The little birds...

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

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Thursday 30 June 2016

Feather your Next Friday, July 1st, 2016.

Welcome to July! This is the middle of winter for us. And the launch into the second half of the year! I am thinking of all my goals for this year and am I half way along with those?  I am behind with painting as I think I have done about a third not half! But on gift making I am about right, more or less!
I will study my list and think about this! I know we have done a lot i.e. two rooms of polished floorboards, freshly painted woodwork and skirting boards, fresh yellow laundry etc.
A review is good. Some time thinking about these things helps me know what to attack next!

This week I got off to a running start and fizzed a bit at the end!
Firstly, on the weekend I did lots of cooking.
I had a bag of fresh oranges I found on a big special so I made my Orange Sunshine Cake. This time I made it in muffin trays so they were easy to freeze in portions, send on the fishing trip, lunch boxes and give some to the girls.

I made 36 small and 12 larger ones (in a Texas Muffin tin) so that was a lot of cake!

During the week I had a spaghetti cook up in my new Aldi stock pot. It holds so much more than my usual big pot. I did 6 kilos of mince (that's around 12.5 lbs) with 12 onions, tomato sauce, oregano etc and simmered it for a couple of hours.

From this I made a spaghetti dinner then set about portioning it into two portion containers to freeze. Also I left some in the fridge. This makes lasagne, tacos, pizza topping etc.

Then I made pizzas. This fed the boys on the fishing trip, lunches, a dinner and one given away.

Next I made sausage rolls. These freeze great too. I made 36 large sized ones.

They are yum! I gave some each to the girls and they are really handy to have put away. Andy took some in his lunch box each day.

I had some left over pastry. With this I made jam tarts. 

This is a non recipe. I just put some homemade jam into each pastry and bake. When they are done it looks like you are clever and made pastries.

You can add some cream, pipe in some custard, ice-cream, fresh berries or anything you like. And voila! It looks nice and they taste lovely. Sprinkle over icing sugar at the end.

So basically the freezer is full again, everyone was fed, lots went out as gifts of help. I keep the lids of boxes as sort of disposable take away food trays.

Other ways I feathered my nest included:

I emptied out a part of my pantry where I keep storage tins. Somehow these just weren't working so I have set them out where I can see them and added labels. Now I know what's in them! And also I have more pantry space.

We made a major investment for our preparedness and bought a generator. If the power is down we have an alternative. We have wanted to do this for a long time and I am so happy about it.

I added to my pantry.

Almost finished my crochet blanket. Will be finished over the weekend!

I bought an icing set so I can do better icing on cakes! Now to practice.

How was your week? How did you build up your home, save money, get ahead, add to your pantry?
All of these things are wonderful.  Make hay while the sun shines. Or in our case, while it rains!

Have a lovely weekend! xxx

Tuesday 28 June 2016

The Christmas Challenge. Show and Tell for June.

This week I was going to ask for your photos for the month and some already arrived so I will just get started! I would love to see and share what you have been making during June. Even a snap of a project still being worked on is wonderful. It inspires us all!
You can post them on the Bluebirds Facebook page or email me at

So we will get started! As always I cannot publish every photo but usually most of them. And I always represent each person. (Unless like last time I had a brain fade and forgot!)

I feel that here in Australia and New Zealand we are getting heaps made as it is cold and staying inside,  crafting and cooking is the obvious thing to do. And that the US, UK, northern ladies are busy with their gardens and outside work so might have less time for crafts.
This is how I am in summer. There is a lot to do. We have to work around the seasons and make the most of them!

I am going to start with my Mum. As you know she makes a lot and also a lot of cooking.
Most recently she made Harper a little knitted skirt. She always made these for the girls from when they could walk until about when they went to school. I have most of them still. There were worn and worn but still in perfect condition. Usually they included glittery threads. Here is Harper (resetting my phone) wearing her new skirt.

These are really warm worn with tights underneath. Mum is working on a pink one now.

Also she made me a hat to add to my pink and cream baby rug. The hat was from left over yarn from the rug. This really adds to the gift.

Maria (From NZ) is working on crochet rugs for her Grand children. And in between she has made so many things! Including beautiful cooking.
I love seeing cooking as it can be a gift or for the family. Either way it is wonderful.

Firstly...  mittens for her Grand Children...

Maori bread, which is a heavy and hearty bread. 

Mussel Slice..

