color and flavor to my juices also!! 

Using our food storage/pantry staples has saved us many trips to the store and take
away isn’t really an option for us. We use, rotate and re-stock our supplies, as
needed. I like the way Annabel has said that the different seasons each year give us a
busy time (growing/harvest/canning) and a rest time (crafting, sewing). We are all
busy year round but I am grateful that our garden has been “put to sleep” and we get
a bit of a rest, sort of!! Like I said, I put food by year round but I’m not rushing as
much and I will have time this winter to sew and craft gifts for next year!!!
I’ve learned so much from all of you!! Thank you so much! Teri 

I have to show you this....Teri saves all her pumpkin and sunflower seeds. They are healthy additions to many things!

I am happy to say I have reached the point that I could go a long time not going to the store and whip up all sorts of things from the pantry. Over time I have found things to add and fill any gaps I made have to make complete meals. This year I have got much better at this!

Next week there is a post on a challenge I am doing in the newyear and for anyone who wants to join in it could be a game changer! I am very excited about this!  I love having something different to start in the New Year and so I will introduce it so we have time to get ready and start on January 1. I am so excited about this!

I hope your week is going well. Thank you to

Sunday 22 November 2015

Putting your heart into Christmas.

Hello everyone! I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, everyone who sent me messages and prayed for my Dad. As I had moments or was waiting I would read these and post them. Plus emails and facebook messages etc. It was quite amazing, thank you so much.

On Thursday Dad became very sick very quickly and in the country hospital took a turn for the much worse. This is three hours from a city and they called the air ambulance which is the Royal Flying Doctor.

Almost twenty years ago we went through this when Dad had a massive heart attack. That time the girls were small and we lived in the country. We had the option to see Dad before they put him on the plane and I gave the girls the choice if they wanted to be there or not. I think they were around 9 and 7.
They were both passionately sure they wanted to go and I knew that it might be the last time they saw him. I was quite aware of that.

That time Dad was in hospital a long long time. He wasn't expected to survive and he did, then he had surgery and had a stroke. At the end of all this when he went home they told him if he was very good and lucky he might get five years....

But he went back to life and his ambitions and dreams and works like a 25 year old except I don't know any that can keep up with him. And he will be eighty next year. And all this time since the operation he lives on 50% heart capacity.

Because I was on my own from before Lucy was born Dad was the number one male for the girls. He did all the stuff a Dad does. They love him more like a Dad than a Grand Dad. Dad walked Lucy down the isle at her wedding. So they stick to him like glue.

So here we are almost twenty years later and driving to the air ambulance again only this time meeting it. And the girls are adults. And I think again this may be the last time. It was just the same.
This time he has a massive infection in his system, his body is shutting down, and I am aware of his heart issues, his age.... realistically I know this isn't likely to end well. We didn't speak about this we all just new and there was a lot of crying going on.

The next thing was the air ambulance was delayed. First it would be arriving here at 7 pm. Then that was delayed until 8 pm. This repeated until it landed at 11 pm. These delays did not give me confidence. I knew it meant he wasn't stable enough to fly or some other delay...or worse.

Finally after 11 he arrived at the hospital then we had to wait again while they got him settled. When we got to see him I was semi prepared but not entirely...

It became a get through the night thing, then get through the next day and so on.

If you asked me Thursday or Friday if I thought he could get better I would have said no.

I can only attribute the fact that possibly today he will get out of intensive care into a normal room to all the prayer. I am heading to the hospital to see this with my own eyes.

Thank you to everyone. Thank you. I cannot reply to everyone as I usually do and I am very behind on everything and my emails and correspondence.  I don't think I can hope to catch up.

I am going to attempt to blog this week as I think overall it is best to try and keep life normal ish. So with the help of friends I have some blog posts.

This one I wanted to share is a letter from a wonderful friend. She and Helen are my two friends who love Christmas the most of anyone I know. And when you read this you will see why.
The other extreme is people who say they don't like Christmas. While I get that in hard times and times of loss or loneliness Christmas can be very hard, many people I know who say they don't like Christmas don't DO anything for anyone. So they don't FEEL that Christmas feeling and miss out.
Like anything you reap what you sow. Here is part of the letter from my friend.... (enjoy)
RAOK = random act of kindness.

So I am 'getting ahead' with my things for my Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calender.  The kids and I enjoyed it so much last year.  This year we have set a budget of $1 per item and that gives us a lot of scope.  As you know we are keen op shoppers and there is such a wealth of new stuff there for under $1.  Hand creams, pretty soaps, decorations.  This year we are steering away from food items so that people aren't suspicious of whether they are poisoned or not.  