A series of lovely cards...

Diabetic Fruit cake. This is a different recipe than the last one and Maria likes it better. If anyone needs it ask in comments. 

Beer bread...

Maria I hope when you see this you realise how much you did this month! Absolutely beautiful!

Jane and her husband Bluey have both been busy.  Very busy!  Bluey made this cot for his Grand Daughter from recycled and salvaged wood! It contains Camphor Laurel and Oregon wood and brass fittings. 

Truly a gift of love and an heirloom of the future!  

Jane has made her Grand daughter a whole outfit. This includes the little black slippers that Jane also made!

Just gorgeous. This is one lucky little Granddaughter (plus parents I think!)

Barb has been covering notebooks for gifts. She has made them for men and women.

Well done Barb on adding to your gift cupboard!

And I have to show you... Teri has grown her own Peonies! She has a vase full of them inside!

Beautiful. Peonies and Roses are my favourite flowers.

I hope you feel inspired by all of this June activity! And now over to you for next week! Really it is a great help to gather ideas but also a lift in energy to see what everyone has made. It is quite amazing to see how clever and hard working everyone is. And we are learning. No one becomes proficient in anything without practice and mistakes. But learning is so much fun and it is a big investment to really improve your skills. And expand them. Apart from gift making being skilled at something is a possible income earner. Keep working on your skills. They are valuable.

We are having a cold week but so far it has been good and I have done heaps of cooking. It is about time to put another pot of soup on! I hope you are having a great week. 
What have you been working on this month? xxx

Sunday 26 June 2016

The Vicky Challenge.

My Vicky challenge last week was a bit of this and a bit of that. But as usual this adds up!

I made Miracle Cleaner and then added cleaning cloths and some that I get ready in a jar, pre moistened, to use as quick polishing cloths. They look and smell lovely which is somehow motivating!

It is hard to say how much this saves. It replaces a lot of purchased cleaning products though and will last me months. So I will say $30.

I made Golden Syrup Pudding, Scalloped potatoes (in big quantities) and all the meals as always.

I sent all packed lunches and drinks. Saving $100.

And finished another little embroidered top.

Being the end of the month I add up what I would have paid if I had my hair cut, colour, blow dry, nails and toes all done locally. This certainly boosts the week (by $380 a whopping $380 in fact!)

All up I ended up writing $850 in my savings book. And now it is almost time to add up another month! After all these weeks I am getting to know what an average week is so in my mind I usually think in terms of this was a good week, not so good week or great weak! But it doesn't matter, they just all add up. 

Since last weeks challenge I have been baking and I checked some prices against the local bakery and the pizza place we used to love to get pizzas from. This was a good exercise! The baking I had out on the kitchen bench was equal to almost $300 of baked goods from these places. I was amazed by that. It doesn't even seem possible. But thats what it would cost to buy. So when you look at things this way it is very motivating. You can live so well making things yourself. 

How was your week?  What do you make that saves you so much money over the purchased version? 
Next time you are out and about check what that now costs and figure out what you save per year! 

We have some sunshine and my day includes baby sitting, shopping and bulk cooking!  Have a great day and week! xxx

Thursday 23 June 2016

Feather your Nest Friday, 24th June, 2016.

We had a cold and wet week. The only thing to do was try and stay warm and dry and cook hot food!

Thank you for all the wonderful ideas for gifts for men on Wednesday.  Between is all we came up with an amazing list. I have heaps of new ideas that I am going to be able to use. Thank you so much!

Some of the ways I built up the home this week include:

I made a double batch of Miracle Cleaner.  Somehow in winter I need the beautiful scent this leaves in the house more than ever.

This will keep me going quite a while.

Being so cold I decided to make Golden Syrup Pudding.  True warming comfort food!

This would have to be the easiest most delicious winter dessert ever.  The recipe is here.

This brightened up a couple of dark winter evenings!

I used up more from my freezer and reached a point that I could give it a total overhaul. I removed what was left and had a big re arrange. Now it is organised, I know everything that is in there. I can fit much more in. I saved money for a couple of weeks and now I can start to stock up again.

Patsy on A Working Pantry Facebook group has us all working to de clutter and organise each week. I cleaned out a laundry cupboard, re arranged it and to my surprise I now have more storage room and know what to stock up on.

I went to Aldi and bought a large enamel stock pot. I thought I had missed out on these so wasn't even looking but there was one left and in my colour! And marked down! I just love it.

My son in law is mad on Potato Bake. And potatoes were $3 for a huge bag. So I made four potato bakes, two for us and two for Lucy's household.  Another good thing on a cold night. They went down well with everyone!

I finished another little top for Harper...

And I think I'm at the 3/4 point with my rug. I am making it single bed size.  It keeps me warm as I work on it.

I hope you had a very good week. How did you build up your home, save and get ahead? 
Have lovely weekend (and whats left off Friday!)xxx

Tuesday 21 June 2016

The Christmas Challenge. Gifts for men.

This week I hope we can collectively tackle the subject of presents for men. I just find this slightly more difficult as I naturally lean to pink and pretty so I have to seriously concentrate on making mens gifts!

My number one "go to" present is food.  This seems to work for teenage boys to grown men. The trick is knowing what they like. I take notes so have a list in my present book.

Andy loves anything with dark chocolate or dried apricot . The addition of dried apricot works a treat.  So things can easily be customised to someones tastes.
His fruit cake has a whole packet of dried apricots into the mix and if I am making something like rocky road then it goes in there too. Success! He thinks it's lovely as you can't buy such inventions and it is especially made for him.

My Dad likes Whiskey. So if I make him a fruit cake I use whiskey in it. Another success!  And he loves tins. Literally, anything in a tin is better.  So I am set as Sue gave me beautiful old tins and I have these lined up for cooking gifts for Dad.

At Christmas I make multiple small fruit cakes for the men. I give these as thank you gifts too.

Making fudge, toffee, truffles, spiced nuts, Nuts and Bolts and such things are all great gifts as long as you know what they like and also can eat.

Things look good made in a large slab. Like a tray of peanut brittle looks amazing on a baking tray. Wrapped with cellophane the addition of a little hammer makes it fun to break up!

If someone has dietary restrictions or allergies then making them something they can eat, just for them, is going to be a huge hit.  A diabetic fruit cake, for instance, shows you really thought of how to give them a treat that they can actually eat! It is easy to find a recipe for anything, gluten free, egg free etc and that is a really personal gift with effort and consideration.

For a young boy making a giant chocolate freckle by filling a pizza pan with chocolate and covering that with hundreds and thousands is a pretty cool gift. As is a chocolate cake or tray of brownies! Teenagers seem to be ever starving and their favourite food is a great gift. Or an entertainment kit i.e. a movie and a big container of caramel popcorn or some other kind of snack to munch on.

A beautiful Birthday cake is a great gift. You don't have to be a good cake decorator, pile chocolates on top or something simple. A birthday cake makes someone feel special. No matter what age. I never cease to be surprised by how much people appreciate a cake!

Someone older who lives alone is easy to cater for.  Many times a series of little meals they can use and freeze is a beautiful gift.  Portions of soup, individual pies, and serves of casserole etc that they can heat and have an instant diner is a really thoughtful gift.  Think neat title containers with labels all packed into a basket.

If you know someone's favourite recipe arriving with a chicken pie (insert favourite item here!) is going to make you pretty popular.

For a cook produce from your garden could be a great present. I include benches of herbs. Or make up some spice mixes, dried herbs, marinades, rubs, mixes in a jar etc.

I love to put together a hamper. Sometimes it is some baking, some jam, herbs etc. I give homemade jam to my Dad as he really likes it. He is big on his own pantry so items he might like go down well.

Interesting containers for hamper and food gifts are a help. I look for things like an old fishing basket, tool boxes, fishing tackle boxes and compartment organisers from the cheap stores. Also for the gardener a planter box, terracotta pot or watering can etc could work.
The carry all's that tradesmen use and tradesman buckets make great containers. They are useful afterwards.

My Nan spun her own wool and knitted vests and jumpers. You can tell if someone actually likes a gift like this if they actually wear it and the boys all did so they must have!

Rachel had made her husband the knitted hat shown in last Wednesdays post. She has knitted socks for him since.

This is a much better level of knitting them I am currently capable of!  If you are a good knitter then you have lots of options!

My blue, grey and cream rug I am working on just now is for a young man who actually needs a blanket. So this is a male gift.  Jane made her son a full sized blanket for a gift and it was stunning.