With the exception of Tim Tams and Mint Slices.  They are on special for $2 for the really big share packs which I will be stocking up on and taking to the hospital emergency desk for those who will spend Christmas working and looking after people as they come in.  Likewise to the police, fire and ambo stations. 
Today, although you don't know it, I took you shopping with me.  We had great success.  Lots of meat marked down to $5kg for rump steaks, lamb mince, pork loin roasts.  Then a shop had beautiful hexagonal tins with lavender or rose soap inside marked down to $1 each.  So I thought of your lovely satin ribboned soaps with the diamante buckles and had to buy them to replicate that.  There are a couple of houses that I know have elderly ladies living in them and they will be posted anonymously into their letterboxes.  Then the hunt was on....what else could I find for $1 or less?  Coles has some absolutely beautiful decorations at the moment Eight large-ish wood cut ones for $ 50c each.  Lovley as a small RACK or as a present topper. 

Kmart has 30cm long bubble mix tubes with wands inside them to make giant bubbles.  I will be hanging these in playgrounds in poorer areas so that children can find them.  They also had bags of 6 superballs for $2.  They too will be put where children can find them.  And $1 pink fairy wands with a light up star on top that changes colour.  I have some pink tulle fairy wings and am sure that if strategically placed they will make some wee little girl very happy to find them.  

In the op shop I found curtains that I am CERTAIN you would have snaffled for all sorts of repurposing.  Thick heavy linen ones with an antique pattern in blue of lots of old world things.  I ALMOST bought them because the fabric was so sumptuous but I didn't know exactly what I would do with them so left them for someone who would. 

Target had bottles of hot sauces from around teh world that ALMOST made teh $1 rule when you separated them out...but not quite.  But I bought them for chilli loving husband. 

I know there are so many things that I missed.  The kids and I are going to have a ball hunting them out and leaving them for people.  We discussed that we are going to make sure we continue it throughout the new year with at least one planned act.  And of course the situations that just present themselves as you go about your life.  

On a sourish note.....Today I had to explain WHY we show appreciation to teachers.  Apparently we shouldn't as 'it's just their job'.  THAT is the reason it needs to be done right there.  Because there are so many miserly people who don't.  Again I thought of you as one of their justifications was that 'we don't thank teh checkout operators, so why teachers?.  And I know that like me you DO thank the checkout operators and give gifts.   

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas......I'm trying to think of something suitable, to go along with a note for the people who go to so much trouble to really decorate their houses with Christmas lights.  A little appreciation for their efforts.  

So there you have it. SOME of the efforts my friend is going to, to add joy to other peoples Christmas. And right there you have "how to have a wonderful Christmas" instructions.
Yes I do give Christmas presents to check out girls. I have two that I mostly see all year round. Like teachers or any profession they do their job. But they do it with so much patience, kindness and helpfulness and they don't have to. They just have to check out your stuff.  Like the staff at the hospital and the volunteers. I am thinking what we can do for them. They are doing their jobs too. But to a standard money doesn't buy.
In fact with what has been happening in the world, seeing the goodness and kindness that I have the last few days has done me good.

Spreading Christmas love and kindness doesn't have to cost much or anything at all. It could be writing lovely letters of thanks, a little Christmas cooking, acts of service...
Key ingredients are giving to people you don't know from a bar of soap and people you suspect might be having a hard time.  We do different things. Usually I give small things to a lot of people. But one year we knew of someone with nothing and gave them a giant hamper... and it all went on one family. But the possibilities are endless.

Going to the hospital I am going to look for ideas. I am thinking that leaving little presents with a note at the volunteers desks would be one idea. They are amazing! They are so helpful and there is an army of them.
Which leads me to if someone is lonely but fit and able volunteering would be a great act of kindness and make a difference.

Thank you again so much. I hope you have a good week and we can come up with some cunning plans to spread some Christmas joy. Suggestions are good, some of us are better at thinking up things than others and your success stories would also make wonderful reading so please feel free... xxxx

Thursday 19 November 2015

Not a usual post today.

Dear Friends,
There is no post today. My Dad is in intensive are and yesterday was a terrible day and the longest day ever.
For anyone who will pray I would appreciate that so much. His name is Tom.
I hope you all had good weeks and have a lovely weekend. With lots of love,

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Pantries and Preparedness. Fruit season part 2.