A treat of some kind is a lovely gift. A special birthday dinner, a fabulous packed lunch full of treats or a care package of cooking.  If it is for someone who works in an office then a kit of lovely things for the weeks lunches and morning teas is really nice. For someone like Andy who drives a van for hours a day then he loves packed drinks and has a lunchbox wiht him. Anything that is special makes his day much nicer. My daughter gave him a kit of hand towels, spray bottle plus ice packs etc to use on the really hot days. This was a great gift!

Then there is the gift of some kind of effort and surprise. Recently Andy worked all weekend and while he was busy I cleaned out his van. He was so thrilled with this that I realised overhauling someones van, car, office or something else could be a gift if it's done as a surprise. A card added that says "Happy Birthday! We wanted to make your day special!" and you have a gift that is probably going to be really appreciated.

If you have a good man who works hard or someone that you love that has been amazing to you then a letter of appreciation is a beautiful gift. Many guys give their all and never really get thanked. They are just good guys. A letter thats tells them how much you appreciate all they do and what it means to you and the family will probably melt his heart and build him up.

On my current list of things to make is a leather cover for a book or computer.  Men seem to love leather.  These are easy and on my radar as I continually see very good quality leather going so cheaply in the form of really out of fashion leather jackets, skirts etc. They have enough leather that when cut up I think i could do covered diaries. And they look really stylish! So this is hopefully my next op shop purchase. 17 Gorgeous DIY leather projects.

Jen mentioned the issue of what to send when a gift has to be posted. The gardener is an easy one as you can post him packets of seeds, even collected from your own garden, plus labels. A bundle of seeds is a great gift.  They are flat and light.

Mum suggested that I embroider mens hankies with a deer silllouette or antlers. I love this idea! So that is now on my list.

Now over to you all!  What are your ideas, success stories and plans for gifts for men?  Feel free to include recipes!  Hopefully we can all add to our Christmas challenge so that we have plenty of presents for both men and women.

I am actually op shopping this afternoon and going to Aldi! Maybe I will find a leather jacket or skirt to cut up for my leather wrapped diaries? I am hoping so!

I hope your week is going well! xxx

Sunday 19 June 2016

The Vicky Challenge. The company you keep.

When I write up my last weeks Vicky Challenge it all seems so long ago! But yes, it was last week!

This weeks savings and earnings included:

Lots of chocolate cakes for everyone and the freezer.

Shepherds Pies.



I got four bunches of radishes for $2 the lot, saving about $10. (Andy loves them)

Thanks to Lynette tipping me off I got a lovely cook book free worth at least $10.

My use it up (from the freezer) challenge saved me about $25 in groceries.

I embroidered two more tops for Harper. The prices in the stores are over the top. I am counting $90 value.

(Doing the grocery shopping in this one.)  At least I know she wears what I make!

Each year I can get a free eye test and one pair of free prescription glasses (through my health fund). I always take advantage of that. I did not need a new prescription. So I said that I am embroidering really small things now and could I have social glasses to help with tiny things like mini grub roses which I find hard to see.  So now I have special glasses just for needle work for free. Value at least $200.

Andy caught fish. Once filleted the value was just over $50.

After all my adding up and calculations I wrote $650 in my savings book.

I am very happy with that. And as I count from Friday to Friday I can say that over the weekend we got this new week off to a really good start! :)  I love that! I even love finishing the weeks challenge and turning the page in my book to a brand new blank page. Then it is a whole new week of possibilities!

My savings subject this week is friends.
Many times I hear how saving, budgeting and even simply looking after your family, children and home attract criticism.
Firstly it is TERRIBLE that these things COULD attract an attack. But they often seem to.
I am very skeptical about the motives of a person who would want to tear you down over having your priorities right rather than encouraging you and supporting you.
This is a tricky one. Sometimes this comes from family. That is even more hurtful.
Sometimes friends. We can have some control over that but also it can be complicated as we have contact with the friends of others as well as our own.
Even negative comments from strangers are hurtful.

Managing a home, bringing up a family, making ends meet  and all that involves is hard work. The last thing you need is discouragement! Going above and beyond and doing it well, getting ahead, having savings, preparedness etc is all even more work.  The last thing you need is to be torn down for doing it.

Having a clear mission is a really big help. If you don't know what your mission is then it's going to be easy to be steered or even bullied off course.

I wrote a post here about your time and mission. This was quite personal as when the girls were little I had both wonderful support and pressures at the same time. Knowing my mission was the hugest help.