Last week in part one I covered things I do leading up to summer knowing I usually get loads of free and very cheap fruit. Being ready means I can deal with it when it comes in and not waste any. I can use this as a big opportunity to fill up my pantry, freezer and also get ahead in gifts and even donations ready for charity fetes and food hampers.

This is getting close for us! January is the main influx and I am being positive this will be a good year!

Firstly, much fresh fruit is eaten and I would not buy any other so money is saved right there. I keep some on the counter and some in the fridge. I will also see how I can use it in the meals. Last year I used peaches on the BBQ and topped with mascarpone cheese. These were gorgeous. I cut up peaches for breakfast. I made fresh crumble and it was gorgeous. Andy still talks about it!
I made a lovely nectarine, rocket and walnut salad. Loved this! All sorts of things to use the fruit fresh in both sweet and savory ways. So healthy and good.
So this is healthy and saves on grocery money while we have this produce.

I give the girls each enough fruit for their households as well.

With what I cannot possibly use up I set to work making into things and attend to the ripest fruit first as there is only so much you can do in a day. This buys you time. Sometimes it turns out I can deal with it all in a week or more. When you are really busy even a few minutes a day can keep fruit from being wasted.

I make things that we will use fresh, things for the freezer and also gifts. But a cooked crumble or stewed fruit will last a few more days when the really ripe fruit may not.
You will have your own recipes and do look online for recipes to use up what you have. Type in salads, "ways to use up..."  and get a whole lot of inspiration! Sometimes I have had a light bulb moment on how to use something in a way I never thought of.

Here are some of my favorite recipes that I use year after year.

Use it up fruit cake.

This is beautiful! It keeps quite well for a few days. It will use up plums (pictured above), peaches, apricots, nectarines (below) ...

It is really easy to make a so good. It is a lovely gift too.  You can also serve it warm or cold.

The recipe is here.

I always make a lot of jam.  The easy microwave method is here.  This is wonderful as it is so fast and easy. No chopping fruit. Also the colour of the jam is brighter. I do about a kilo at a time (2lbs roughly). However if I have a large amount to make I will still put a pot of jam on the stove. But this means you can make small batches and it is a big help. If you have never made jam try it as this will get you going. Many bread makers also have a jam making setting and I am told it works really well!

Muffins. These freeze so well and you can pack them full of fruit. They are so handy as they can be breakfast or a snack or a desert. This recipe will use up just about anything you have on hand. It's wonderful! I will use a lot fresh in lunch boxes and give a dozen each to the girls and as gifts.

Even though it's a different subject I am going to mention reasons to make plenty of jam!
There are so many things you can make later using jam. I probably have added many things to this list now but this is a starter and do read the comments as there are more! Take a jar of jam. As well, over the season you can end up with quite a few types of jam.  A basket or box with one of each is a gorgeous gift. All the colours look lovely!

Another regular is a fruit cobbler. This is the easiest of all and you don't need pastry! This is the recipe.
The post also mentions stewed fruit which I also always make. This is summer breakfasts and some I freeze. This cobbler freezes perfectly so when it re appears in winter it is really good!

I make a lot of crumbles and pies. I have no recipe. The pies i just line a pie dish and fill with whatever fruit I have (uncooked) and add a little sugar. Taste to see if you think it's the right sweetness. Top and decorate. Usually bake around an hour, watch to see its nice and golden.
Pies freeze well also. Pies make lovely gifts!

Crumbles (crisps). I just grease a dish and fill with fruit. Add a tiny amount of sugar. In a bowl I melt some butter and add brown sugar and maybe half a cup of flour plus... crushed nuts and or crumbed cereal, oats or any crumb I have saved up or left over. Crushed nuts are really good and you only need a tablespoon or so. Mix together and taste it! Add or alter until it is delicious! Crumble this over your fruit. I like a good thick layer. Bake until golden and bubbly. This is heavenly! Crumbles also freeze.

This year I will be filling the crock pot with fruit and stewing it down to make baby food. I will take these around to Lucy after they are frozen in ice cube trays and emptied into containers. Stewed fruits pureed also make good ice blocks/icy poles for children.

Hopefully I will also find new recipes this year. HOPEFULLY i will get lots of fruit!
This is my strategy as we have abundant fruit here and so many people let it fall to the ground that by asking I have a lot of people that let me pick it. It really adds hundreds of dollars to my food budget and is just amazing.
But whatever comes your way make the most of it. And if you know this is a regular event plan ahead so you are ready. Anything fresh has a window of opportunity and if you leave it and time gets away from you the chance is lost. I would stay up all night working rather than waste it!

Next week we have a post by Teri and the subject is using foods that you have preserved. Being able to go to the pantry and put to use things you have previously canned, dried and so on.  I find all year I am able to use the jam I made in summer as there are so many uses for it. I love this!

I hope you are having a good week! With love. xxx

Sunday 15 November 2015

Christmas gifts. Show and tell!

All my recent posts on Monday's have been about getting ready for Christmas, making gifts and all the ways to save money and have a beautiful Christmas, not a stressful one!

I thought this week I would show some of the great pictures I have been getting of many gifts being made. It is wonderful to see! Plus there are many ideas and inspirations!

Where to start...

Ok, firstly Rosanne has been making 100% cotton bath sets that include wash cloths and scrub buddies.

She makes sets in the colours she knows the person will love and a pretty box for it to all go into.  Lovely.

Rosanne also makes heat packs with a removable washable cover for them.

She uses velcro then to hold them in place. Really good idea!

Kelly has been making beautiful pillowcases. She made a pirate themed one for her son as she already made him a pirate themed quilt!

And others for gifts ...

I am loving the ballerinas. What a gorgeous gift for a child. So personal. Very nicely made too.

Jen showed me Christmas cupcakes she made previously. I had not thought of Christmas cup cakes! You could do any flavor even the fruit cake mixture this way. Look at her amazing presentation...

What a good idea. Beautiful!  Jen has also been busy making many gifts.  She made felt food which includes slices of cake that just blows me away! I love this...

I really want to make some like this for Harper when she is older. How adorable.

And these... the base is an embroidery hoop!

Also wash cloths... this one for a little Superman fan...

Jen is still busy making more gifts and many of them in multiples. She is cross stitching Christmas designs as well to frame...

My youngest reader Emma wrote to me recently saying she really wants a pretty house when she grows up. Well, she is on the right track. Vicky is her Grandma and Emma is learning all kinds of stuff that will help her when she grows up. Here she is making the tulle vegie bags... and she chose bright pink for them! Respect.

Emma is seven and she is doing an excellent job with her sewing! Thank you for sending me photos Emma!

Teri made a quilt for a man who is a big comic fan and the theme is Poison Ivy. She made it especially because this is what he loves and entirely out of things she had! What a good gift.  A lot of time and love went into this!

Janine has been really busy. She has made the most of a resource near her which is a towel factory outlet.  She is able to get hand towels and face washers at amazing prices. The lace was from her Mum's collection. Also the burgundy set is a large tablecloth, 6 serviettes, a table runner and two heat mats ALL made with an end of the roll purchase of fabric that cost $5 and she still had some left!
What a beautiful collection!  And she is still making more.

Vicky M made these Sugar Cookie Sacks. How lovely. Perfect for neighbors, teachers and unexpected gifts. You can find instructions via her blog too Vicky's Kitchen and Garden.

Helen has been working on a rug... look at the lovely colors! (I just added this is for anyone wondering how they missed it!)

Thank you so much to everyone for showing me what you are making. It is so nice to see.
It took me quite a long time to feel that it was ok to give my own homemade gifts. It takes some confidence. But now when you see in stores that home cooking is sold at HUGE prices and sells like hot cakes it makes you realize cooking is loved! And when you see hand made clothes, home wares etc at great prices and know you can do at least as well then it all comes together... we can make our gifts and be confident in giving them.  I think whatever gift you give there will be the occasional person that isn't grateful. Most people will be delighted and touched that you made something for them.  Have you ever had it that you sent a lot of a gift and a great amount of trouble and it didn't seem appreciated or you were never thanked? Well, that can happen whether you bought a gift or made one. If someone is ungrateful they are just ungrateful. Don't be put off! Find someone else who will be grateful! Believe me, there are so many people who will be so thrilled with a gift you made with love and care.
And that is what next weeks post is about!

If you have pictures of what you have been making that you would share please email me at I would love to see!  I am thrilled to see so much beautiful work and what touches my heart is all the people who sent in photos have busy lives and they still manage to produce such wonderful things! This just makes me happy somehow!

Have a wonderful week!  Wednesday is part 2 of the fruit season and how to make the most of all produce that comes your way. xxx

This is a message to Kelsey... I accidentally deleted your comment on Friday! I had to cut and paste it back as I couldn't find the deleted one and so you may not have seen that I replied! I hate not replying and I hope you saw it! xx