There is no point conforming to the ways of those who are heading over a cliff! And very lovely people might be dramatically financially irresponsible. So while they might make nice friends they don't make good advisors.
This is all fine unless they actually sabotage you which might be through expectations that you join in with a whole lot of things that completely blow your budget and take you away from what you should be doing.
Glenda's comment the other day "The action of being fiscally responsible is an action that shows how much you care about your family"
This has stuck in my mind. Spending your last cent on keeping up with friends is not loving your family. Nor is being absent.

We all need friends and/or family that encourage us. A little bit encouragement goes a long way!
Scripture tells us to encourage one another and build each other up! That's because we really need it.
That's what I am trying to do here.
In our week to week efforts our energy will be better with some support. If you can find ways to get more support and less criticism or sabotage this is going to help so much.
It can be easier said than done. And sometimes it is a matter of finding common ground with someone. I try and zone in on things that are beneficial. i.e. perhaps a person has a skill that would be great to learn or an interest you do share. Then that little bit of common ground could be an encouragement and help to you.

I am really lucky that I have a couple of in the flesh friends that are really practical, sensible and I know nothing but a good influence on me (like Hilde!)
And I have wonderful on line friends who encourage me daily, I can ask anything, will help me lean, celebrate my small achievements and I feel the same about them and love hearing how they have done in their days and weeks.
There are blogs I follow where I feel like I know the person and they encourage me so much even if we have never met or spoken! This is like Laine's Letters. I felt she was my best friend!
It is hard to go it alone. It will help to seek support and friendship. And it can be found in the most unexpected places. Often an old person is wonderful. They are more likely to have old fashioned values. Maybe they went through the war or great depression. They are going to be a gold mine of information!
There are forums you can join to find people interested in homemaking and savings, maybe you could try a craft group, seek out others who are canning or growing their own veggies or whatever that you would have in common. And ultimately build some more support and networking that is really nice to have but also useful... you can swap and help each other.

Anyway that is my thought for the week. With motivation and encouragement we will do better. We will have more energy. It is a big boost!

How was your last week of savings and getting ahead?
I hope this is a great week. I try and turbo boost Mondays so I am off on some errands and to the supermarket.
See you Wednesday for lots of ideas for gifts to make for

Thursday 16 June 2016

Feather your Nest Friday. 17 June, 2016.

We had a short working week which throws me out of routine a bit! But it was a pretty good week.

Some of the ways I saved money were:

I made chocolate cakes which were for a birthday, gifts, lunches and deserts.

Some also went into the freezer. (as fast as I use things up I add more!)

I made some progress on my freezer challenge and one of the things I used up was the huge bone from a lamb roast. It still had some meat on it. I made my Nan's soup which is several cups of dried soup bean mix and a huge amount of veggies. It made the most beautiful soup! 

Also I made quiches and impossible pies. 

Some were made in baking dishes, some in muffin trays and a baby sized one for Harper. The muffin sized ones are good in lunch boxes.

Next I made a big beef casserole in the crock pot. We had that for dinner with veggies. 
Then I made the rest up into Shepherds Pies. I got seven small and medium pies. This is before going into the oven...

Andy caught fish so this was another meal and more frozen.

Thanks to Lynette I got a free cookbook that is really good. It came with purchased herbs. It is still available I think in Woolworths. It is with two items from the Gourmet Garden range. I bought crushed garlic as this is so handy and I will use it all winter. The book is an easy crockpot book from the ladies who do the 4 ingredients books.  I have already found several recipes I can't wait to use. Four ingredient cooking is wonderful when you are in a hurry or supplies are low. Easy! Thank you Lynette I would never have found this as they had no display and a tiny sign! 

Some ways we feathered the nest:

Over the weekend and holiday Monday Andy cleaned up the yard, mowed the lawn and did all kinds of odd jobs. This was great as it had been so wet and things looked messy.
I have been decluttering as things accumulate!

I got ahead by:
Saving some money by using up things from the freezer. With this I added to my emergency fund, grocery fund for when I find major bargains and for adding to the pantry.
(I used up the roast lamb bone, bacon, pizza bases, a meal of spaghetti I had frozen, a piece of pork, and some frozen peaches).

And I added to my pantry. Just a few items this week including emergency supply pet food.

Thats about it except for things too mundane to mention! I enjoyed some baby sitting and some sunshine.  We are back to rain again now!

I hope you had a good week. How did you build up your home this week? xxx